Val Lehman

Val Lehman began her acting career with a brief stint at the National Theatre Drama School, and then wrote, directed and performed a revue whilst studying towards an Arts Degree at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Put her acting ambitions on hold after her marriage to raise three children though during this period worked extensively with amateur acting groups in various parts of Australia, in Singapore and in England, UK. Turned professional, working initially as an extra in television productions, and spent five years touring with the Children’s Arena Theatre, playing in ‘Dimboola’ and several other productions. Next won several small featured roles in television series such as rural serial Bellbird (1967) and Tandarra (1976), in TV-movie Outbreak of Love (1981), and mini-series Power Without Glory (1976). In 1978 Val Lehman scored the plumb role of tough “inmate boss” Bea Smith in a new sixteen part women’s prison television serial called Prisoner (1979). The series became an instant hit and the sixteen episodes were soon extended and the series became an indefinitely running serial. Bea Smith quickly emerged as the central character in most of the storylines and Lehman became one of the most popular Television actresses of the period. During the four and a half years she played the role Val Lehman won three Logies as Most Popular and Best Lead Actress in a television series. Left the series in 1983 and appeared in play Trafford Tanzi, and television mini-series A Fortunate Life (1986). The Producers of “Prisoner” asked Lehman to return to the series on three occasions though she always refused, saying she had taken the character as far as it could go. Several other television appearances followed, however, like many soap stars before her, Val Lehman found that the expected meaty roles and long-running fame failed to materialise, with Bea Smith remaining the highlight of her career. During the 1990s Lehman spent several years living in England, where, as had been the case in Australia, she was unable to find much work as she was so recognisable through her work in “Prisoner”. In the late 1990s returned to Australia where she had guest roles in television programmes Blue Heelers (1994) and Good Guys Bad Guys (1997).

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