We still like Pippa, even if she s Rose
Debra Lawrance and Josh Thomas. Picture: Supplied

For almost a decade she was known as Pippa, the much-loved foster mum on Home and Away, but for the past two years, ABC viewers have been getting to know Debra Lawrance as Josh Thomas's mum Rose in Please Like Me.

Lawrance stepped into the role of Pippa Fletcher (later Pippa Ross) when Vanessa Downing left the series in 1990. Although she left the show in 1998, Lawrance continued to make guest appearances as Pippa over the next decade at significant events, including Sally's wedding to Flynn in 2003.

The NIDA-trained actress appeared in Sons and Daughters and Prisoner and went on to play Tom Croydon's wife Grace on Blue Heelers after leaving Home and Away but it is Pippa the public still remembers.

"Yes they do, now that I have red hair again they do, mostly they get my voice," says Lawrance on the set of Please Like Me in Melbourne.

"I don't mind, they always say 'Pippa, you must get that all the time' and my standard reply is 'It's all right, it paid for the real estate.' Which is true, there are theatre jobs I wouldn't have done unless I had a profile around Australia and a strong profile still in the UK even though I haven't been in it for a long time."

Lawrance's role on Home and Away also led to her starting her own family.

"I met my husband (Dennis Coard, who played Michael Ross) on the show, we have two beautiful kids and the real estate is paid off, so we have a nice life because of me playing Pippa and Dennis playing Michael," she says.

"I have very fond feelings towards that.

"We got married on screen then we got married off screen a year later. We have been married now for 22 years."

The honesty of the writing in Please Like Me and the fact it was being directed by Matt Saville appealed to Lawrance when she auditioned for the role of Rose which has garnered her acclaim at home and the US where the show has become a critical favourite.

Rose has bipolar disorder and after she stopped taking her medication, had a manic episode in the season two premiere of Please Like Me.

She has been in a private psychiatric hospital since episode two and looks likely to stay there with her new friends Ginger (Denise Drysdale) and Hannah (Hannah Gadsby).

"You get a really good look at her journey, balancing herself out," says Lawrance, who has researched mental health and the physical effects of taking medication.

"It also gives huge scope for the other people. Last time mum was the only one who was suffering, whereas this time you get a look at others through other characters.

"The beauty of the first series and this one and its appeal is everything that is interesting is in watching what happens to Josh and how Josh handles it. That is the thing that is compelling to watch and really leads the viewer in.

"All these things happen to him, he just wanders through his life trying to be who he is."

Between acting jobs Lawrance teaches vocal communications skills in the work place, mostly for women.

"My theory, is women feel marginalised in the workplace because the male vocal energy is stronger than ours," she explains.

"I have now tutored probably well over 1500 women over the years and it is all the same stories, they have difficulty being heard, so my workshops are called Are You Being Heard because most women say 'No, I don't think so'.

"It is basically improving their communication skills. It is putting an area of expertise that comes very easily to me and utilising that to help women in the workplace.

"It's very satisfying work, I really enjoy it"

ยท Sue Yeap visited Melbourne as a guest of the ABC.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West