A FORMER New England woman who got her start on the school stages of Armidale has scored a starring role in an upcoming television series.
Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood will play Olivia Bligh in the Channel 7 drama A Place To Call Home, which has drawn comparisons to the highly successful Downton Abbey.
Ms Parkes-Lockwood grew up on a 100-acre property near Guyra and attended school in Armidale at Newling Public School and Duval High School.
It was at Newling Public School that she first fell in love with acting, when she was cast in the title role of the school’s production of Hamlet at the age of 11.
“As a young child what I really loved (about acting) was that it was make-believe; you could pretend you were someone else,” Ms Parkes-Lockwood said.
Acting remained a passion throughout her high school years and she attended the local Stage One Theatre for Young People, which she described as a “wonderful group to be involved with”.
After finishing school Ms Parkes-Lockwood scored a role in Hamlet with the Shakespeare Globe Centre – this time as Ophelia – and moved to Sydney at the age of 17.
She also entered the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), which she said transformed acting from a hobby to her profession.
Since graduating from NIDA in 2008, Ms Parkes-Lockwood has started a production company with husband Marcello Fabrizi, worked in theatre productions, become a busy voiceover artist and had parts in Underbelly: Razor, Tough Nuts on Foxtel and The Kangaroo Gang for BBC.
But A Place To Call Home marks her first major TV role.
“I was so overjoyed when I got the role, I think I jumped up and down for a full five minutes,” she said.
Her character, Olivia, is a British aristocrat married into the wealthy pastoralist family at the centre of the series, which is set in the 1950s.
Ms Parkes-Lockwood will star opposite some big names of the Australian small screen, including Noni Hazlehurst, who she describes as “very cheeky and fun” and a great support to the younger actors.
Her new role could open the door to big things, but Ms Parkes-Lockwood says she will always consider the New England her home.
She said her country upbringing gave her freedom, and credited it with keeping her grounded.
“Growing up in the New England region is such a big part of who I am,” she said.
“I really love going back home and getting to see the stars again.”
A Place To Call Home will first air on Prime7 on Sunday, April 28 at 8.30pm.