The role that hit too close to home for Tammy | "I cried and cried..."
27th October 1990 - TV Week
By Chrissie Camp
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Tammy relives her traumatic childhood as Coopers Crossing copes with an orphan.
Tammy MacIntosh fights back tears as she talks about the episode of The Flying Doctors due to air this week. It’s only the second time in a year she’s been given the plum role in an episode – and that’s one of the main reasons she has quit the Nine Network series.
The storyline parallels with her own traumatic background. “I have been involved personally in this one,” says Tammy. “It’s been very important to me. It’s a good one to go out on.”
In the episode, The Last Carnival, Sister Annie Rogers (Tammy) befriends abandoned 14-year-old Alex (Brendan Peel). She helps him find his grandmother, who dies days later, leaving him alone.
Annie is deeply attached to Alex and fights to take responsibility for him, but the Coopers Crossing doctors arrange for him to join a local family instead, leaving Annie shattered.
Tammy spent her childhood in a series of foster homes, making it easy, she says, to relate to Alex’s situation. “I didn’t consciously think about the story being too close to home, but I can see that now,” she reflects. “The scene where we had to say goodbye, I cried and cried. I just lost it. It was real for me, I didn’t want to lose him.”
“My background is sort of blanked out. It’s there, but no-one would believe me if I told it. I was on my own when I was young and had to move a lot. Only the people I’ve come across in my younger years would understand exactly what it was like. It’s four times as dramatic as a Flying Doctors script; but the thing about these sorts of children – just like myself and Alex in this episode – as much as they need love, whether they have it or not they have the strength to survive. Annie is saying, ‘he needs love, you can’t leave him alone’, but in fact you could do that and he would survive. I know that.”
Tammy says she has been frustrated by the lack of major storylines for her character. “I’ve had a fantastic year but I want to have more opportunities as an actress. I just want to delve into acting more and with Doctors the chance just isn’t there.”
In The Last Carnival, Tammy was determined to show her ability as an actress, and even impressed this upon her younger co-star. “I told Brendan I’d had only two lead roles in the whole year with Doctors and that this episode was very special to me,” she says. “We worked really hard on our scenes. We decided to concentrate and go for it. I think people are going to bawl their eyes out in the last scene.”
Tammy is known for her lively personality, but recently it led her astray, in the shape of a pomeranian terrier puppy, Sally. “I always make spontaneous decisions and this was the same,” she says. “She was a little thing in a cage in a pet shop – I had to have her. I’ve never had a pet, so I just didn’t think about what I’d do with her when I went to work. So I was off doing 12-hour location days and coming home and she was messing all over the house. Unfortunately I haven’t got the time to take responsibility for a dog. It really hurt me that I had decided to buy this dog without realising what was involved. So now she’s living with a friend who is the matron of a nursing home. I’m looking for a new house now, so once I have somewhere with a garden, I’ll get her back.”