> Val Jellay
One of the most recognisable names in Australian Television, Val Jellay has been
acting since she was four years old. Throughout her amazing career, Val has
appeared in many of the classic Australian shows and has worked with a host of
celebrities in Europe, including comic icons Laurel and Hardy. An Icon in her
own right, in this exclusive interview Val reflects on her time in the industry
and her most recent role as Lyn Scully's (supposed) mother Connie in
For the younger fans of Australian television, can you give us a little background
on your career before Neighbours?
I was a Vaudeville performer from the age of 4. It was during World War 2 that
I joined the prestigious Tivoli circuit where my education in theatre was
learned from the greatest. The headlining comedians of that time were very
serious people. Comedy, and its timing, is so delicate. Three years in England
for the Moss and Stall circuit in the 1950's took me to the Theatres of Europe
with Joyce Grenfell and Harry Andrews after which Sorlies Revue in Australia
invited me to come back home.
Can you give us a little insight into some of the most enjoyable parts of
your career so far?
It was an eye opener travelling through the historical cities of Germany,
Austria and Northern Egypt in the mid - fifties. The world was recovering from
war battering. Television was beginning to take hold of audiences in Australia.
While touring with Sorlies Revue through NSW and Queensland, I met and married
my beloved Maurie Fields. Our many vaudeville type double acts were polished to
perfection and we became the busiest performers in TV variety shows. We were
pioneers loaded with enthusiasm. The transition to drama was a neat segue. We
were used to live audiences and the visual medium unlike radio actors who always
had an unseen script. Creating many visual characters was always a pleasurable
challenge in all the TV dramas.
Together with your late husband Maurie, your contribution to the
entertainment industry in Australia is something to rival any leading
celebrities today. Looking back over your career, to what extent would you say
the industry had changed leading up to your latest role in Neighbours?
The industry had gradually leaned more towards pleasing the advertisers in
commercial TV. A good idea had to appeal nationally to big advertisers. No
longer can a programme be made essentially for one State.
Personally, my casting in Neighbours was the first ongoing role I had played
without Maurie. We never actually planned to always work together - it was
management's preference because of the natural chemistry we displayed. Whether
it be drama, comedy or dance, we were told we made magic. Forty years of loving
what we did can do that.
How did the role of Connie O'Rourke in Neighbours come about?
I received a phone call asking my availability for certain dates. Would I be
interested in playing the role of Connie. Grandparents of the Scully family
were going to be introduced into the storyline. If I was interested, the
casting department would have to find an actor to play Henry my husband (the
obvious choice was no longer available). We would be known to our grandchildren
as Nanna and Gump. I said yes to the idea and was delighted when my old friend
Bud Tingwell was cast.
What were your first impressions of Neighbours when you joined the cast?
The speed necessary to get the product out on time. Everything is so compact
and hands on, like a well oiled machine. Directors dont have time to teach
people, "get it right" is up to the individual. The floor manager, Ray Lindsay,
is the son of a fine vaudeville act called Rex and Bessie, my friends from
Tivoli days and England variety shows. Ray held the same responsibility
throughout the long run of Prisoner. There were so many old friends.
How did you enjoy playing opposite Bud Tingwell?
Speaking of friends! After Bud returned from England and his movie career over
there, which was after he was a pilot during the war, he went straight into the
new Aussie TV scene. Both Maurie, myself and Bud crossed paths many times in
early TV cop shows - Cop Shop, Division 4, Homicide, Solo One, Carson's Law and
also The Sullivans. For Maurie and I, it culminated in playing Vic and Nancy
Buckley in The Flying Doctors, a top rating drama that ran for eight years with
us central characters. Bud Tingwell was the original Producer of the mini
Who did you enjoy working with most in the show?
They are all fine actors. Nice scenes were written for me with my
"grandchildren". Kate Keltie (Michelle), Holly Valance (Flick) and Carla Bonner
(Stephanie). Janet Andrewatha, my supposed daughter (Lyn) is a fine actress.
She also played my daughter long ago in Carson's Law.
Can you give us some information on your current projects?
These later years in my career I have become quite selective. This choice
coincides with the lack of available theatre and television dramas. Australia
has an overabundance of available talent with unbalanced outlets and a
comparatively small population to feed off our product. This is evident by the
success of American artists and their career lifestyles. Population equals
audience. Happily, I've been cast in another musical opening December 2003 The
Full Monty. I play the role of Jeanette. It follows happy times in Crazy For
You, Follies and Anything Goes.
Do you ever manage to catch an episode of Neighbours these days?
I try to watch it as much as possible especially to see how the Scullys are
doing. They are my television family. My character is still influencing their
. . .
What do you think accounts for Neighbours' continued popularity?
Everybody, and I mean everybody, works very hard on the show, beginning with the
script writers. The characters are well drawn giving the actors words and
situations to get their teeth into. Talking heads is totally avoided.
Camermen, lighting crew, wardrobe, makeup and props departments work hand in
glove. Every studio area is but a few paces from the next. There is no time
for mistakes or time wasting. This all results in mutual respect for the next person's job. That's why it works and that's why being there for me was
Interview by Barry. Added on 27th July 2003