Why age is no barrier for actress Linda Cropper
Offspring's Linda Cropper shares why she loves playing the larger-than-life grandmother in this WYZA® exclusive
While she’s played a vast array of dramatic characters in her 38-year career, Linda Cropper says playing Geraldine – the outrageous and outspoken grandmother in the popular television drama Offspring – is one of her “favourite jobs of all time.”
Part of Geraldine's appeal, according to Cropper, is that age is no barrier. “This idea that once you hit 50, it’s all over and you’re some sort of boring, grey-haired, invisible person just appals me."
For Cropper, Geraldine's character does not play to some terrible cliché, and is more relatable as a result. “I wish there were more characters like her but we’ve still got a long, long way to go,” she says. “I mean, you’re not only crossing the gender gap which is significant in this country, you’re also crossing the age gap.”
Offspring is one of Network Ten’s most popular Australian-made comedy/dramas with some seriously good ratings to its credit. The show played for five seasons and finished in 2014. After a two-year break, it was resurrected and came back to our television screens in June of this year. The sixth season launched with the first episode watched by 1.22 million viewers across Australia, peaking at a staggering 1.59 million.
While Offspring’s original creator, Debra Oswald, and head writer, Michael Lucas, didn’t take part in the sixth season, the original producers stayed on and Jonathon Gavin, a long-term writer, stepped into the head writer’s position.
What is your favourite moment from Offspring?
Despite Network Ten yet to confirm if the popular series will return to screens for a seventh season, Cropper says she is not going anywhere anytime soon. “We’re all waiting to hear and it’s a bit annoying because other offers have come my way, but I’ve got an allegiance to Offspring so I’ve had to turn those down."
“We mightn’t know for another couple of months. If it goes ahead, it’ll shoot next year and it wouldn’t be on television again until winter next year. But look, it’s up to the network – we’re often the last to know,” she laughs.
Asked if she’d jump on board for another season she answers quickly: “I’d absolutely do it – I think we all would. It’s been one of my favourite jobs of all time.”
Geraldine and Nina (Asher Keddie) farewelling Proudman patriarch Darcy (John Waters). Image: Network TEN
Why women of all ages love Geraldine
Not surprisingly, Geraldine's character strikes a chord with many Australian women.
Cropper says it has a lot to do with Offspring's broad appeal. "Judging from the response I get from people in my life, in supermarkets and on the streets, there’s a lot of older women who watch it and love it – and men."
But then there are the younger fans. “There was a girl celebrating her 29th birthday at a big table of 20-somethings and she came up to me and said, ‘Can I get a photo with you?’ Geraldine’s my favourite character!’”
“And I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘I wish my mother was like you!’ And things like that, so Geraldine’s not just popular with the older folk, which is nice. She has a very broad appeal.”
In Offspring, every character has their chance to shine. In the latest season, Geraldine defies outdated traditions and has a new love interest where things get hot and steamy.
For Cropper, it's been liberating to play a character who’s as free-minded and liberated as Geraldine. "As a woman – and as an older woman – my god, you know, a body of work of 38 years often doesn’t account for very much. So I’m very lucky to be playing that role. There’s not many roles out there like Geraldine where you get to be outrageous and all of those things.”
She says while Geraldine shines in the latest season, all the characters get a chance to do the same and the show is very much an “ensemble piece” and that’s “one of its strengths.”
“The interesting thing is, it (Geraldine’s character) registers very strongly so it possibly seems larger than what it is,” explains Cropper. “But that’s very much to do with the character – the character’s large. Really, it’s very much Nina’s show – and Billie is very much a major role. Geraldine isn’t particularly bigger than anyone else but she registers because she’s not some invisible, grey cliché, which is great.”
Cropper with Offspring co-star Kat Stewart, who plays Geraldine's daughter Billie
(Image: Network TEN)
Life before Offspring
Cropper has worked as an actor for over 38 years and starred in a wide range of entertainment including theatre, movies, TV series and TV movies.
She played alongside Kate Hudson as Tess' attorney in the American flick Fool's Gold, as well as alongside Cate Blanchett in Aussie drama Little Fish. In theatre, she’s starred in many of Bell Shakespeare productions including playing Lady Macbeth. She’s acted in numerous plays for the Sydney Theatre Company and starred in many popular TV series including Farscape, The Pacific, Water Rats and All Saints.
Although she always enjoyed acting, Cropper says it was not an obvious career path in the early days.
"I didn’t actually know when I was growing up that you could become an actor in Australia. I came from a very un-theatrical family. But I think all kids love acting because they get to stand on stage and entertain people. It’s a bit of a drug," she confides.
"It’s not quite as playful when you’re an adult but when you’re a child it’s just fun. I think my debut was as the ‘big bad wolf’ and I was hooked."
Cropper says it was an English teacher who prompted her to pursue acting as a career. “I was always in the school plays and the English teacher at the boy’s school that we used to do the co-productions with said, ‘you should go to NIDA,’ and I’d never heard of it. So I did – I auditioned, I got in – and the rest as they say is history. I’ve been a professional actor since I left NIDA a million years ago when I was 21,” she laughs.
“I always said if I hadn’t got to where I wanted to be at 30 I’d get out and do something else. But I never had to,” she adds.
In fact, Cropper is always thinking one step ahead. “When I was around 50 I looked at becoming a psychotherapist – just a bit of an insurance policy against possible unemployment. But I was too busy working at the time to do the essays and then I realised I didn’t really want to do that. I just had to trust that I’d keep on getting acting work,” she explains.
“So I’ve been an actor all these years and I think that was pretty much written in my destiny.”
Watch the many roles played by the talented Linda Cropper
And although she enjoys working across film and television, Cropper says she has a soft spot for theatre.
“Theatre is still very much more the actor’s medium than film and television. It’s just you and the audience so it’s very immediate. And there’s great camaraderie in the theatre and a sense of family. Although we very much have that in Offspring because we’ve done so many seasons of it,” Cropper says.
Thoughts on retirement
When we ask the sprightly star if she’ll ever consider retiring, she laughs and says she’s probably what many would call semi-retired now. But she adds: “Actors are in a unique position, because even though the roles diminish as you get older, there’s always the odd older role.”.
Cropper says that a wide range of fans relate to her Offspring character Geraldine
(Image: Network TEN)
“So in theory, actors can work until the day they drop. The roles just get fewer and farther between I suppose. The whole Western world is very youth-skewed culturally so the roles diminish with age, and especially for women,” she adds.
“It’s better than it used to be here in Australia but there’s still a long way to go. If you compare it to something like British television where there are lots of wonderful leading roles for women, it’s very, very different here.”
“When Offspring finished, I had some time off and then I was offered another television job. I work when I work but I’m not flat out. So I probably am what you call semi-retired.”
“So it’s not like I look forward to putting up my feet because I have a lot of time to put my feet up as it is,” she laughs.
Linda's favourite ways to relax
“I love yoga and I do a lot of long walks." Cropper says she often goes on walking holidays.
“I lived in a very nice apartment in the city in Sydney and I just craved getting my hands dirty,” she said, “and so now I’ve got a big garden.” Cropper currently lives in the picturesque Southern Highlands, south of Sydney.
“The garden is my big thing...it’s very rewarding watching things grow and we’re having some beautiful days down here. Everything’s starting to bloom and blossom and shoot. It’s very lovely after the winter because the winter’s very savage down here.”
Which Aussie actor do you relate to and why? Let us know in the comments below.
(Feature image: Network TEN)