Mcleod's Daughters: articles

City girl cops a lesson in animal husbandry

Acting with amorous alpacas and being hugged by strangers at the bank is all part of the job for McLeod's Daughters star Bridie Carter. Since taking on the role of Tess Silverman McLeod, one of two sisters running a cattle station, Carter says she has learnt a lot about working with animals.

"We're doing a storyline where Tess gets into alpaca breeding, so yesterday I had to watch alpacas rooting," she says.

"I learnt that male alpacas ejaculate for 20 minutes and they make this weird guttural sound as they do it. The alpaca trainer on the set was saying you sometimes have to assist the male by getting the female into position, and she asked: 'Is Bridie going to do that?'

"I said, 'no way'."

Apparently the alpacas aren't the only ones getting in on the act on the family drama.

"We've often had cows practising their mating rituals at the back of the shots. Sometimes you have to stop if it gets too prolific and there's four of them going at it behind you," Carter laughs.

"It's quite mad at times, you say to yourself, 'This is a really weird job'."

Now in its second series, McLeod's Daughters has established itself as one of Australia's most popular local dramas.

Although she has worked on a number of film, television and theatre productions since graduating from the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Arts in 1994, Carter says fans of the show are more passionate that any she's ever known.

"I went to the shopping centre the other day and a woman came up and hugged me in the bank," she says.

"I've never worked on something where people feel they really have to tell you how much they love it."

The show is filmed entirely on location at Kingsford, a 55-hectare property an hour north of Adelaide. But Carter says she still sees Adelaide as her workplace, not home.

"I grew up in the North Melbourne, Carlton, Parkville area in the 1970s, going to La Mama and the Pram Factory. I can still remember sitting on the steps at La Mama, watching plays late at night," she says.

Carter has lived in Sydney for the past 10 years and is building a home in Byron Bay with her partner, clothing designer Michael Wilson.

Nevertheless, she says her life has changed since moving to the city of churches. "Living here has forced me to quieten down."

Carter says there are payoffs for being so far from home, such as her "awesome" costars.

"One of the things that amazed me when I first read the scripts was that the five central characters were women," she says.

"I hope there will be more good roles for women, because it's a known fact in this industry there are more roles for men than women."

Carter also hopes to use her higher profile to publicise charities such as Sydney's Cana Community, which runs open houses and overnight shelters for homeless people.

Does she have any plans to follow fellow NIDA graduates Mel Gibson and Cate Blanchett to Hollywood?

"Actually, I'd prefer to work in Britain than Hollywood. I'd love to work with Mike Leigh, because he spends six months with the actors before he starts filming and it's all about the craft. That'd be my dream come true."

In the meantime, she is happy playing Tess and being watched by people in 104 countries.

"Tess has some huge things coming up on the show, which might shock the audience. Her love life's getting interesting, but she's also feeling very isolated again, which forces her to do something pretty big… So it's getting juicy on all fronts."

By Liz Minchin
May 16, 2002
The Age