Mcleod's Daughters: articles

Riding off into the sunset

FOUR years of unresolved sexual tension, one fairytale wedding and now, they’re leaving.

McLeod’s Daughters’  golden couple, Nick (Myles Pollard) and Tess (Bridie Carter), will hit the road in June in what will be the biggest cast shake-up the series has seen.

Carter is taking a break from the drama after the birth of her first child, Otis, while Pollard is off to the US.

Carter’s departure presents a quandary for a series that has built its name around the McLeod women.

In the beginning, there were Tess and Claire (Lisa Chappell). Two sisters running a cattle station, with a little help from three similarly bush savvy women “doing a man’s job, living in a man’s world”.

When Claire plunged to her death in 2003, sending Kleenex sales soaring and the Channel 9 switchboard into meltdown, Tess was left to carry on the family legacy alone. She did so and became one of Australia’s most beloved characters, earning Carter five Logie nominations.

But soon, there will be no McLeod’s daughters left at Drovers Run and just three original cast members in the show full stop.

Could this mean the end of Australia’s most popular drama? Of course not, says creator Posie Graeme-Evans. But there will be some changes.

“Almost inevitably in any big series, if it runs past its third year the cast start to get itchy feet,” she says.

“It’s my job and the producer’s job to position ourselves for the future.

“When you’re doing something as big as McLeod’s you must renew it all the time.”

But the loss of the two long-serving leads will most certainly be felt on screen, as it was on the show’s South Australia-based set.

“There was a time there where it was a bit tumultuous,” says Brett Tucker, who plays vet Dave Brewer.

“No one knew where it was going to go or what was going to happen.”

Simmone Jade Mackinnon, better known as feisty station manager Stevie Hall, agrees.

“Tess and Nick have always been the A-storyline,” she says.

“The poor script department is perhaps in a little bit of chaos right now. There’s all these characters that are possible ins or outs and so I think they probably have quite a few different backup storylines depending on whether Tess and Nick come back.”

And that is the big question.

Graeme-Evans says they will be doing everything they can to convince Carter, currently revelling in motherhood in the Byron Bay hills, to return to the show and is confident Pollard will ride back into town.

The remaining cast, until now considered support characters, will have the opportunity to showcase their talent.

“Every character is getting a main storyline every few weeks,” says Rachael Carpani, who plays Jodi Fountain.

“Characters are interacting with characters they never had anything to with before, which I think will be interesting. Jodi has lots of scenes with the boys now, which she never used to.”

Aaron Jeffery, who plays Alex Ryan, welcomes the chance to explore new aspects of the drama.

“Characters are always going to come and go, but I think it’s the brand name that keeps people watching,” he says.

Nine has subtly changed the title, reducing the word “daughters” to lower case, and emphasising “McLeod’s”—a more ensemble brand.

Mackinnon says the magic will not disappear.

“The (audience) will miss them for a while and then they’ll get on with it and they’ll love the show for what it is and what it’s always been. We’ve still got the strong female leads.”

Graeme-Evans, who fought for 10 years to get the show on air, says the heavy oestrogen content is one reason for the drama’s success.

“A bunch of girls running a cattle station is such a simple pitch,” she says. “Immediately, it says let me take you to somewhere you’ve never been before.

“It was also rare up until McLeod’s to see women at the centre of the drama, in active rather than passive roles.”

It certainly wowed US audiences when it began screening there on cable channel WE last year and critics quickly seized on the feminist overtones of the show.

Ironically, WE promoted it as an outback Sex and the City, with a raunchy billboard near New York’s Times Square featuring the tag line: “A ride in the saddle has a whole new meaning.”

While there are no plans to ditch the show’s G rating back home, there will be new characters introduced this year in light of Carter and Pollard’s absence.

Jonny Pasvolsky will play Rob Shelton, who takes up a post at Kilarney but brings with him a dark secret.

Zoe Naylor is tipped to have an extended role, possibly as a McLeod.

“We love it when new characters come on,” Mackinnon says.

“They certainly freshen it up and it gets you back on your toes again.

“You get so comfortable with your normal cast mates, then someone new comes on and you get a little bit nervous. It’s great.”

While no one knows for sure when Tess and Nick might return—or how the audience might react when they leave—the cast and crew are adamant working on McLeod’s Daughters has been an experience of a lifetime.

“When I heard we were going to series six, I suddenly looked at them and went, ‘I’ve been here since 2001’,” Carpani says. “That’s a really long time!”

By Erica Thompson
April 28, 2005
The Courier Mail