Sea Patrol: articles

Lsia McCune

McCune has the Midas touch

ACTOR Lisa McCune struggles with the accolades attached to her career.

With her latest series, the naval-gazing Sea Patrol, riding a wave of success, McCune deflects a line of questioning about her universal popularity.

Despite her accomplishments and the swag of Logies she achieved as Blue Heelers' Maggie Doyle, the mother-of-three adopts a self-deprecating approach to a query about Australia's infatuation with her.

"'While the arts and entertainment are vitally important to the community, it's not like I'm saving lives," McCune said. "I don't get over-excited about that stuff, when things work and people say nice things about me.

"It's nice to hear things like that, but such comments provide big shoes to fill. I'm certainly not going to walk away today and go and ring Mum and tell her."

Last week Sea Patrol, on Channel 9, again blew its competitors out of the water, achieving an audience of 1.6 million viewers nationwide.

By contrast, Channel 7's romantic romp with Mark Philippoussis, Age of Love, achieved 849,000 viewers, while Channel 10's Law & Order: Criminal Intent attracted an audience of 898,000.

This consolidates the aquatic series as the most successful local drama of recent years. Its debut drew a national audience of 1.9 million.

"I'm one of those people that say, if it gets to week 13 and we're still achieving similar results then I'll be happy. It's week two and we still have a long road ahead."

Sea Patrol's co-executive producer Hal McElroy believes McCune's casual charm and checked ego are central to her popularity.

"There is a tremendous integrity to Lisa," Mr McElroy said. "The camera can see into someone's heart. What the audience sees is someone who is generally nice, caring, thoughtful, respectful, all of those qualities.

"She's also outstandingly talented. In my view, she is the finest actor working on television. She has the most amazing singing voice, she can dance, she can do comedy, she can do action, she can do sympathy, she can do hard-assed, she can do the whole lot."

Mr McElroy recounted McCune's approach to her billing on Sea Patrol as an example of the 36-year-old's humble attitude.

"One of the key negotiations when you're settling casting is what's called the billing or the credits on screen, as in who comes first, starring X or starring Y. It's a huge negotiation and one that can become very heated, very difficult and can lead to deal breaking," Mr McElroy said.

"Going into this production, one of the things outstanding was the question of billing. Her agent said Lisa had thought about this and felt that it's an ensemble cast and everybody's credit should be presented in alphabetical order. When a leader in the industry is prepared to say, I'm just the same as all the other, often lesser-known actors on the show, it's a wonderful thing."

Mr McElroy said McCune's friendly demeanour was always on display. "She's incredibly polite and open to everybody, from the cab driver to the Prime Minister. She is unfailingly punctual, hard working, prepared and respectful," he said.

"At 6am, having been up since 4.30am, we'd meet her on the jetty and she'd be there with a tray full of coffee for the crew . . . She's just a genuinely nice person."

McCune first tasted fame in 1994, as young constable Maggie Doyle on Seven's police drama Blue Heelers.

She played the role until the seventh season, during which time she won the Gold Logie Award For Most Popular Television Personality four times. She followed the Logie-winning series with a successful turn as Maria Von Trapp in the musical The Sound of Music and in 2004 again became the face of Coles supermarkets.

Garry Williams, former TV Week editor and now Sunday Herald Sun TV Guide editor, said McCune's face on the magazine's cover always achieved a spike in sales.

"Once she was established in Blue Heelers, she would often grow our sales figures, by up to 20,000 extra copies," he said.

McCune described her career as a series of brave choices and said that she desired a career path similar to that of fellow thespian Claudia Karvan.

"I think I make brave choices and tackle stuff other people wouldn't," McCune said.

"I ideally want to make good drama and I look at what Claudia Karvan's done and that's definitely a career I'd love to follow."

By Richard Clune
July 15, 2007
Sunday Herald Sun