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Interviews > Joy Chambers

To Australian television fans, Joy Chambers is fondly remembered for her role as Dr Robyn Porter in The Young Doctors and for appearances in The Restless Years and All At Sea. In media society, Joy is Mrs. Reg Grundy - wife of the founder of the Grundy Organisation. And, to readers of historical fiction, she is the author of best selling novels: Mayfield, My Zulu Myself, Vale Valhalla and the newly launched None But the Brave. However, to Neighbours fans, Joy will always be remembered with remarkable cult-status as the re-appearing Rosemary Daniels - adopted daughter of Helen. Rosemary appeared in the show, intermittently, between 1985 and 1998, flying in from her offices and home in New York, where she controlled the Daniels-Robinson Corporation, which owned Lassiter's Hotels. Rosemary was a strong, occasionally hard-nosed businesswoman, yet she was an extremely likeable person and Joy Chambers portrayed her with zeal and great skill. We are privileged to present this interview with one of the most cherished figures in Neighbours' history.

How did the role of Rosemary come about? Did you audition or were you headhunted from being known for other series'?
I had played roles in other drama series but I auditioned for Reg Watson, the series creator, who had come up with the Rosemary character and was looking for someone to play the younger sister of Jim Robinson's dead wife. Jim's late wife and Rosemary were both daughters of Helen Daniels and Rosemary and Jim were sister and brother-in-law. I was delighted to land the role.

On all but the last two visits Rosemary made to Ramsay Street - Helen was always there as a figure of continuity. What sort of relationship did you have with the late Anne Haddy?
Anne Haddy was a most special person. She was a fine actress and a dear friend in my private life. As my own wonderful mother was dead I used to call her 'mum' and mean it. I miss her, we used to laugh a lot as we had a similar sense of humour and there was an honesty between us. We'd practice our lines together in her car, in later years a small version of a Sports Utility Vehicle! She was sick for a long time but she had a wonderful strength. I classify her as one terrific lady. Each Christmas I stay in touch with her husband, actor James Condon whom she loved with a passion.

Rosemary's visits inevitably surrounded a major family event like a death or crisis. Is there any particular story you were involved in that you enjoyed above all others?
A number were special. One lovely one was when Rosemary's closest friend died and Rosemary went back to adopt her daughter Tracey. I particularly liked that as it showed the soft side of Rosemary who was mostly a business woman with a 'take-no-prisoners' attitude. But there were shades to her character and she had a very tender spot for her mother and her relatives. Many of her scenes with other strong women like Cheryl who was played by Caroline Gillmer, were great fun to do. Off camera Caroline and I liked each other, on camera we just got in there and fired! Once I had broken my foot a week before I was back in the show so that meant Rosemary turned up with a broken foot from a skiing accident. That was a hoot.

One of the most memorable scenes involving Rosemary was her visit in 1993 when she was "supposedly" the first to discover Jim's body, and later broke up a cat fight between Julie and Fiona. This scene has gone down in Neighbours history as a true example of women being the dominant sex. To what extent to do you feel Rosemary symbolized strong women, in the context of Neighbours?
There is little doubt that Reg Watson came up with the Rosemary Daniels character as an alternative to many women in the street who were mothers or young women growing up and feeling their way. So yes she symbolised the strength of the female in the Neighbours' saga. Perhaps you could say that Rosemary was there as a point of reference for the emancipated female. Yet mums and married women in the viewing audience related to her too because Rosemary did fall in love a few times. She would have married but the relationships always ended sadly and so she never did. I think Rosemary realised she was in truth, 'married' to her work: it gave her great joy. But she did take pleasure in her peer group and her adopted daughter and always loved and needed her mother Helen.

Would Rosemary have worked as a full time cast member? Would you have liked her to be more permanent, or did the variation suit you better as an actress?
The variation suited me. That she came and went gave the character more appeal in many ways. In the early years she had long stints in the show which cemented her personality and regular viewers knew and understood her. I think some of her popularity is due to the fact that she could be relied upon to stir things up; that she was not wishy washy and that she stood her ground with men the same way she did with women. I think the character would have worked as a full time cast member but I tend to believe her longevity was in some part due to the fact she was not.

