Sigrid Thornton says she is very happy walking Bodhi, her labradoodle, every day.
“She is our cherished family member,” Sigrid insists over the phone from Sydney where she’s working.
But the multi-gonged actor is again away from the Melbourne home she shares with producer husband Tom Burstall. And Bodhi.
During the pandemic, Sigrid, 62, has emerged triumphant, starring in Channel 9’s showpiece drama, Amazing Grace, as well as being signed for a string of new ventures.
When biz people were battling to find work, Sigrid, star of screen and stage for four decades, travelled from her Melbourne home to Sydney, went into quarantine and starred on set for the eight episode, one-hour series.
Amazing Grace, says the Nine blurb, is: “about life’s most surprising and precious moments – midwifery and mayhem.”
While the pandemic put restrictions on the TV production, including access to birthing centres, a veteran consultant midwife was on set daily to give the actors expert guidance of birthing’s finer points.
Sigrid told me: “I’m terrifically fortunate to be working in a field I find so exhilarating. It’s not easy to have longevity in this business. But this is what I have always done.”
“I’m never doing nothing. I’m somebody who enjoys going for long walks; very simple things. Going out with Bodhi focuses the walk.
“When I’m not working on a project, I’m usually working on a program of my own. And I’ve been in a relationship with Tom for a very long time. It is my rock.”
“Our two kids have left home. That’s the way of the world. They’re doing well and I’m very proud of them.
“We have our heads above water during this, well siege, I suppose you could call it,” she said.
Sigrid said the TV series ran smoothly and spotlights crucial birthing issues.
“There’s been a growing push towards encouraging and empowering expectant mothers to participate in all important decisions around the birth of their babies.”
Sigrid said times were changing from the era when birthing was male-dominated.
The preciousness of life and uniqueness of every birth is being acknowledged.
“The birthing of every child is very unpredictable and unique. No expert knows how it is going to go. Every woman, every baby and every birth is different,” she said.
Sigrid, the actor’s actor, explains that domestic drama on television is as important now as ever before.
“We have to be vigilant in telling our own stories that are very different from American or English or Scandinavian stories. They have their place but our local stories are great and need to be told.
“They are critical for the enhancement and development of our own culture and society.”
Sigrid said that with so many media outlets, there was room for enormous diversity of story-telling – a resurgence in a kind of golden age for television.
“I’m a story-teller so obviously I think it’s important.”
Sigrid said WA’s sense of isolation had created a unique environment for story-telling that needs to be valued. Indigenous influence was also slowly being recognised.
“Aboriginal history just wasn’t in the school syllabus. That’s changing, which is a very good thing but it has a fair way to go. The change is very encouraging.
“Indigenous history is critical to who we are as a country. We are just starting, as story-tellers, to acknowledge, thank God – the increasing access to Aboriginal stories.
“It’s a long way to go but it’s very encouraging.”
I’m never doing nothing. I’m somebody who enjoys going for long walks; very simple things.
Sigrid attended a one-teacher primary school in Queensland and then several different schools in other countries.
The aspiring actor worked in Sydney and then Melbourne, following her husband-to-be as well as the community’s big attraction, Aussie Rules.
“You can’t live in Melbourne, or it would be very difficult, with no interest in football at all. It’s more than just a sport, it’s a means of gathering, connecting of a community.
“There’s a code of camaraderie that’s celebrated and acknowledged. It’s very healthy,” said Sigrid who became North Melbourne’s number one ticket-holder.
Proving her brains and beauty, the thinking person’s actor was voted to have ‘Australia’s Most Beautiful Face’ by Woman’s Day readers in 1989 and ‘Australia’s Most Beautiful Eyes’ in 1990. In 1999 she received the ‘Peoples’ Choice Award’ for favourite actress and favourite TV star, followed by almost every major actors’ gong and credit.
TV’s Seachange series reinforced Sigrid’s credentials as did the reboot of Seachange with Sigrid also as executive producer.
She seems to never pick unsuitable roles among her many appearances including The Man from Snowy River and the mini-series, All the Rivers Run. Remember TV’s Homicide, Division 4 and The Sullivans (as Elizabeth ‘Buffy’ Turnbull).
Sigrid became the first Australian to be offered a lead role in a US network prime time drama series – Paradise for CBS with a western heritage Cowboy Hall of Fame award in 1999.
She was on Netflix’s ratings winner Wentworth and in its forerunner, Prisoner.
She won the AACTA Best Supporting Actor award for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the 2016 mini-series, Peter Allen – Not the Boy Next Door. Then there was Little Oberon, Underbelly – the Golden Mile, the Far Country opposite Michael York and The Boy in the Bush opposite Kenneth Branagh.
These performances are merely tip of the Sigrid iceberg. In 2018 she appeared in Anh’s Brush with Fame.
Sigrid was Ambassador for Melbourne Zoo and the National Gallery of Victoria and on the board of the Australian Film Institute.
This year, there are plans to perform for the Sydney Theatre Company and another venture involving an eight-hour reading. And there’s more waiting in the wings.
“Work is an extension of my life,” says Sigrid.