The Newcastle-born star was just 17 years old when the musical group formed in 1998 and went on to receive multiple ARIA and Logie awards across her ten-year run.
Now, Charli has opened up to Yahoo Lifestyle about her experience in Hi-5 and shared details about what it was really like being the youngest member, her celebrity encounter with One Direction, and an upcoming reunion tour.
How did you become a part of Hi-5?
I was still in school, I was 17 years old and I'd never flown on a plane. I just knew that I wanted to do something with singing, dancing and acting. That's all I ever loved. And I got an audition and my mum drove me three hours to Sydney to do the audition and I left there going, I just had to do everything that I've ever learned, like singing, dancing, acting. I just loved it.
All I wanted was maybe my mum and dad to see me on TV and my sister, and the next minute we were touring nine months of every year, packed out concerts, and everybody knew my name. It was just incredible and mind-blowing for a little kid that hadn't even flown on a plane.
What experience did you have before Hi-5?
I had been dancing since I was two years old. I loved singing. It's funny because we found a letter that I'd written when I was around six or seven and I said when I grow up I want to be singing on stage, I want to have something about a horse, like I want to run around on stage being a horse - which I've done on Hi-5 before - and I want to win Logies.
The only thing that I did write as well was while I'm dancing on stage I want people to throw money at me. Now, we know what that kind of means, and I haven't done that yet! But I ticked everything else off that little Charli list and I guess when you have that clear focus, even though I was a country kid so far from the city, that's what I wanted and that was my focus.
It was really interesting because I went to a performing arts high school and also my sister is a way better singer, dancer, and actor than me. But I think I got it through just sheer never giving up no matter how many nos you got. Like I did all the extra work on Home and Away and all that sort of stuff as a kid growing up just for experience, and a lot of people when you get nos stop. But I think if you get a fire inside you and a passion and you just know that's what you're supposed to do, you really don't have a backup plan. And sometimes, that’s kind of cool.
What was it like meeting the other members for the first time?
It was incredible. I was so young and they all had experience in the industry. They were all professionals really, so for me watching them, it was amazing. They did put us with other people, and then the five of us were put together and we were around the piano with our composer Chris Harriott, and he said magic happened when we sang together. And that was it and they knew right there and then. So there were hundreds of people that auditioned but it was just the mix of the voices.
And I have to say, because I'm living Hi-5 now with my girls and I have to listen to our songs every day, I can hear what he means. There's something about the five of our voices together that it's not irritating. Like, there are a lot of kids groups out there and sometimes as a mum, you can go, "Do I have to listen to another one?". Whereas when it's Hi-5, it blends, it goes together and there is that something. You could have created a pop group out of us if it wasn't a children's group because it vocally blended, and it was all meant to be.
What was it like having to be so energetic in the show?
I'm the person that you saw on TV. I wasn't actually playing a character and I probably didn't know how at that age to go into some deeper, darker place within my acting.
In our very first series, our director kept saying, "More energy, more energy, give us more!". And it’s really funny because Nathan [Foley] and I took that really personally and we just kept going up and up and up. I was ready to explode if you watch that first series. At the end of the series we were at a wrap party and he said, "I was never talking to you two, by the way". So we just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and it wasn't even us that was supposed to keep giving more energy. But you know what, you live and you learn. Second series, Charli was then 18, a lot calmer and cooler. It got better from there on.
What was it like being the youngest in the group?
I think Kellie [Crawford] was already 26 and she was a pop star for goodness sake in Teen Queens. Everyone had musical theatre careers and they were all rocking out with bands and I was in high school just finishing my HSC.
You can meet 17-year-olds now who are fully capable of like, running a company, but I was a little one. So I’d definitely go to bed a lot earlier and stayed out of a lot of trouble. It’s not like we were wild, I’m just saying from my personal experience I was just boring. But maybe that's a good thing! Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing.
What stands out from your ten years in Hi-5?
It’s incredible for me to have gone through Hi-5 and then when I interviewed celebrities when I did my next job on radio as an entertainment reporter, [seeing] how many celebrities loved Hi-5. So for example, I was interviewing One Direction in Ireland. They flipped out. They had gone to the concert and when I was interviewing them the boys were just like, "Oh my God, you're Charli!" and I'm thinking, "Oh my god, you’re One Direction!". They were going crazy! They asked for a selfie with me, I couldn’t believe it. I thought that was really really cool, really special.
What was it like saying goodbye to Hi-5?
I did try and leave at the eight-year mark because I thought that was a good time for me and I'd been offered a couple of other things and I thought, maybe this is my chance. And Channel Nine said, "No, no, no, you’re not going anywhere" and signed me quickly up for another two years. And then I got to leave at the round number of 10 with the lady who created the series, so Helena [Harris] and I left at exactly the same time as they then sold it to another network, another production company. So it was really nice.
Those last two years were actually my favourite because although we did the same tour almost every year, I got to say goodbye to the kids. It was like I knew that was coming to an end so it almost re-energised me to go again, and I absolutely loved it.
What was it like transitioning from Hi-5 to other roles?
