Noni Hazlehurst on diversity in kids’ TV: ‘Don’t talk to me about Bananas in Pyjamas’


“Sorry, ask that again?”

Even down a phone line, Australian TV legend Noni Hazlehurst’s double-take is unmistakable.

The question that stopped Hazlehurst in her tracks related to the 24 years she spent as a presenter on iconic kids show Play School.

It was a simpler time for kids TV in those days, where controversies such as the recent Bluey diversity drama simply didn’t exist.

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In an opinion piece on the ABC Everyday website last month, Beverley Wang detailed her love of the ABC Kids cartoon — which raked in an incredible 7.2 million viewers across its latest series — but posed the question: “Can Bluey be more representative?”

Even if the wokest corners of social media existed during Hazlehurst’s stint on Play School, they might’ve been willing to give the show a pass, declaring Big Ted and Little Ted a same-sex couple and thus TV trailblazers.

“You’re shocking me, I’ve got no answer to that,” Hazlehurst laughs at the suggestion.

“But don’t talk to me about Bananas in Pyjamas.”

Noni Hazlehurst in Play School.
Camera IconNoni Hazlehurst in Play School. Credit: UNKNOWN/SUPPLIED

In her latest film, June Again, the Logies Hall of Famer plays the titular June, a successful businesswoman, whose wallpaper company and family fall into disrepair in the five years she has spent in a nursing home with dementia.

When she miraculously gets a reprieve from this insidious disease, regaining complete lucidity for what will surely be a finite period of time, June sets about righting all the wrongs of the past half-decade, much to the bemusement of her adult kids, who are played by Claudia Karvan and Stephen Curry.

Though there are considerably more scenes in June Again played purely for gags than in The Father, a film about dementia that opted for psychological thriller vibes instead, there are similarities between Hazlehurst’s performance and the one that earned Anthony Hopkins an Oscar.

Noni Hazlehurst.
Camera IconNoni Hazlehurst. Credit: Ross Coffey

Unsurprisingly, that’s a comparison the former Play School presenter can live with.

“Well, yes; yeah, I can,” she laughs.

“I’m just thrilled that there are some interesting roles for older actors happening — it’s a shame that we all have to have dementia to get them.”

June Again is in cinemas now.

Listen to the full interview with Noni Hazlehurst at The West Live link above.