Bearing in mind the high character turnover, how did you feel returning almost every year to a largely altered cast?
I never thought about it. You do your job and my job was to bring life to Rosemary. And of course there were those actors who were in the show a long time and whom I knew well and related to.

What would you like to think Rosemary is up to at the moment? Is she still in New York? Does she still have some control over the Lassiter's empire? How do you feel regarding the strong affection fans have for the character, and what did she mean to you?
Rosemary is in New York. Rosemary has a Shetland sheepdog and a Korat cat which are looked after by her long time assistant when she visits Australia once a year and sees the people she knows and cares about. She still has her Lassiter's shares and is involved in other ventures in Eastern Australia. Her 'daughter' Tracey is grown up and engaged to an Englishman who runs a hotel chain in the UK. This pleases Rosemary as it is a business she understands and she has something in common with her daughter's future husband. I am honoured that the fans feel affection for her; it means I actually gave Rosemary authenticity and made her real to them and that's a thrill to any actor. When you play a character as long as I did with Rosemary, the character is a person to you. She becomes like a friend. You know her intimately, her foibles, her strengths and her eccentricities. She is not me, she is not even much like me really except perhaps for her determination and strong work ethic, but I like her very much as I would an old pal.

You are now a successful novelist, with four fantastic works of fiction to your name. A fourth novel, None But the Brave, has recently been released. Do you now class yourself as an author as opposed to an actor?
My writing is a priority; I take my readers very seriously and I thoroughly research my books and work hard at giving my readers what they expect. And business has always been a part of my life. Though I loved my acting career and if the right role were ever offered today and it fitted in with my life-style I'd consider it.

Now that no descendants of the Robinson family live in Ramsay Street, is there any chance we will ever see Rosemary again? Would you return if asked?
Even though there are still people in the street Rosemary knows, the writers would need to come up with a storyline they felt was workable. I would think it unlikely.

Do you keep in touch with any of the Neighbours cast or crew?
Moya O'Sullivan (Marlene Kratz) and I correspond. She is a terrific lady. Linda Walker, the Production Manager and I are in touch from time to time. She is another first class person. Obviously I still know the producers and some of the writers. But I made many friends over the years. Some were close like Anne Haddy of course, and Alan Dale - whom I had worked with before on The Young Doctors - and Maggie Dence who played Dorothy. There were a lot of others who had long running roles and with whom I had a rapore: Tom Oliver, Ian Smith, Ian Rawlings, Rebecca Ritters, she grew up before my eyes; and Marnie who played Debbie Martin and of course Jason Donovan and his father Terry; Stefan Dennis, Anne Charleston, Caroline Gillmer, Eliza Szonert and a number of others. All these people were wonderful to work with and I liked them all.

Joy on a recent trip to Africa with the meerkats she describes as 'delightful creatures'

Is there any acting role you would particularly like? Do you agree with the suggestion that there are too few roles for mature women on television?
There are a couple of roles in my books that I wouldn't mind playing. Lottie Thatcher in Mayfield, for one. I would have to agree that I would welcome more roles in TV for mature women. Most shows are written around younger leads and that's understandable, but there are many pedigreed and reliable actors out there who are passed over because of their ages and that's not right.

What's next for Joy Chambers?
Book No 5 is under way. I hope to have that out late 2004. And None But the Brave is currently out in hardback and large paperback, the smaller paperback comes out in November 2003. My life is filled with business, writing and travelling. I guess you can say I'm a workaholic, but it makes me happy. I like being busy. My husband, Reg Grundy, is the same, in fact I guess he 'made me in his image'. As well as being a TV Icon and having eleven new ideas a day, he is a world class wild-life photographer, so we are always somewhere exciting. I'm trying to convince him to bring out a book of his truly magnificent images.

Joy's fourth novel, None But the Brave, was released in April by Headline and her other books can be ordered online at Amazon.com and all good bookshops in the UK and Australia.

News about Joy and her writing can be found at her official website www.joychambers.com.

Interview by Rhys. Added on 12th July 2003