When I eventually did leave, Channel Nine were incredible. I was given Getaway immediately, even when I was 21 still doing Hi-5 I was doing episodes of Getaway, so that was great. And then straight after Hi-5, I did a show called Battle of the Choirs on Channel Seven hosted by Kochie [David Koch]. It was one of the first reality singing shows, it was so good. But at the end of that, those producers said, "Okay, now you're going on to Dancing with the Stars". So straight away I went on to that and that was my way of growing up because you strip off. Like, you’ve got to be sexy on Dancing with the Stars so people started thinking, "She’s not that 18-year-old girl anymore".
And that led to me doing interviews on 2DayFM in Sydney and the next minute I was on the Hot30 Countdown, I had my own night radio show called Scoopla which was an entertainment show and that was national and then they put me on breakfast radio. It didn't stop. So it wasn't until I had a baby three years ago, that's when I got to stop for a second.
So the transition for me was actually really nice. Also, I’ve got the mindset where I don't care if people recognise me for Hi-5, and I'm not trying to make you stop thinking of Charli from Hi-5 because hell, I am proud of that girl. That was an amazing time in my life and I loved what I gave the fans, so I’ll embrace that and then see what else I can do. I don't need to reinvent myself and try and be something I'm not now just so you won't remember it.
What did you learn about yourself after Hi-5?
I needed to do Dancing with the Stars around different people which gets wild. I needed to do radio which is when you learn to interview people and you get to talk to people about other topics that aren't scripted, and you need to have an opinion. This wasn't naturally with me.
When I left Hi-5 and I was doing some presenting I had someone say to me, "You just so much sound like your character, and even though that was you, you always sound like you're about to present for a child". And I quickly went to NIDA and I had some lessons with this great guy at NIDA and he helped me vocally find my speech level… And I guess that's when Charli grew up.
I was on breakfast radio, I was talking about opinions, all different topics, and then you discover who you are and thankfully that's what's kept my career going so long. I evolved.
What are you most proud of with Hi-5?
Most of all, I’m proud of the legacy that Hi-5 left. Whether it's my voice on the phone or I happen to wear pink, people want to tell you the impact you've had in their lives. And what a damn awesome thing that you had a job that impacted people that they remember when they're adults, or they remember that their child only ate vegetables because you sang about them, or they'd only go to sleep if the Charli sleepy song was on. There are all these stories that give me goosebumps that I was a part of that and how blessed that life was.
And now to be able to show my children is just incredible. It's absolutely amazing. They think everyone's mum is on a children's show, which is pretty cool as well. I don’t know how to tell them they’re not.
Are your kids Hi-5 fans?
I didn't have a choice because my mum saved every bit of merchandise. We were given one piece of every merchandise, so she had boxed them up in the hope of having a grandchild, and boy or girl they were going to be raised in Hi-5 dresses because we had them all. They’re full retro kids but think they’re bang on. They think everyone has Hi-5 sneakers, Hi-5 backpacks, bedspreads, lamps, curtains. They look like they're obsessed, but my mum just wants to use them because they've been boxed up for so long, and they're pretty cool clothes!
They're fully obsessed with Hi-5 five and I love it. I'm watching it from a whole new perspective now. So yeah, they had no hope, they were going to be Hi-5 fans. Although I was a little bit upset when my one-year-old kept asking for Emma [Wiggle], like constantly. As soon as she woke up she was like, "Emma, Emma, Emma" and I was like, "Seriously? Really? Not mummy?". So I had to buy her an Emma doll. At least my three-year-old has all my dolls!
This sounds really stuck up. It was just that I still had that, "Come on, love Hi-5 more than Wiggles" in my brain, but of course, there was never that rivalry. I just played on it when I had kids.
What is your relationship with the group like now?
It’s so much easier now with Messenger and everything. I remember I went through a stage of not seeing them that often. I ran into, I think it was Nathan in a Melbourne train station, we were passing underneath in the city, and it’s like you just saw them. You talk as if you saw them yesterday and I think the best way to describe it is probably a brother and sister relationship for everyone.
You can’t be together that many years and not reconnect as soon as you see each other. When it was Kellie’s birthday this year in May, I mean it when I say I’ll just love her forever. That’s the easiest thing to say, and that’s what you usually only say about siblings. When you haven’t seen someone for like five years but you still will say to them, "Oh my goodness I love you so much I’ll love you forever". That’s the way you talk.
Would you ever do a Hi-5 reunion concert?
Nathan and Tim [Harding] originally contacted me [to do a reunion] and I was pregnant, so I couldn’t do it - unless I was going to do it as a cow costume or something. It just wasn’t going to work. But it’s funny because now my girls want to go to a Hi-5 concert. So I’ve been chatting a lot with Nathan and he’s really up for it, I’m really up for it, and we’re like, "Let’s do it".
Because my girls want to see the concert now I’m really behind it, and it definitely could work! So I’ve spoken to a lot of people and we can make it work. I really do think it could happen, and I’m pretty sure Tim is on board as well. So we’ll just make sure the girls are right now because I think they were before. Maybe for next year or something, but I absolutely think that this could happen.
What are you doing now?
I’m doing Getaway still, and it is like a dream job. I feel very fortunate to say that Hi-5 was a dream job, Getaway is a dream job, Dancing with the Stars was a dream job. So I’ve had so much fun, but still doing Getaway is beautiful now that I have children as well and getting to experience things with them.
I do have a book that’s coming out, which is very exciting. I can’t tell you anything yet, but I will very soon. It’s very exciting!
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