She’s appeared in a number of iconic Australian shows including The Saddle Club, Home and Away and Wentworth, but it was Marny Kennedy’s starring role in Mortified that changed her life and launched her career in the entertainment industry.
Now, the Australian actress has opened up to Yahoo Lifestyle about what it was like filming the children’s series, whether she’d be keen to do a reboot with the original cast, and what she thinks her character Taylor Fry would be doing today.
What was your audition process like?
I was in grade six at the time. The process was a little bit of a long one. The original audition I sort of prepped it as usual, went in, had a bit of fun and didn't think much of it. And then when we got the callback, mum and I had to fly up to Queensland and we did a ‘workshop’ with maybe three other Taylors and two other Hectors and all that sort of thing. They were sort of mixing and matching us kids together.
I remember mum, god bless her, was like, “You know, we're really proud of you for getting this far”, and we sort of treated it accordingly. And I went back to school and it must have been about a week later, I was sitting in my classroom, and I still remember it so clearly. My mum, my nan and my sister all suddenly turned up in the window of the classroom up the ramp, they came through the door and said, “You’re Taylor Fry!”.
Was it hard transitioning from school to filming?
I remember I was school captain at the time, I was very proud of that and I was like, “I’m gonna have to leave that behind and leave my duties behind”. Unbeknownst to me, my life was about to change forever.
Was Mortified your first role?
Other than a Happy Meal commercial, it was my first onscreen role. For years I did voiceovers, I was the Kmart voiceover girl. That was my little segue into the industry, but by far and large, Mortified changed everything.
What do you remember about your first day on set?
I do just remember immediately falling in love with the camaraderie of being on set. That was from the get-go, and from that point on I was just in love. I really was.
What was it like going back to school after filming?
When I did go back to school, it was maybe halfway into year seven so I sort of had to come into the high school experience. I sort of explored that through Mortified, like there's a whole changeover where she does go from primary school to high school, so there was a lot of art imitating life which I was really grateful for.
Were you famous at school?
My dad was my principal in high school from year 8 to year 12, and so it was never about me being on TV or anything. It was like ‘principal’s daughter’. I had bigger fish to fry, bigger concerns. But he was a legend, I was really lucky.
What was your relationship like with the cast then and now?
Almost instantly they were family and have remained family to this day. I remember I think I was about 20, just short of 21, I was travelling with my family, we were on holiday and we went out to Fraser Island, which is quite remote. We just went off to a little side pocket, there was a place you could swim but not a well-known one, and dad decided he was just gonna have a quick dip. There was a man out there and he sort of looked at him and dad looked at him back and he recognised him and they obviously know each other. From across the water, probably about 50 metres, maybe a hundred, I just hear at the top of his lungs, “Hey squirt!”. I turned around and it was Andrew Blackman who played my dad. So there were my two dads in the middle of nowhere. So yeah, all hearts find their way home. Family’s forever! He came to my 21st, he brought his family and he made a little speech!
Any behind-the-scenes secrets?
As for secrets, there’s a really good one. He's gonna kill him for telling you this. Luke [Erceg], who played Leon, I'm not even sure if he knows this, but he was the first boy to ever ask me out! So whilst Taylor Fry was sort of pining over Leon, the tables were turned behind the scenes. I think at the time Nick [Dunn] and Maia [Mitchell], who played Hector and Brittany, had a little bit of a romance - as much of a romance as you can have when you’re 12 or 13, whatever they were. It was very sweet.
If anything I think it was a bit of a pity ask from Luke, he probably felt a bit sorry for me. He asked me and I was mortified. I was beside myself, I’d never been asked out by a boy. The consummate professional as well, I don’t s**t where I eat, so I was like, “No I couldn’t possibly. I’m sorry, we'll just have to be friends”. But yeah, treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen!
What was it like saying goodbye to Taylor Fry and Mortified?
It was really hard. As I said, our lives had changed irrefutably forever and still to this day, I think there’s always a part of my heart that will always miss that time in my life. I'm so grateful that it just so happened to be the cast and the crew, it was just one of those special ones. I remember at the time when it did wrap I was really ready to go home and I really missed my brother and my sister and my dad who were all waiting and, you know, start high school and do that. And I think that's how I've lived my life since, striking up that balance of knowing when it's time to go home and check back in with people that know and love you.
Have you rewatched the show?
I remember when I was 18 travelling overseas, I think it was in Spain or Italy, just clicking through [the TV] and Mortified was on but I was dubbed, it was in another language. That was surreal. I’ve definitely watched here and there because it's kind of like watching a home video. It reminds you so much of such a beautiful time in your life.
Would you ever do a reunion?
If they came to me and were like, “Let's do this reboot”, one hundred per cent I would do it. One hundred per cent! It would have to be with everyone, it would have to be one in, all in.
What do you think Taylor Fry is doing in 2022?
You’d think by now she's left home after the embarrassment that her parents caused her, but if she was smart she would have stayed because it was a beautiful home. I don’t know where Taylor would be. Honestly, with that kid, every episode [she was everything] from an astronaut to a Buddhist monk. She might be in prison! There were some sketchy things that we did on that show. So you would never know with that girl, but I’m sure the world would have been her oyster.
Did you continue acting after the show?
I was really fortunate that children's television was a huge part of my upbringing on set, from Mortified, which was grade six, all the way through to year 12. I got to travel to some amazing places and meet some lifelong friends. That's something that I really am so grateful for. Every single job I've done I've taken away sisters and brothers and family.
It’s the age-old story and it's kind of notorious that transitioning from children's television to adult drama and all that sort of thing is a little bit tricky. And I definitely had years where I had to move away from acting to figure out if it's what I want to do because when you're a kid, of course you're going to jump headfirst into it and fall in love with it, but I think it was important to me to go away and miss it and really know that that's what I wanted to do and it wasn't just a fun thing that I fell into as a kid.
What are you working on now?
My friend Charlotte [Nicdao] and I, who did A gURLs wURLd with me, she’s been over in the States so she just got back. But during lockdown, we developed a film. Very infant stages but we're really excited about that. So I'm heading back down to Melbourne to shoot a little short with her.
I think I've reached an age now where I'm just really happy to go with the flow. And similar to finding your way back to different people, it’s the same with work. It always comes in and out of your life when you need it and certain jobs when you need it, and being on set is by far and large where I feel most whole and most myself. So I’m looking forward to what's around the corner. We’ll see!
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