Mcleod's Daughters: articles

Simmone Jade Mackinnon

It was a challenge for Simmone Jade Mackinnon to farewell the silicone strip and go from Baywatch to the Aussie bush soap, McLeod's Daughters.

True blue or bust

A FEW months ago, Simmone Jade Mackinnon was just another Aussie wannabe struggling to eke out a living in Los Angeles.

This month she made her Australian TV debut on McLeod's Daughters, now into its fourth series.

And according to Mackinnon, her character Stevie is "a dream role".

"She runs around the house half-naked, burps at the table and speaks her mind," she says.

"Stevie's great fun to play—although I can't burp on cue yet, so that's something I'll have to work on!"

The role has presented more than one unexpected challenge for the flame-haired actress.

Mackinnon now speaks with an American/Strine twang—a legacy of four years in the US—and needed some help recovering a true-blue Aussie accent for McLeod's.

"I battled with the American accent for years," she says.

"I haven't got a good ear, and I was probably a little stubborn—I felt like my Aussie accent was part of who I was.

"I only really got it just as I was leaving, and then when I got the gig on McLeod's I was asked if I'd like a dialect coach. Apparently I sounded too American!"

And while she may have landed a role on one of Australia's top-rating dramas, acting was more of an accidental detour than a long cherished dream for Mackinnon.

Born in Mt Isa, she was accepted into the Queensland Dance School of Excellence in Brisbane, studying classical ballet throughout her teens.

"I started dancing at the age of eight and made it into the School of Excellence, but I was a little wayward," she says.

"I think the school was a little bit too close to the Gold Coast—there were too many distractions and I was a little wild, a little bit naughty and didn't put in 100 per cent.

"It showed in my results at the end. I think they sent my Mum a letter: 'Simmone is one of my biggest disappointments'. "

Undeterred, she landed a role in Cats, performing eight shows a week for two years, a workload which eventually took its toll on her body.

"We were doing shows every night and I'd developed a bit of a back problem and shin splints, so I decided to take a break," she says.

"I didn't see it as the end of my career by any means, but I started doing commercials and just got sidetracked, I guess."

After appearing in more than 20 TV ads, Mackinnon's agent wangled her an audition for Baywatch Down Under.

It may have been her big break, but she doesn't have particularly fond memories of the casting call.

"You had to audition in your swimsuit," she says with a laugh.

"It was the middle of winter, and I remember walking in there surrounded by all these beautiful models with my scruffy red mop and white body, wearing this raggedy old bikini.

"There was a panel of guys and we had to read through a scene under these harsh fluorescent lights.

"I remember being terribly self-conscious about my butt, trying to back out of the room. I was shocked when I got a call back."

She didn't fit the show's stringent requirements—blonde, bronzed and busty—but won the part anyway and was offered an ongoing role in the series.

"They told us that the new series wasn't going to be like the old Baywatch, that it was going to be more character-driven with better storylines," she says.

"But it didn't happen—the scripts were pretty dreadful, there were still all of the old montages and slow-motion sequences."

She was ready to walk off mid-season, but persevered, only to be fired at the end of her first series.

She was told she wasn't sexy enough and swiftly replaced by a Penthouse Pet—a setback that would have sent most aspiring ingenues fleeing back home.

But she picked up a telemovie and decided to stay in LA, with hopes of carving out a movie career.

"I didn't work for the next six months," she says. "It was soul destroying—absolutely. I've never been more depressed in my life.

"In Hollywood you hear so many times—'it's yours', 'you're the one', and then at the last minute your agent tells you someone else got the part.

"It can be anything, the clothes you wore to the audition, the way you wear your hair, your shoes. You can't take it to heart, and you soon learn to let it all go."

Just as funds were running low, she landed a few small roles in telemovies and low-budget thrillers.

Mackinnon and her partner—"a lovely actor and gorgeous to boot"—lived in LA for the next four years, waiting for their big break.

She says it was a lonely time, despite an understanding partner and a close circle of friends, and she doesn't miss LA.

"In fact if I never went back again I wouldn't mind," Mackinnon says. "There are some lovely parts of America, but Los Angeles isn't one of them."

When she was offered an audition for McLeod's Daughters, she jumped at the chance of a free trip home.

"I came out here for the audition, and initially it was just a chance to hang out with my family," she says.

"I was only expecting to be here for a couple of weeks, so I had a tiny suitcase; hardly any clothes or make-up.

"But I heard quite quickly that I had won the role, and there was only a month or so before shooting started, so I just decided to stay."

McLeod's is shot on a property north of Adelaide, and Mackinnon is slowly getting used to small town life after four years in Los Angeles.

"It took a while to get into the swing of it, especially the weather down here," she says.

"It was freezing when I first arrived, so after years of lovely moderate Californian weather, it was a bit of a shock to the system. Lots of long cold days, but I think I've settled in quite well.

"Rachel Carpani and I are getting along like a house on fire and we live four doors up from Aaron Jeffrey and his wife, so we've been hanging out with them a fair bit.

"It's just so good to be working on a quality show, and it's really refreshing to be back."

By Louise Crossen
October 23, 2003
The Courier Mail