12th January 1985
Fatal disease claims one of Wandin Valley’s best-loved characters — and A Country Practice comes to grips with it’s most traumatic plotline yet as zany Molly Jones bows out and Brendan faces a clouded future as an embattled, lonely, single parent.
A COUNTRY Practice is set to provide one of the biggest television shocks of 1985 — the sudden death of one of Wandin Valley’s best loved characters, the colorful Molly Jones.
And Anne Tenney, the actress who has shaped Molly into one of Australian TV’s most popular characters, already is in mourning.
Flanked by her screen husband Shane Withington (Brendan Jones) and JNP Films producer Lynn Bayonas, Anne was close to tears as she spoke exclusively to TV WEEK about filming Molly’s final scenes.
The character, which Anne says has stretched her as an actress and allowed her to display enormous versatility, will learn that she has leukaemia and only weeks to live.
Her final episodes will be seen on the Logie Award-winning Seven Network serial during April.
“I realise this has been an incredible experience that I can never duplicate,” Anne says of the role she has played since A Country Practice started its spectacularly successful run more than three years ago.
“It’s been one of those special things and I realise it will never happen again. It’s a change and I’m scared of change and apprenshive about it because I’ve been so secure, but I’m not going to run and hide under the covers or anything.
“I need a break. I don’t want to work for a while. I’m having a rest and rebuilding myself. I’ll probably get out of the country for about a month.
“I’m going into a healing process to find out who I am again.”
While Anne’s sudden announcement will already have started the shock reverberations right around Australia, she says she has done her soul-searching and her devision is final and both Lynn Bayonas and Shane Withington confirm that no amount of coaxing from the close-knit A Country Practice team could persuade her to change her mind.
“We tried everything with Anne… blackmail, the whole bit,” says a disappointed Lynn.
And, jokes Shane: “See the bruises on her legs?”
Apart from needing a break Anne says one of her major reason for wanting to leave A Country Practice is the pressure that affects all the Australian serials. They are produced at the break-neck speed of two episodes a week, a filming schedule unheard of in the major overseas production houses.
“I have become overly pre-occupied with the job,” she says. “It’s taken over everything and it’s worn me down.
“I can leave Molly at the studio but I can’t leave the work there. I’ve found my coping mechanisms have run out and it’s be wearing me down quite a bit.
“I’ll have to learn to change my attitude, I think, as far as that goes because I believe if work is going to be all-consuming, then life is lost in that. Are you living to work or working to live?”
In keeping with a A Country Practice’s traditionally sensitive handling of social and medical problems, weeks of research preceded the writing of the scripts that will see Molly Jones bow out forever.
Anne, who says she has never been confronted by death, read the Elizabeth Kubler Ross books, Death And Dying, which contains interviews with terminally ill people.
“But I don’t even know whether I was ready to talk to people who have terminal diseases,” she admits.
“The scripts were so well researched and the writing so good. That gave us a very truthful emotional level and experience to work from.
“I felt I probably did take it almost personally.
“I just went through a funny time with the whole thing.
“I’m losing a lot in leaving.
“I’m losing working with the people I love.”
Anne is particularly concerned with the way the young fans of A Country Practice might react to Molly’s death.
“The responsibility is enormous for all of us, because adults can differentiate, or most can, but a lot of children can’t,” she says.
“So I think parents have got to take the warning ‘parental guidance recommended’ very seriously, because the children will need explications.”
The effect Molly’s passing will have on A Country Practice and its army of fans is unpredictable, but as Lynn Bayonas points out, the series has never been a one-character show.
“I think the strengths are all there and it will continue on, but there’s no doubt there will be a gap,” she says.
Adds Shane Withington: “I think Molly will be as much a part of A Country Practice as anybody, as long as it’s on air.
“She’s such a big character … her spirit will live on.”
Brendan will become a single parent and have to learn how to cope without his wife.
But that is only one of several tantalising new storylines planned for A Country Practice this year.
The departure of the character who has become known as “the unforgettable Molly Jones” is only one of the stocks in store.
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