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Mum s little secret
Mum's little secret

Fans of 80s Australian drama A Country Practice will hold fond memories of popular teenaged character Jo Loveday, who lived with the Gilroys and eventually married nurse Michael Langley.

Jo was played by Josephine Mitchell, who went on to short stints on Home and Away and E Street before stepping out of the spotlight to raise her daughters, now 11 and 14.

But when Mitchell returns to our screens in Home and Away next week, the character she plays is likely to shatter every memory we have of of Jo Loveday.

Jill Carpenter is the mother of Romeo Smith; a flirtatious, fun-loving woman who's fond of a drink or three.

Cashed up with the life insurance payout she received after the death of her abusive husband (Romeo's stepfather, who was murdered by his stepsister Mink), Jill seems determined to drink the money away.

"Yes I am, she's a terrible alcoholic, or as we call her a high functioning alcoholic because she can drink herself stupid but actually manage to talk and walk until she falls over," Mitchell explained by phone from Sydney. "She comes back to the Bay to try to re-establish her relationship with her son Romeo (Logie winner Luke Mitchell)."

"I spend a lot of time drunk. I am a parent myself so I had done a little bit of research."

In all seriousness, Mitchell said she had researched alcoholism so she could see how it affected other people and to establish what Jill physically would and wouldn't be able to do at certain points in her state of intoxication.

Home and Away regularly explores controversial and topical story-lines so an alcoholic parent comes as little surprise, although the point is apparently less about raising social awareness than it is about relationships.

"I do know with this particular story-line, it was very much to be character-driven and not issue or action-driven," she said. "Even though the underlying issue is the alcoholism it was very much the relationship between Romeo and his mother and how her relationship with others filters through the community.

"We have done quite a lot of layers to the character, who she is and what she is doing and how she is using her alcoholism to cover things up. Obviously it is television land but hopefully it has been done in an interesting way."

In her time out of the spotlight, Mitchell completed a degree in medieval and religious studies at Sydney University.

"I would like to write and I have always written; at school I used to do plays, so I really started the degree for research," Mitchell said. "I am just fascinated by the whole thing. it's the beginning of modern society."

Mitchell is still recognised on the street as Jo Loveday and is grateful to have started her career with such a supportive cast on A Country Practice.

"Yes, people still do, which is wonderful because the whole A Country Practice experience - not just for me, but everyone who worked on it - we loved it," she said.

"I was so lucky to be part of it, particularly as a teenager. I worked with a lot of the older cast members and they kept me out of trouble. I think I probably could have got into terrible trouble if I had worked on another show; they were so beautiful and nurturing to me.

"I grew up in theatre, both my parents were actors, my mother was a director and my father wrote. I think I was very lucky to be on that show with such experienced people who knew the industry really well and helped me through the hurdles that do come up, and even more so now because of technology. I am glad people remember it fondly because it was a huge part of my life."

Home and Away airs weeknights at 7pm on Seven/GWN.