Sea Patrol: articles

lisa mccune and ian stenlake

Sea Patrol charts new course for success

IAN Stenlake is diving into series three of Sea Patrol — in fact, he's making a 7m leap of faith.

It is 9.30 at night, in waters about 600m off Tangalooma on Moreton Island, and he's perched on a ship's bridge wing about to dive. Just as he steps off a sea snake swims through the floodlit landing site.

"That jump was a highlight for me this series," Stenlake says a few weeks later on dry land at the Warner Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast where interior shots for the series are filmed. He's clearly proud of doing some action work which makes a break from his steady-as-she-goes leading role as commander of the Armidale class navy patrol boat Hammersley.

"Check it out! It was a thrilling kind of night for me. Snake and all.

"There was a sense of, what if I hit something, like a dugong or something and broke my leg and couldn't swim — that would have been quite dangerous. But I didn't want to dwell on that. I felt exhilarated actually. It was beautiful and warm once I was in the water."

Lisa McCune, who returns as Lieutenant Kate McGregor, is also relishing the chance for a bit of action adventure this time around.

"Last series Kate had more of an emotional journey," McCune says.

"She's developing more but she still needs to know more about being a woman. She's comfortable in the workplace, but the other part of her life is something she needs to work on.

"But I love the action element of the show this season and I have to do lots and lots this year. We did a bit in the first series but we're more confident with it now. We're confident with the boats and we can go further now because we know the beast a bit more."

McCune gets to do some boat-to-boat boardings and in this series' debut episode finds herself in the middle of a dangerous crossfire.

Stenlake's character, Lieutenant Commander Mike Flynn, also has his first boat boarding in series three.

"Which is unusual for Mike," Stenlake says. "His is possibly an anchoring role, but there's a lot more scope to him because overall there's a lot more passion and a lot more emotion occurring on the ship this time around. He has to deal with each character as these things come up in their life and so I've had the chance to flare up and really show the strong side of Mike.

"I've really enjoyed it. I've gone a lot further in the emotional stakes — either up or down."

It is not only his character that is breaking out, Stenlake believes the whole show is hitting its stride, which excites him in the current TV climate where Australian-made drama is dominating the ratings.

"When Sea Patrol was commissioned — about three years back — there was a real sense to me that this could be the start of a renaissance of Australian TV drama," he says.

"You could sense it. And this was even before we shot anything. I was praying for — selfishly, I may add — that this thing would be picked up and nourished.

"It went well, but it didn't go off. Series two went better — and so now there is a really great foundation for our show.

"Now cut to a year later and things have started going off. Packed to the Rafters and Underbelly are creaming it.

"Series three of Sea Patrol is a natural step-up for us. Everyone knows their job. It's just that little bit better and you still have passionate producers and a passionate cast and crew. Hopefully you now have a recipe for longevity."

While they are hitting their straps, there is one thing McCune can't get used to — being saluted when strolling in "costume" uniform around the Cairns naval base when filming there.

She admits she salutes back.

"You do it because for them you're wearing stripes and for them that is their way of acknowledging you," she says.

"It does feel very strange and a bit fake though and you do have a giggle afterwards."

But she remains impressed by the manners of the servicemen and women she encounters on base.

"Their manners are beautiful across the board in the way they treat people," she says. "It is really respectful and that is what the rank system achieves so marvellously within the armed forces."

The respect found itself flowing through to the cast.

"When we were up north (Mission Beach) filming we were at the mercy of the elements. That makes for great drama off the page because we can't always control the day's filming," McCune says.

By Geoff Shearer
May 13, 2009
The Courier-Mail