They say behind every great woman is another great woman cheering her on – and actor Kat Stewart is proof of that.
My mum, Kitty, was the ultimate mother: fiercely protective, sometimes overinvolved, incredibly hospitable, very self-deprecating and oh-so stylish (she’d be thrilled to be in marie claire). When I was in primary school, my parents took me travelling for a year through Europe. That was a progressive thing to do in the early ’80s. I remember when we first landed in London, it was raining and we were in a horrible little hotel. Mum was questioning the entire thing but she was one of those people who thought you could solve every problem with a cup of tea. We bought her a chocolate eclair and she cheered up.
Four years ago, Mum went to the doctors thinking she had an ulcer and was told she had terminal pancreatic cancer that was inoperable. Five days before she was diagnosed, I found out I was pregnant with my little girl. Mum was very excited for me to experience the mother-daughter bond, and she named my unborn baby Georgia, Gigi for short, which was really special. All cancer sucks, but pancreatic cancer is terrible – the prognosis is usually three to six months after diagnosis. Mum lasted four and a half months. It was very quick. I spent every single day with her, and they were precious. We had some great times and some awful times. Losing her felt catastrophic, but I’ve gotten to a point now where I feel grateful for having her at all. Not everyone has that kind of relationship with their mum – I’m so lucky.
I met my agent Lisa Mann in 1999. I knew immediately that I wanted to work with her, and she took me on as a client before I had a single TV credit. But Lisa saw something in me and we’ve had a great partnership for 21 years.
I trust Lisa implicitly. She always has my best interests at heart and works from a place of integrity and honesty. When I was doing a lot of independent theatre at a studio in St Kilda [Melbourne] and not getting paid for it, Lisa understood that it was important to me and she saw the bigger picture and the long road of my career.
Lisa is very low-key, not in the least bit showbizzy and shies away from attention. When I told her I wanted to speak about her for this piece, she said “I’m mortified, but very flattered.” She will be squirming when she reads this.
Meryl Streep is the quintessential inspiration. As an actor, she’s transformative, gracious and generous. She raises the temperature and standard around her. What I love about her is not just the breadth of her work or the fact she’s been Oscar-nominated for basically every role she’s ever done because she’s so relentlessly brilliant, but I love the joy she brings to her work. You can see her profound love for what she does. There’s a freedom to her work and it’s breathtaking to watch.
I remember when my husband and I started thinking about having a baby and I was worried about my career. I looked to Meryl. She has four kids and just gets on with it. Having kids is a stretch, but it can be done. Meryl is proof of that. And I’m very glad we gave it a whirl because now we have two fabulous little people. Thanks Meryl!
Kat Stewart stars in Five Bedrooms on Channel 10.
This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of marie claire.