Sea Patrol: articles

Lisa McCune enjoys good ratings with Sea Patrol

LISA McCune says she knew Sea Patrol would be savaged by critics. McCune, however, didn't care that it would cop a belting. She eagerly signed on to play Lt Kate McGregor in the Channel 9 action-adventure series.

And it appears McCune's having the last laugh. Sea Patrol has been a solid hit for Nine and series three, Red Gold, premieres on Monday.

McCune has proved more than once you can endure in showbiz even when critics aren't exactly enamoured with your work.

She enjoyed widespread support as a four-time Gold Logie winner on Blue Heelers, but that soured after her return to work following a break to have her first son, Archer.

The quirky "comeback" series Marshall Law was a critical and ratings disaster, then theatre critics gave McCune a battering when she tackled the role of Sally Bowles — a role made famous by Liza Minnelli — in the stage version of Cabaret.

When Sea Patrol producers Hal and Di McElroy approached the 38-year-old to play McGregor, she knew that such a simple concept — the drama revolves around the crew of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) patrol boat, HMAS Hammersley — would make it an easy target.

She wasn't wrong. "Clunky dialogue", "burdened by superficiality and repetition" and "a middle-order performer" were just some of the barbs directed at the show, which was originally conceived for a 7.30pm timeslot.

Let's face it, Sea Patrol was never going to be a sophisticated satire along the lines of Desperate Housewives or a twisted mystery such as Lost. Instead, it set out to embrace basic Aussie no-frills storytelling to reach a broad family audience — and that was fine with McCune.

"I thought ‘this is risky and it's going to get absolutely hammered by the critics', but my instinct told me that people are going to watch it and it's the right thing to do," McCune says. "The physicality of it appealed to me too. I thought ‘we need some action'. I thought this was dynamic and it was family viewing across a large demographic and I thought ‘this could work'.

"Even though we're not making a show that's very complex — which is probably why it gets bagged in some ways — I'm very proud of making something that's very (morally) decent and that the whole family can watch.

"The beauty of where I'm at now is that I don't care (what the critics think). I do what I want to do. I know the depth that I have (as an actor) and this is a very popular piece and fits in a certain place." At first glance there is little to separate Sea Patrol's Kate McGregor from Blue Heelers' Maggie Doyle, but McCune says there are some substantial differences. It wasn't a safe choice.

"I knew that would come up — the character's wearing a uniform, I still have blonde hair, it's just eight years on. How is this character different?

"Well, this character is in charge of 25 people on a warship, so there's a lot more power and responsibility involved in it. She also has a lot more emotional baggage than Maggie ever did. Kate's a lot harder than Maggie."

The producers of Sea Patrol work closely with the Royal Australian Navy and that can be a double-edged sword for the actors (the cast also includes Ian Stenlake as Lt Cdr Mike Flynn and Saskia Burmeister as Lt Nikki Caetano). The cast spent three months at Queensland's Mission Beach filming on board a real RAN warship late last year.

"You have to maintain the integrity because you do wear the uniform, so there are certain things you can't do with the characters," McCune explains. "If we weren't wearing these (proper RAN) badges, some of these characters could be a lot more wayward and you'd have more scurrilous storylines."

By Colin Vickery
May 13, 2009
Herald Sun