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Theresa Healey talks motherhood and finding a balance

Family comes first for renowned kiwi actress, Theresa Healey.

By Donna Fleming
It’s a surprise to hear Theresa Healey describe herself as “slack” when it comes to her acting career.
“I haven’t tried very hard,” she says, sitting at the wooden dining table of her central Auckland home, a dog-eared script in front of her. “I’m the person who has had a career without really trying! I could have had a much better one but I’ve been a bit slack.”
This is the woman who earned a special place in the hearts of the nation playing nurse Carmen Roberts on Shortland Street and in the last couple of years has appeared in some of our most popular homegrown TV shows, including The Blue Rose, Go Girls and Agent Anna.
She’s been in movies, such as Jubilee and Bread and Roses, and her theatre credits include Calendar Girls, Glide Time and Macbeth. She’s currently appearing in the Auckland Theatre Company production Trees Beneath the Lake alongside Michael Hurst. Along the way, she’s also done voiceovers, been a contestant on Dancing With the Stars and presented a travel show.
Slack? Really?
While life isn’t exactly slowing down for Theresa, the actress knows how to keep a fine balance.
“Well, put it this way – I’m not very ambitious,” she says. “I could have done a lot more but I’ve needed to balance acting with having a family, and I’ve loved having the kids. I’ve wanted to be there for them as much as I can, so there have been times when my career has had to take second place. Family comes first.”
She swivels in her seat towards the living room, where the youngest of her two sons, Xavier (10), is immersed in his tablet.
“Have I been an okay mother, Xavier?” she asks.
“Yeah,” he mumbles, eyes never lifting from the screen.
“Not very convincing, Xavi,” laughs Theresa, who is also mum to 13-year-old Zachary and is sorting out arrangements for his school speech night as she chats.
“I have certainly said ‘no’ to acting jobs because of the kids. And I’m really pleased I’ve been there so much, and managed to get to so many of their rugby and soccer games.
“I do have guilt sometimes – I’ll go, ‘Oh, no, I forgot to send them to karate class. I’m a terrible mum!’ But I also do things like organising drama workshops for them and I help out at school when I can.”
And when she does take on acting roles, there’s definitely no downtime. “I always give 100%. There is no point taking on jobs and then not being amazing. I couldn’t do a half-hearted job.”
She does sometimes wonder if she should have pushed herself to be more ambitious.
“I would have loved to have gone to America to work with amazing actors there, but that opportunity didn’t present itself. My generation of actors didn’t really head off overseas to find work. It was the next generation who started going to Hollywood. I’m not that tough – I’m a real home girl.
“For a woman to be super-successful in this industry, you have to either have no children or a husband who can look after them and you. We don’t have that in our house.”
Theresa, pictured alongside her co-star Anna Hutchison, starred in Go Girls as Alison Smart from 2009 to 2010.
That’s because her husband, Steven O’Meagher, has his own extremely busy and successful career as a TV producer, who can be away working “for weeks or even months”.
“It can get tricky, but I am lucky to have an incredible mum, Judy, who steps in and helps out with the boys. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
The mums of Zachary and Xavier’s school friends have also been godsends when it comes to childcare, says Theresa. “We all help out each other – it’s about give and take.”
In Trees Beneath the Lake – playing at Auckland’s Maidment Theatre until September 27 – Theresa plays a mum of a teenage boy who has “a few issues”, and while she knows some families go through hell with their kids, she’s thankful for two loving, thoughtful and generally well-behaved sons.
“They’re pretty good kids all up,” she says, smiling fondly at Xavier just moments after rolling her eyes at him for sitting on the sofa with muddy shorts.
“My boys are at the stage now where they are still cuddly and lovely but they are starting to get more independent and they want to do manly stuff. I keep threatening to get them into musical theatre!
“I am so glad that I had kids,” she concludes. “I didn’t even think about it until I was 35 and then I suddenly felt that clock ticking – boy, it was strong! I am really very content.
I can say that from my heart.”

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