Valerie Kathleen Lehman (née Willis) (born 15 March 1943)[2][2][1][4]​, known as Val Lehman, is an Australian actress and director, best known for her role as the protagonist "Top Dog" Bea Smith in the Australian TV series Prisoner (known internationally as Prisoner: Cell Block H).

Career

Lehman played protagonist Bea Smith in the Australian TV series Prisoner from 1979 to 1983. She received three Logie Awards for her performance; Best Lead Actress in a Series, Most Popular Actress in 1982 and Best Lead Actress in a Series in 1983. She was twice nominated for the Gold Logie. Lehman decided to leave the series towards the end of season five after becoming tired with playing the character, and she recorded her final scenes on 13 May 1983, making her final appearance in episode 400. The final episode for the 1983 season was episode 416.

Her real life daughter, Cassandra Lehman portrayed Bea Smith's drug-addicted daughter, Debbie. Her other daughter, Joanne also briefly appeared in Prisoner, during the first year of the series. Lehman lived in Ipswich, Suffolk, England for much of the 1990s after being initially invited to the UK for personal appearances by the Prisoner: Cell Block H fan club.

Lehman has appeared in many other Australian television productions, mostly in guest roles. Prior to Prisoner she acted in the television series Bellbird and Tandarra. After Prisoner she appeared in The Flying Doctors, Army Wives, Something in the Air, Blue Heelers, All Saints and City Homicide.

In 2016, Lehman was a contestant on the Australian version of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!. On 6 March 2016 she was evicted from the jungle.

Lehman will have a guest role on Neighbours in December 2017 as Joanne Schwartz, which reunites her with her former Prisoner co-star Colette Mann.[5]

Filmography

Television

TitleYearRoleNotes
Bellbird1967 Guest role; unknown episodes
Homicide1972NurseEpisode "There Are More Things in Heaven and Earth"
Tandarra1976Dinner GuestSeason 1, episode 1 "Pilot"
Power Without Glory Unknown episodes
Outbreak of Love1981Mrs. MontaubynABC mini-series
Prisoner1979–83Bea SmithMain role; seasons 1–5; 376 episodes
Logie Award for Most Popular Actress (1982)
Logie Award for Best Lead Actress in a Series (1982)
Logie Award for Best Lead Actress in a Series (1983)
Also appeared in Prisoner in Concert (1981 performer & writer)
Appeared in Prisoner behind-the-scenes special The Great Escape (1990 video special)
Internationally re-titled as Prisoner: Cell Block H and "Caged Woman"
A Fortunate Life1985Bert's MotherNine Network mini-series
Episode 3 "Journey (1980-1914)"
The Flying Doctors1986Val BatesSeason 1, episode 21 "Fearless Frank"
Law of the Land1994Fran WeberSeason 3, episode 12 "Line of Duty"
Wilderness1996VetMini-series
Good Guys, Bad Guys1998Rose KinsellaSeason 2, episode 9 "100% Proof"
Blue HeelersBonnie CrossingSeason 5, episode 15 "A Bit of a Biff"
Pizza2000Bea SmithSeason 1, episode 9 "Gambling Pizza"
Blue Heelers2001Ivy HendersonSeason 8, episode 7 "The Fine Print"
Something in the Air2000–02Joyce CassidySeason 1, episode 91 "Extenuating Circumstances"
Season 1, episode 92 "Lust & Consequence"
Season 3, episode 37 "Every Baby Needs a Da-Da-Daddy"
Season 3, episode 38 "Playing the Game"
Season 3, episode 40 "Take Your Pride and Swallow"
MDA2002Rita O'ReillySeason 1, episode 10 "Quid Pro Quo"
All Saints2009Maggie BrooksSeason 12, episode 17 "Bodies in Motion"
City Homicide2010Dorothy DenzelSeason 4, episode 2 "Good Cop/Bad Cop"
The Strange Calls"2012ElaineSeason 1, episode 4 "Napoleon"
Secrets & Lies2014PatriciaSeason 1, episode 4
I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!2016CelebritySeason 2, episode 1-27

Film

TitleYearRoleNotes
Kitty and the Bagman1983Big LilPrisoner cast members Colette Mann, Gerard Maguire and Kylie Foster also appear
Charlie & Boots2009Bowls LadyWith Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson

Television film

TitleYearRoleNotes
The Dolebludgers1979Mrs. PriceABC television film
I Live with Me Dad1985MargeNine Network television film
Army Wives1987Jill's MotherNetwork Ten television film
Secret Bridesmaids' Business2002ColleenABC television film

Short film

TitleYearRoleDuration
The Idyll1977 10 minutes
Smitten2008Violet7 minutes
LapseRose11 minutes
Holt2017Vyner Gillespie15 minutes