Mcleod's Daughters: articles

McLeod's Daughters 'tough on actors'

Galloping across the Australian outback on an out-of-control horse isn't every actor's idea of the perfect role.

Neither is working in sweltering 40 degree heat, wrangling cattle or shovelling animal manure. But this is life for the actors of television drama McLeod's Daughters.

"It's a challenge, there is no question of that," said the program's executive producer Karl Zwicky.

"They (the actors) have to go through intensive horse training, learn about how to start chainsaws and that type of thing, and it's physically tough.

"But they all love it and that's what sets them apart."

While making and producing Australian drama locally has hit a drought, McLeod's Daughters will celebrate its seventh anniversary next year.

"There's no question that making Australian drama is tough," Zwicky said.

"From my point of view we have to develop local content, because we keep admiring all our overseas successes like Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, who started in local production. That's where they got their first skills and first exposure. Without that they wouldn't have gone anywhere."

Zwicky says it's the broad appeal of McLeod's Daughters - the sweeping country landscapes, rough and tough characters and intriguing central story about women running a farm - which lures viewers.

Set in the regional South Australian town of Gawler, the one-hour program also entices overseas markets and is broadcast in more than 200 territories.

"For an Australian audience as well as overseas audience there is something different and special about the show," Zwicky said.

"There is no show that is made in the world like McLeod's. If the Americans did it, it would be a much glossier, Hollywoodised, cowgirl thing. It would look plastic."

Starring Rachael Carpani, Simmone Jade MacKinnon, Michala Banas and Zoe Naylor, Zwicky says the females resemble the real deal.

"Our girls look better and better the sweatier and filthier they become," he said.

"They actually look more authentically attractive that way and that's really important for the look of the show."

Alex Ryan, played by Aaron Jeffery, has had a string of love affairs with several farming hands since the show's inception in 2001.

Jeffery and Carpani, who plays Jodi Fountain, remain the only original cast members.

Carpani's final episode will screen in 2007, after which she will join the list of popular former McLeod's Daughters actors, including Bridie Carter, Lisa Chappell, Myles Pollard, Jessica Napier and Sonia Todd.

While maintaining a regular cast is important, Zwicky said cast cycles keep the program fresh, making way for new storylines.

"Changing characters is needed (for the series to progress)," Zwicky said.

"Looking at Neighbours and Home and Away, there are lots of original cast members who aren't there anymore. With a changeover in cast you come into a new period of the show where they will stay with us for a while, which is great to know."

McLeod's Daughters is still a successful drawcard for the Nine Network averaging 1.3 million viewers a week in its Wednesday 7.30pm time slot.

Last week an average of 1.2 million viewers tuned in.

"No-one knows a show is going to be a hit and if anyone says they do - they are lying," Zwicky said.

"What has surprised and delighted everyone about McLeod's is that it's a hit in Australia, but is very much a hit overseas.

"We get visitors from viewing audiences who win competitions from all sorts of countries, like India and Israel. It spans a huge range of viewers in all sorts of different cultures."

With the cliffhanger series final screening on November 29, Zwicky says it's important to keep viewers' attention throughout the entire year.

"The cliffhanger is a very important thing," Zwicky said.

"McLeod's operates on the knife's edge of not being a soap. We don't want it to be a Neighbours or Home and Away, but on the other hand it isn't a stand alone story each week. It's that mixture of writing new stories, but continuing character building and bridging that balances it."

While other Australian dramas including All Saints, Home and Away and Neighbours film in studio, McLeod's battles the elements to get their shot.

"We literally shoot totally on location," Zwicky said.

"If the weather is bad we are in the middle of it. If it's boiling hot, we are there too. Other shows have the chance to regroup in the studio and get over it, but we don't. But that's what makes the show organic. You can actually see the seasons move through it."

In the long-term, Zwicky says everyone's favourite daughters from Drovers Run will continue to entertain until they are told otherwise.

"We are shooting series seven at present, which will air next year and we are in planning for eight," he said.

November 17, 2006