This week, Julia talks about her first foray into reality TV. The year after she was crowned Australia’s Brainiest TV Star, her next appearance in a TV contest was a more prolonged involvement, which ended up taking her well outside her comfort zone….
SH: In 2007, you took part in It Takes Two, which – for those who don’t know – was sort of a singing competition coming off the back of Dancing With The Stars, where one professional singer takes a non-professional singer (who’s a celebrity) under their wing and the duets play off against each other – live! – each week. You were partnered with Dave Gleeson from The Screaming Jets. Why did you decide to do that?
JZ: Honestly, I did it because I was doing a radio show with Jono Coleman in the afternoons and I was really enjoying that because I really loved Jono and we got on really well and I was learning so many skills. If you do radio, you have to talk about your personal life a lot. And I just didn’t want to… so it’s not the job for me, really. If you are going to do that kind of job you’ve gotta know that’s part of it. When the opportunity to do It Takes Two came along I thought “Great, I’ve got something I can talk about” and be involved in, and get people to vote for, and I’ll choose my bloody charity properly this time* and to be honest with you, Stephen, I do believe I can sing. So it seemed a good fit! But it wasn’t. (LAUGHS).
SH: Well, in the interest of disclosure here, I should point out that on the first season of It Takes Two – the year before this – I was doing some writing for Grant Denyer (the show’s host). So I’m fairly familiar with the show from that side, but did it take up a lot of your time? Are there days and days of rehearsals? I understand that’s how it works with Dancing With The Stars.
JZ: The frustrating part of it was if your mentor was in the same city as you, you could rehearse as much as you like. You could meet up in your own private time or whatever. Because Dave was living in Adelaide, we had very little time to rehearse. You need to be with that person, to just hang out, and be friends, and all of that. You did get a singing tutor as well, but it is not the same. So distance is a problem and half of us I think were disadvantaged by that. Genuinely, Stephen, I wasn’t in it to win it or anything like that. I genuinely thought I was going to get a masterclass in singing.
SH: That’s reasonable.
JZ: They paired me up with Dave who is a rocker and I was a rock chick host. They’ve gone “they’ll be perfect for each other”. In fact I am more of a David Campbell, David Hobson type. I am more musical theatre and a bit more of a serious student… and Dave (Gleeson) has an incredible voice, so he can just fly by the seat of his pants… whereas I needed more preparation. Also I think David Campbell and David Hobson have had a lot more formal training so they know how to train. So they were able to make better song selections – they knew what to do. I think with Dave (Gleeson), we were just going to hang out and have a good time and that’s not the sort of student I am. I kind of probably took it a bit too seriously which was not fair on Dave. I think Dave would’ve liked me to be a bit more playful and I just wanted to get it right. You shouldn’t go into those things wanting to get it right; it’s not what it’s about – but I often felt under-rehearsed, I often felt under-prepared. And then of course it dawned on me that that’s exactly the point; for god’s sake, it’s a reality TV show! They want to see you in danger.
What surprised me was that my years of performing on stage, in theatre, improvising, all of that… nothing could calm my nerves so that I didn’t sound like my voice was nervous. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe why and it is because everything’s taken out of your control. You wear clothes you wouldn’t normally wear, you wear shoes I’d never worn before, so you were never grounded properly. You hadn’t rehearsed enough, so you had nothing to lean on, and so it felt very raw. I actually can’t watch any of it back. I don’t have any problem watching myself back, but that stuff? I can’t really watch it.
I think the difference too is that everyone knows the song you are singing. So if you get it wrong, everyone knows you got it wrong. When you improvise the song you are making it up from scratch so nothing is incorrect.
Julia’s next game show experience was as a team member on the successful Australian comedy panel game show Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation. But despite the show’s light-hearted format, for Julia, the experience wasn’t necessarily all fun and games….
* Julia’s nominated charity was The Mirabel Foundation (http://www.mirabelfoundation.org.au/), who do great work assisting children who have been orphaned or abandoned due to parental illicit drug use. bandoned due to parental illicit drug use and are now in the care of extended family (kinship care).