Sea Patrol: articles

Patrol role's family tie

Stenlake and McCune

IAN Stenlake couldn't believe his luck when he landed the role of Lt-Cdr Mike Flynn in the Channel 9 drama Sea Patrol.

His personal, deeply emotional tie to the role suddenly hit home.

Not only was Stenlake given a character to play who had some degree of depth. It was also one very close to his family.

"When I landed the role, I rang my mum and told her," he says.

"We started reminiscing about my Uncle Ted, a naval navigator.

"He died in 1967 on the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne.

"They were on daytime manoeuvres and the tow lines separated. They were going too fast to stop and too slow to take off.

"We lost Uncle Ted, so this role means a lot to me."

Sea Patrol was almost five years in pre-production, but casting came together fairly quickly.

"My agent called saying it was a fantastic project and I should do it," Stenlake recalls.

"I'm glad I did. There was so much passion and excitement about the drama. Everyone embraced the challenge."

The good will remained, despite bad weather early in the shoot. Cast and crew endured 10 days of rain and three fine days in the first two weeks.

"That stretched everybody to the limit," he says.

"We put a lot of time into developing our characters and hopefully that shows."

Ten years out of NIDA, the one-time Stingers star has enjoyed a varied career.

He had a successful run in musical theatre and was nominated for several awards for his stagework.

With excellent performances in musicals such as the Aussie creation Eureka (in which he co-starred with wife Rachael Beck) and Cabaret (with Lisa McCune), Stenlake established his name, impressing producers and directors.

On the Stenlake/Beck front, life is ticking along nicely, with Beck landing a regular gig with Seven's It Takes Two and Stenlake in Sea Patrol. Between work, there are parenting duties with their daughter.

"They're (wife and daughter) terrific," he says, his voice choking with emotion.

The words stop and he gathers himself, self-consciously. His eyes fill with tears. Finally he continues, voice still shaky.

"Rachael's wonderful," he says.

"Superb. Hugely supportive. She always has been. I'm so lucky."

WITH five months of filming and a decent break to get together with the family at Christmas, Stenlake is again learning what it is to be committed to a hugely successful TV series.

Sea Patrol, averaging 1.8 million viewers, has stamped itself as one of Australia's hottest drama prospects ever. Its success, though coming with a hefty price tag, will no doubt encourage other networks to re-invest their faith in Australian drama, and that may well prove to be Sea Patrol's greatest contribution to the industry.

"There have been several jobs in the past six months and, if I had landed them, I wouldn't have been able to go for Sea Patrol," Stenlake says.

"Obviously, as it's turned out, I'm very pleased."

By Robert Fidgeon
August 01, 2007
Herald Sun