Anne Looby joined A Country Practice as the new vet Anna Lacey after the departure of popular vet Matt Tyler. In tow was her nephew Billy who caused her headaches, especially with the new local cop Tom Newman. TV Flashback caught up with Anne who remembers her time on the long running soap fondly…
1) How did you become involved with A Country Practice?
I had graduated from NIDA 2-3 years earlier and had worked mainly in theatre, although I did a guesty in ACP in my first year out – playing a deranged woman!
My agent sent me for a screentest for the role of Anna Lacey and I was thrilled to be cast.
2) Did you have any experience with animals before working on the show? Did you do any research?
No experience with animals, apart from having a family pet dog. I had amazing support from our resident vet advisor, Rob Zammit. He was an invaluable resource and I observed him working as part of my research. He was always on set whenever I had to work with animals so I had excellent support and supervision.
3) What was it like joining a long running and very popular show?
It was like being adopted into a loving and inclusive family. Shane Porteous was really the heart of that show and his kindness and integrity really set the tone for the ‘family’. The cast and crew were highly professional and proud of the show and so become a part of that well-established work ethic was invaluable experience for me as a young actor.
4) What aspects of Anna Lacey did you enjoy playing?
I loved her independence and strength. I loved her vulnerability and courage in caring for her young nephew, fueled only by her common sense and humor. I loved her no-frills, down to earth quality.
5) Being a vet in the show you obviously spent a lot of time around animals on set, any interesting or funny moments?
Oh god … so many. I think it was W. C. Fields who said, never work with animals or children – I had both. The most memorable moments involved ‘internal examinations’ of large animals eg horses and cows. I can almost hear the script team, laughing and saying, “let’s give Anna another internal examination to do!” Seriously – up to my arm pit inside a cow/horse – while trying to a: look like I know what the hell I am doing, and b: remember to get my lines right so we don’t have to do more than one take!
6) Doing so many hours of television a year, it must have been a very busy shooting schedule, how did you cope with that?
I loved every minute. I am a morning person which helps and while a 4am alarm is challenging, once I am up and out – I love it. I was young and energetic and I loved my job, so I not only coped, I thrived.
7) What was it like working with a big ensemble?
Great! As I said above, it is like being part of a family. I can honestly say I don’t recall any disharmony. Being part of such a well-established group – there is an easy rhythm and way of working that is very relaxed and easy. I learned so much in those years about acting on screen (as opposed to theatre), and one of the keys is relaxation and trust – and it was easy to trust my fellow cast mates.
8) What was it like working so closely with Jon Concannon (Tom)? Did you enjoy the pairing?
Jon Concannon is one of the most gorgeous human beings on the planet. We both came onto the show about the same time. It is such a shame that he didn’t act much after ACP (his own choice) because he was a fabulous actor – brilliant mind – brilliant sense of humor. We were very close and loved working together – and god we laughed. We had such fun. Those memories are close to my heart.
9) You also worked closely with Jamie Croft (Billy) – how did you find that?
Sweet Jamie. He was such a darling boy. A joy to work with. I was at an event about 10 years ago and a man came up to me and ‘Hi’ – I looked at him… and he was kind of familiar and I felt a bit awkward as he clearly knew me! Of course, it was Jamie – a grown man! I obviously hadn’t seen him since he was a kid. It was a time-warp kind of moment. He remains the lovely human he always was.
10) Did you have a favourite episode or storyline?
Pretty well everything up until Anna and Tom marry – as is true of most TV storylines – once they have married you off – it all gets a bit domestic. I did become a bit tired of scenes in the kitchen, chopping food!! The Anna/Tom love story was a beautiful exploration of a relationship between two fiercely independent people, learning to trust each other.
11) Were you surprised when they announced the series was ending on Seven? What was your reaction?
Not really. It had been running for 12 years so, I don’t think anyone was that surprised. Part of me was sad, but I was also ready to move onto other projects.
12) Ten created a new version of the show, did they approach you to join the cast? Would you have considered it?
No. As I said, I was ready to move on anyway.
13) What will you treasure most from your time working on A Country Practice?
Without doubt, the people. Having had the opportunity to do work I loved with people I loved. It doesn’t get much better than that.
14) What have you been up to recently?
I remained an actor up until only a few years ago and was blessed with a wide variety of work – theatre, film & tv. I became increasingly disenchanted with the industry as got older, mainly because roles for women over 40 are not plentiful and not particularly interesting.
Some years ago, I began post-graduate studies in counselling and psychotherapy, and now have a busy private practice in Sydney as well as traveling regularly up to Byron Bay to facilitate the Hoffman Process. What I love about my work now – is not dissimilar to what I loved about exploring a character – I am fascinated by the human condition – why we are who we are – what makes us tick – where do we get stuck and why – what is the path to freedom? I feel like I have created for myself a renaissance of sorts, a purposeful path in which I can be of service for many years to come.
Thanks to Anne for an enjoyable walk down memory lane. If you missed the earlier interview with Andrew Blackman about his time on A Country Practice, be sure to read it. The love the cast had for this show is really thrilling to read. Sounds like it was a fun and happy set! Don’t forget if you want to see Anna, Billy and Tom Newman arrive in Wandin Valley, grab a copy of Season 12 on DVD.
You can see Anne in A Country Practice in the video below: