Mcleod's Daughters: articles

Going bush

DRESSED in faded blue jeans and a wool-lined jacket with the collar pulled up high, Aaron Jeffery looks like he has raided the wardrobe department of McLeod's Daughters.

The television series is being filmed on a rural property in Gawler, South Australia, and to the unknowing eye Jeffery could have lived there all his life.

In fact he has come to the acreage on a day off from filming to go horse riding.

But first he takes some time out to survey the scenery.

The view from the old house, which has been converted into the McLeod family home, is picture perfect. Two garden shrubs frame a distant ridge where a herd of horses trot one behind the other, noses to the ground.

"I wish I could hear them, speak their language," Jeffery says as he expertly rolls his Capstan tobacco.

He may not be playing the role of horse whisperer in McLeod's Daughters but he is the next best thing the McLeod girls' next door neighbour Alex Ryan.

Alex and his brother Nicholas (Myles Pollard) work on the property owned by their father Harry (Marshall Napier).

When in character Jeffery gets to ride horses and motorbikes and thrash about in a ute. As far as he's concerned it is the ideal job.

"My uncle's a farmer but I was always a city boy," Jeffery says.

"But I really love the country. I grew to love it when I went out there and I knew I wouldn't be anywhere else. That's why I took this job, to combine filming and the country."

Jeffery developed his love of the country several years ago when he moved to rural New South Wales.

He had been doing the run of Australian dramas Fire, Blue Murder, Water Rats, Wildside and Murder Call when he decided he needed some time off to navel gaze. Having given up acting and his production company, Threshold Productions, he filled the void by studying theology.

"It was something I'd always wanted to do," Jeffery says. "But I hate religion. I hate it with a passion."

Jeffery says he simply had an urge to learn more about human nature.

Whatever conclusions he reached have convinced him the isolation of the countryside is the place for him.

While most of the cast of McLeod's Daughters have temporarily set up home in Adelaide since filming began in April, Jeffery lives just down the road from the set away from the suburbs and city.

His girlfriend of two years, Melinda, also has a passion for horses and the countryside. She travels from Sydney to visit him whenever she gets the chance.

It may seem the line between Jeffery and Alex is blurry at best.

But the softly spoken Jeffery is actually quite the opposite to the robust stockman.

"Alex is quite a gung-ho kind of fellow," Jeffery says with a grin.

"He's the Australian larrikin. He's loud and brash and a bit of a show off. He likes the ladies but there's a serious undercurrent from some issues he hasn't dealt with.

"It's a ball playing Alex. He's a mixture of a lot of people I used to hang out with in the country."

The cast is a mix of experienced actors like Napier and Sonia Todd (who plays housekeeper Meg Fountain) and virtual unknowns including Lisa Chappell (property owner Claire McLeod) and Bridie Carter (Claire's sister, Tess Silverman McLeod).

Nine has commissioned an initial 22 episodes but it is hoped the program, a production which sprang from the successful 1996 telemovie of the same name, will run indefinitely.

To secure a location Nine bought the 55ha property on the edge of the Barossa Valley where the telemovie was shot.

It is understood the network paid about $500,000 for the farm.

Filming also takes place on several surrounding locations and a film crew even turned up at the local rodeo last month.

McLeod's Daughters producers don't know it yet but their resident heart throb is wanting to take up the dangerous sport himself.

"I've been learning to rope steers and tie calves and stuff so I'd be looking to do it in the future. There's so much skill involved."

But that is as certain as Jeffery gets about his future. His major concern is now.

"I'm 31 and basically these are my haymaking years so I have to get in and do it while I can," he says. McLeod's Daughters, Nine, Wednesday, 7.30pm

Allison White
August 02, 2001
The Courier Mail