Sea Patrol: articles

From Blue Heeler to blue water

Lisa McCune was already Australian TV's golden girl when she left Blue Heelers in 2000. But she wanted more.

She went in search of new experiences and skills that would extend her career beyond being the sweet Constable Maggie Doyle, the Heelers character she'd played since age 22.

Now she's ready for a second coming on the Nine Network's Sea Patrol, the most expensive Australian drama ever made.

Maggie Doyle was more than a character to Australian TV viewers in the 1990s. She was a beloved identity worthy of five consecutive Logie Awards, a best new talent followed by four Golds.

It was a persona McCune says she had to leave behind if she was to have a fulfilling career.

"If I stayed on Blue Heelers I'm not sure that I would have been able to build a career beyond that," she says.

"I really needed to experience other styles of acting, theatre and that sort of thing. I also had to get on with life."

The show clearly suffered in McCune's absence. Doyle was killed off in the show's seventh season and led to Blue Heelers' most watched block of episodes ever.

But leaving is a decision McCune, 36, doesn't regret.

And the once darling of the small screen has hardly been in hiding. Low-key TV hosting roles for the Seven Network such as Forensic Investigators and The World Around Us, not to mention a high profile supermarket advertising campaign, have kept her in the spotlight.

Even after leaving Blue Heelers, McCune couldn't avoid the shine of TV's coveted Gold Logie, earning a nomination for her performance in the telemovie The Potato Factory in 2001.

Critically-acclaimed lead roles in stage productions such as The Sound of Music and Chicago, making use of her music theatre degree from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), have enriched her professionally, she says.

The legal drama Marshall Law, in which she co-starred with Alison Whyte in 2002, was a rare failure when it only lasted one season.

But her turns on ABC's MDA and last year's impressive Tripping Over on Network Ten were highly regarded.

Most significantly, she has had a family - three children since 2001 with husband Tim Disney, who she met on the set of Blue Heelers.

"I left Blue Heelers with the intention to go and learn more, and I've learned a lot," she says.

Now McCune takes the experience she's gathered on and off the stage and screen to lead an ensemble cast on Nine's new great hope for Australian drama, Sea Patrol.

In the latest creation of Hal and Di McElroy (Blue Heelers, Water Rats), McCune's character Lieutenant Kate McGregor is the ambitious second in command of a Navy Patrol Boat.

Shooting on the sea was a first for McCune and most of the cast, who worked under the watchful eye of the Navy.

A third of its shooting schedule involves battling the weather and waters off Queensland.

"What we were doing was pretty dangerous, so we were lucky nothing happened, but we had to get amongst it properly ... otherwise there would have been no point," she says.

She says it's not the scale of production that will connect with viewers, but the stories.

As her Constable Doyle and mates at the fictional town of Mount Thomas had a responsibility to depict police officers in a fair light, McCune says the Navy is given an accurate representation in Sea Patrol.

She calls them "real life heroes".

"If we didn't have them we wouldn't have a show," McCune says.

The navy was a constant presence during production of Sea Patrol on and off the HMAS Ipswich which served as the fictional vessel HMAS Hammersley for most of the shoot.

"It was very important to us and them that we get all of those aspects right. The drama is their story, it would be claptrap if we didn't stick to that."

Now McCune hopes Sea Patrol can buck the trend of short-lived Australian dramas of the past few years and last multiple seasons. "It's got legs this one," McCune says with confidence.

"There's a real buzz and the support it's been given already has been amazing, so here's hoping."

Sea Patrol is a 13-part mini-series, each episode a stand alone story but with a common murder mystery thread running throughout.

"There's a wonderful romantic story, heroes, heroines, there's real room for that in Australian drama," McCune says.

June 29, 2007