Lessons From Wendy Hughes

On March 8, 2014, Australian actress Wendy Hughes died. For years, I’ve known her only from a single TV performance. She was on the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in a 1993 episode called “Lessons”. She played a co-worker of main character Captain Picard. They fell in love. Their courtship unfolds with thoughtful writing and performances, creating one of Star Trek’s finest love stories. The reserved and dignified Captain Picard character had very few love interests. Hughes was my favourite. She’s perfect for her part, always convincing as someone defined by ambition, pride, maturity, intelligence, professionalism, and a gentle heart.

The death of Wendy Hughes got me thinking about how much I loved the only performance I’d ever seen from her and made me want to see others. I got my first chance last month when the movie “Lonely Hearts” was on TV. I was surprised to see her in a physically unflattering role. She plays a shy, nervous, and frumpy young office worker who dates a troubled older piano tuner.

Her natural beauty is muted and concealed by scraggly hair, big glasses, and assorted boring clothing. The movie is a sad love story about two goodhearted characters who like each other, yet have a difficult time because of their insecurities. The characters’ lives are depressing and the sluggishly-paced plot takes them in some disappointing directions. I liked the movie in spite of these negative characteristics because of its sensitive writing and acting.

Hughes was dubbed Australia’s ‘hottest leading lady’ in the 1980s, winning the Australian Film Institute’s equivalent of a best actress Oscar. Admirers give her credit for influencing Australian stars like Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, and Judy Davis. She never achieved their level of success in America and didn’t seem to mind. As a private person devoted to her craft, she probably had no desire for fame. Even if it wasn’t important to her, I wish more people outside of Australia had appreciated Wendy Hughes. When I really like an actress, I just want everyone else on earth to follow my lead.

The movie poster for “Lonely Hearts” has a tagline that I love: “She’s afraid it may be too soon. He’s afraid it may be too late”. This line eloquently explains the main cause of conflict between the movie’s couple. I’m sure it applies to so many lovers in other films and real life as well. The line also reminds me of Wendy Hughes.

Dead at 61, she left this earth too soon, but it’s never too late for one to start watching and enjoying her work. That’s what I hope to do in the coming months. If I’m lucky, most of it will be more upbeat than “Lonely Hearts” and show Hughes with the beauty, charm, and sweetness that made me love her Star Trek performance. I’ve learned a few lessons from re-discovering Wendy Hughes:

1) If I like a person’s acting in anything (even just one episode of a TV series), I should find out what else they’ve done. There’s always a chance that many lovely performances and films await me.

2) Just because someone never became a star in America doesn’t mean they weren’t talented and their career isn’t worth exploring.

3) Any woman good enough for Captain Jean-Luc Picard deserves further examination. Especially if she’s played by Wendy Hughes!

4) With Wendy Hughes in the right romantic role, I can be sure of the following: No man is too good for her, few are good enough, and when she finds one who is, I’m going to see something very sweet.


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