Rain Shadow: articles

Rachel Ward and Victoria Thaine

Shadow over the Adelaide Hills

Rachel Ward and Victoria Thaine give LIZ WALSH the lowdown on their new six-part ABC-TV drama Rain Shadow.

Ask most Australians what their No. 1 concern is at the moment and they will tell you one thing water and the lack of it. As the states prevail with water restrictions and the prolonged drought continues to take its toll on farming communities, the stories of those affected are beginning to resonate on our screens.

Enter ABC-TV’s new six-part drama series Rain Shadow, filmed entirely on location in the Adelaide Hills regions of Callington, Monarto South and Mt Barker. Starring Rachel Ward and Victoria Thaine, Rain Shadow tells the story of two female vets who join forces to battle against the severe effects of the drought on the small fictional farming community of Paringa.

More used to the director’s chair these days, Ward plays Kate McDonald, Paringa’s pragmatic, intensely private and often grumpy vet.

“This was an unusual stepping out from the camera for me. I had pretty much hung out my acting days,” Ward says. “I actually forgot how much I enjoyed it. I was a bit rusty to start with, but I felt it all coming back.

“I really love taking responsibility from behind the camera, but there’s a lot to be said for doing what you’re told, when you’re told. But let’s not get too deep about it all it’s all just good fun.”

Forget her accent and her blue-blood English background, because Ward feels she’s more Aussie than anything else.

“I feel more Australian now than English I pinch myself when I’m back there because it was a lifetime ago,” she says. “I feel very comfortable in my RM Williams and slouch hats. I felt very comfortable in the dust and the pepper trees.”

It’s a good thing too. Rain Shadow was filmed entirely on location, with absolutely no studio shooting or major construction. The dust seen on screen is the real thing. And true to form, it only rained once during the six-week, summer shoot. “It rained at one point very lightly and it just made everything smell delicious,” Ward says. “We thought: ‘oh no, continuity, this is going to hell’, but about half an hour later it all looked exactly the same.”

While Rain Shadow takes on the relevant theme of drought-affected communities, it also walks the less trodden path of exploring the relationship between two women. Thaine takes on the role of Jill Blake, who comes to Paringa to work in Kate’s practice as a young, enthusiastic, newly graduated and well-educated vet.

Thaine says she played the waiting game over the Christmas break to see if she would win the part. “I was thinking I might go overseas if I didn’t get the role,” she says. “I hadn’t done any acting work for six months, so I was really excited when I found out I had it.”

Thaine says she was attracted to the role of Jill because she was so different to the other characters she has played. “I’ve tended to play a lot of younger, teenage girls and I really loved how Jill was really smart and feisty and a really strong young woman,” she says. “But I loved how the show was about a relationship between two women.”

Ward agrees, and says the dynamic between the two was one of the highlights for her. “I really enjoyed working with an actress 20 years my junior, someone who is at the beginning of her career trajectory,’’ she says. “It was a very fresh aspect of the series the fact that it is about the relationship of women of different ages and how we navigate that age difference.”

Ward describes her character as someone who holds her cards close to her heart and guards her secrets closely. But she’s quick to point out it wasn’t the character that attracted her to the role.

“I’m more attracted to the way a piece is written. It was original and fresh and that impressed me…when you’ve got Jim Thomson and Tony Morphett writing for you, it makes your job very easy,” she says.

“All actors are the same really the better written, the better they look.”

By Liz Walsh
October 07, 2007
Sunday Mail