What I know about women: James Stewart


Jane Rocca

James Stewart: Actor, 40, single

James Stewart.

James Stewart. Photo: Simon Schluter

After my mum, Beverley, and Dad split, mum found herself a single mum of four children in Melbourne. She decided to become a mature-age student at Monash University, eventually graduating with honours in English and literature. She had six-month-old twins [me and my brother Nick] in her arms during her lectures.

Mum was one of the first women to burn her bra and fight for equality. She is a feminist, a teacher and a fabulous mother who had a crush on politician Paul Keating and had a poster of him on her wall. That was kind of weird!

I don't need a piece of paper to say "I love you" but I guess a part of me falls in love with these traditions. 

Mum is everything to me: my hero and best mate. I can be honest with her. She is quite liberated but she still disciplined us when we were growing up.

I remember Mum backing a piano onto our bedroom wall and playing Rachmaninoff at 6am just to get us boys out of bed and ready for school. After two years of that, we were like, "Mum, that note isn't quite right."


I have an older half-sister, Annie, who comes from Mum's previous marriage. Annie is eight years older than me and was like a second mum until I turned 12. And while she made me eat hair gel as a seven-year-old, she is also the one who gives great advice when it comes to parenting my four-year-old daughter, Scout.

When I was in primary school, Mum bought a four-wheel-drive and caravan to drive my brothers and me around Australia for a year. Annie was in year 12 and remained in Melbourne. Mum home-schooled us during this period. We eventually settled on the south side of the Gold Coast.

We got to know our grandmother during this time as she lived in Tweed Heads. Stella was a small Irish lady who took an eternity to eat her meals. Whenever we had family get-togethers, she'd sit to the side and say, "I made all this happen." She was very hard-working and very proud of her grandchildren. Irish women want to be heard, they have big voices.

Natalie was my first girlfriend. She was in year 9 and I was in year 10. One night at her house she just hugged me, and we held hands for a year and a half after that. Mum said, "She's the driver, you don't make the rules." I waited for Natalie to deal those cards.

I learnt a lot about boyfriend-and-girlfriend protocol through Natalie's mum, Sheena; we spent many years having conversations. The relationship with Natalie ended because I went to study drama at uni in Brisbane. Sheena always said it was a pity we met so young.

My music teacher, Deborah Derrick, was very rock'n'roll. She was 26 and I was 17 and she was beautiful - all the boys wanted to do music because of her. I wanted to learn The Doors' Light My Fire just to impress her.

My high school drama teacher, Glenda Myles, gave me my first A. I performed a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. She taught me the power of finding your creative muscle, and how anything is possible when you find it.

I started a band with Katie Noonan called George when we lived together while studying drama in Brisbane. We'd make cheap potato pie and lie on the floor and listen to Jeff Buckley. I came with Led Zeppelin, she came with opera, and Jeff Buckley was the bridge. We brought our brothers in and started a band. We are still mates.

I dated a girl at university who'd been the school captain at a prestigious girls' school. It was the first time I went to someone's house and had to say grace before meals. She was unbelievably creative, and much smarter than me.

I met Jessica Marais in 2007. I went to audition for a part on Packed to the Rafters and asked Jess for her permission to hold her waist and put her against a wall. She gave me the all-clear. I was so nervous - there was a panel of very powerful women at Channel 7 staring at me.

Jess texted me "Hot chocolate?" at midnight a year later and it all went from there. We were very like-minded. She could play Stairway to Heaven on the guitar - I was hooked. We were together for four years, got engaged and had our daughter, Scout.

Our relationship didn't work out because I think hearts go in different directions eventually. And maybe because Jess is a bit younger than me.

I'm a single father now, and a bit of a romantic when it comes to marriage. I don't need a piece of paper to say "I love you" but I guess, having done so much Shakespeare, a part of me falls in love with the idea of these traditions. I am interested in dating but my Saturday nights are often spent in ugg boots on the couch with Scout.

I am the full-time carer for Scout as Jess is busy working and travelling a lot. But Jess's apartment is a hundred metres from mine in Sydney and when Jess is back, Scout is shared 50/50. •

James Stewart stars in Home and Away on Channel 7.