There are no other words to describe both Lisa McCune and Peter Helliar besides “Aussie icons”.
Both actors are staples in the Australian entertainment industry with McCune a long-standing star of the stage and screen and Helliar, a popular TV host, actor, comedian and author.
TheLatch— caught up with both McCune and Helliar on the launch day of the highly-anticipated second season of their hit show How to Stay Married — and more than ever, the series is relevant to our current situation.
“Aren’t we all experiencing family right now?” McCune said. “Even if you’re living with a bunch of flatmates in a house, they’re essentially becoming a family and that’s what the show is centred around the ‘house’. It’s just about navigating relationships.”
McCune also believes that success comes from her on-screen husband Helliar, who also is a series writer.
“There’s a true comic in Pete and it’s a very hard thing to quantify and explain but I’m a little old school in that respect,” she said. “And he’s smart and the humour is smart and that’s why I like it so much.”
As you would expect, the pair is nothing short of a mutual appreciation society for one another, and Helliar shared the same sentiments about his co-star.
“If I knew I was Lisa McCune, I’d probably be the biggest a–hole in this industry,” Helliar mused. “But Lisa is not affected by her Lisa McCune-ness. She gets on with it. She attacks every day with the enthusiasm of a film student on a short film. She just wants to help out with everyone and she’s just there and she’s engaged and incredibly talented and an incredibly talented comedic actress which we haven’t seen enough of.”
As we know in life, there are always two sides when it comes to a partnership — even when it’s one made for TV — so in that vein, we asked both Helliar and McCune some questions to get their very differing responses.
Anita Lyons: What is your first memory of meeting each other?
Pete Helliar: My first memory was a radio interview we did and I remember being slightly intimidated because it was Lisa McCune and then it quickly became apparent that she had no idea who she was. I remember how funny she was and how lovely she was.
Lisa McCune: I’m not sure if I met him prior to when he was at Rove, when I did Channel 31 many years ago. My real first memory of him was when we went through these story meetings and I had a great conversation with him and he listened to me rabble on with another writer — it was like I’d been in isolation for years because I’d just had babies.
AL: In your opinion, what should marriage really be about?
PH: It should be about teamwork. I love being married. I think I’m at my best in the marriage when I’m seeing it as a team and we’re trying to achieve things together. There are things we do individually, but they can only happen when you have the support of a team.
LM: I think it’s about evolving together and having your own independence within a marriage. I think it changes with children a lot and plenty of laughter — that’s what would make it truly successful.
AL: What advice do you have for those getting married?
PH: Make sure you’ve found the right person. Make sure that you love them and like them and make sure that they love and like you. I genuinely found that when I got married that I felt a little different. I’m in this team now. Do it, but it means your commitment, dedication and engagement.
LM: Grow together. I haven’t survived that but I feel that’s the best advice.
AL: What’s the best way forward when parenting during a pandemic?
PH: Pray for a vaccine [laughs]. Take the pressure off you a little bit and appreciate the remarkable jobs that the teachers do. Primary school-aged kids are not going to learn as much online as the secondary kids do, but just make sure all of your kids are happy.
LM: I really think it’s got to do with the age of your children. I think I’m lucky in that respect because I have teenagers so they’re going off and doing homeschool on computers and making themselves breakfast — although I think they expect a hand in the fridge handing them a fully made plate — but I’m relieved that I’m not living in a New York apartment with three children under the age of four.
AL: What advice do you have for first-time parents?
PH: Breathe, it gets easier. Enjoy the little moments, they go very quickly and try to retain them in your memories. It’s hard to think back to see the kids the way they were, outside photos obviously, just take in their voices and their mannerisms because it goes very fast.
LM: There are no rule books! Just talk to as many people as you can and take on the advice that works for you because no two people are in the same situation. I have realised that the chemistry that happens between two humans, you can’t replicate that anywhere.
My mother’s group and I are still Zooming every Saturday night. They’re some of my oldest friends now.
AL: What’s the best way to co-parent?
PH: Communicating with each other, that fixes everything. It means that you know what the expectations are and it goes back to that team idea and you’re on the same page. If you’re not communicating that’s when things can go skewiff.
LM: I think for any parent, it’s just about being on the same page because as the kids get older, they try to divide a conquer a little bit. The good cop, bad cop kind of works to a degree — I remember reading a great thing saying, “the kids have enough friends, they need a parent”.
AL: How do you keep your children and teenagers occupied during isolation?
PH: I’ve got them into painting… and they’ve got two bedrooms to go [laughs].
LM: I think my kids are possibly doing around 12-hours online at the moment and I’m trying to get them off. I insist on family dinners and eating together. Sometimes I can’t even get them to play a game with me because they’re talking to their friends on Zoom. They’re not really interested in me at the moment. I’m just an annoying person. I pick up a lot of plates. I almost need a tea trolley to collect all of their plates and their cups.
AL: How are you enjoying special time with your family?
PH: Sunday we take very seriously and we have Sunday dinner. There’s a lot more conversation that goes on more than any other time during the week and catching up. There’s often a board game involved and music and it’s my favourite time of the week.
LM: We have a desktop in the kitchen and often we’ll put videos on or pull up old photos and that could go on for hours and hours. We love watching YouTube and watching funny stuff. I love looking at old photographs and hearing them talk about memories and that to me is the best time.
WATCH: The official trailer for How to Stay Married Season 2.
How To Stay Married Season 2 premieres Tuesday, 5 May at 8.30pm only on TEN and WIN network.