edenstreet.net talk to Noel Hodda
He was the dashing TV doctor who had an army of fans. But behind closed doors David Fielding often played the love rat, especially where ex wife Elly was concerned. He was the man we loved to hate and we can't deny he made us laugh a lot too. It was edenstreet.net's pleasure to chat to Noel Hodda.....
What did you think of David Fielding?
It's a long time ago now but I remember really liking the character. He was fun to play and I enjoyed walking the line between likeable and repugnant. He had to have enough likeability for Elly to have been attracted to him and he had to have enough unlikeability for us to believe she would leave him. That was fun.
I believe you and Penny Cook attended the same drama school. What was it like to cast as her husband and did you enjoy working with her?
We both went to NIDA (the National Institute of Dramatic Art, the equivalent of the UK's RADA) but we weren't in the same year so we had never worked together on stage or television before E Street (except for one scene on A Country Practice), although we were both involved with the same theatre company (The Griffin Theatre Co.) on its Board of Directors. Penny actually got me the gig - the show was being built around her and she had a say in the early casting so when they needed someone to play her cad of a husband, naturally she thought of me! Hmmm.... I loved working with her. Our already existing friendship and similar training background gave us a shorthand to approach the work with and I think that shows on screen.
David, Elly and Bob made E Street’s most famous love triangle. Should Bob have got his girl or should David have won the day?
That's one for the fans to argue about for years. David would say he should have won (and he did). After all, he always loved her deep down and persued her often enough didn't he? Rev Bob should have stopped worrying about it and gone for it! His loss.
David’s softer side came to the fore when he was with his daughter Claire. Many adored those scenes. Did you enjoy working with Brooke?
How brilliant was Brooke?! She was such a bright, clever and talented kid who has grown into a bright, clever and talented woman. She made it easy to work with her, offering lots to play off and sometimes showing us oldies up. She was a treat.
Before Elly got shot, David did quite a lot of comedy with Paul and Kim. Did you enjoy the lighter scenes or did the dramatic stuff interest you more?
I loved it all. As originally written, David was a bit more of an ogre and I introduced the lighter tone to him to offset that a bit and then the producers picked up on that and began writing him that way, which was great. I love doing comedy and often it finds its way into my work, just like it does in life. Even tragedy has its funny side don't you think?
You may remember the famous scene where Bob punched David! It looked very real and has gone down in history! Did you do the flip over the chair or was it a stuntman?!
Stunt man? Wouldn't dream of it. I did all my own falls and tumbles and fights etc. I loved it and I've got the bruises to prove it. Nowadays it might be a bit different - I'm getting a bit old for all that now. My class at NIDA was known for its love of physical theatre and stunt fights - any opportunity and we'd be in there, so when something like that was written there was no way I was going to let anyone else have a go in my place. In fact, just last year in 'Out Of The Blue' I did a similar fall, so perhaps I haven't lost it after all.
During your time on the show, which story did you enjoy the most?
Doubt if I can answer that at this distance. There were so many inter-connecting storylines that they've all blurred into one. There were a couple I didn't like, but that would be telling....
You and Penny left the show together and the character of Elly came back played by another actress. Were you ever approached to make a return and what did you think of the decision to recast such an integral character to the show?
I think I did come back very briefly, for one episode perhaps, but I may be confusing it in my memory with Sons And Daughters, which I know I did come back into for a week or so long after I'd left. Time and memory can play tricks on us but I do seem to have a memory of doing a scene with Diane Craig. Casting someone else in the same role rarely works though does it? It's just a bit weird. I remember on The Sullivans years ago a character played by one actress went into the kitchen to get some milk and returned immediately played by another actress!!! Strangely, that one kind of worked because it was so brazen and quick.
Are you still in touch with any of the E Street cast and have you worked with any of them since E Street?
Penny and I still see each other regularly and Warren Jones is a great friend - in fact I was the Best Man at his wedding to Lenore Smith ten years ago. Others I see now and again, like Les Dayman who has participated in play-readings and workshops of some of my plays over the years and I used to see Vic Rooney a bit before he left us. Until recently Cecily Polson and I were both recording Talking Books at an organisation for the blind. Kate Raison and Lisbeth Kennally both live nearby and I see them from time to time. Paul Kelman has moved to Newcastle and we communicate online a bit and Richard Huggett and Toni Pearen were both in Out Of The Blue with me, so we saw a lot of each other then.
Can you fill us in on some of the projects you have been working on over the years?
Where to start? Both before and after E Street I was writing plays and that continues. I've had several of my plays produced around the country: The Secret House; Half Safe; On The Public Record and some other short plays. Lately I've been doing a fair amount of dramaturgy and script assessing for various organisations and theatre companies. I've continued working as an actor of course, doing theatre, film and radio whenever I can and in fact the day after tomorrow I fly to Canberra to begin rehearsals on David Harrower's very strong and confronting play Blackbird. When that finishes I go into rehearsal for a verbatim theatre piece called Embers, about some recent tragic bushfires which will tour to Melbourne and Brisbane and a few points in between.
You recently worked on 'Out of the Blue'. The show gathered quite a few fans in the UK and they have been quite saddened by it's demise. Is there any future for the show?
I doubt it, which is a shame. It was a great cast and crew and the end product was very good, particularly when you consider the circumstances in which it was made which is probably a bit much to go into here. Unfortunately it was buried by the BBC despite a strong opening and great press. They never showed faith in it and it was allowed to die. Shame.
Many thanks to Noel Hodda for taking time to do this interview.