Water Rats: articles

on set with WR

On set with WATER RATS

Fleur Michell goes to Goat Island in Sydney Harbour, to talk with Water Rats stars Steve Bisley, Rebecca Smart and Allison Cratchley, and learn some behind-the-scenes secrets

How to be a dead body

• Jo Rooney—producer
Firstly, good make-up! Basically, just lie very still, don't blink or breath too hard. Sometimes you could be lying there for up to an hour and a half.

• Louise Fitzgerald—make-up artist
There's all sorts of make-up for different situations—I actually had to visit the morgue to observe all the bodies decomposing. If they've been in water, they have to be all slimy and green. Once, a girl who'd been made-up as a submerged body went home like that on the train, covered in vaseline and goo, because she wanted to show her boyfriend. Today I'm giving you a bullet-wound to the head. I'll start with a death-colour base called death gret, and apply this sticky substance, which makes both runny and congealed blood. You have to be a certain person to be made-up—some people can't handle seeing themselves dead, and freak out.

Chasing baddies

Steve It's the silliest thing to chase someone in a suit, especially in summer. And I've been in the harbour more often in my suit than my swimmers. Put it this way—you don't want to think about what's in that water too much…

Rebecca So far, I haven't done a chase and I've not had to pull a gun, which is okay, because I'm not that good at it.

Allison I'm always worried I'll look like a real girl running after people, I'm very used to swimming after baddies with my clothes on.

Injuries suffered in the name of duty

Steve Yeah, I've suffered little things in my attempt to keep these city streets clean. They mostly happening [sic] during the chases and when you're tackling people. I've had quite a few abrasions, and wrenched my shoulder when I had to get out of a moving car.

Rebecca I haven't had any. The boys do all that crap.

Allison Bruises are a big thing. Yesterday, I was nearly thrown off the boat. When I was half in, I got headbutted by a wave and banged my knees against the side of the boat—I was hanging on for dear life!

Side bars:

Most-repeated lines

Steve Bisley "Stop! Police!"
Rebecca Smart "There's a phone call for you , Sarge."
Allison Cratchley "This is the Sydney Water Police! Cut your engines! and "Go go go, Andy!"

Goat Island facts

Number of crew 110
Number of toilets 14
Number of taxi trips to the island per day 10
Amount of meal-time meat provided each day 22kg
Most requested dish Laksa

Theo Benton—The wardrobe designer

What dramas do you have to cope with? Late casting is always a nightmare! And people getting shot or getting dumped in the water, so they need three or four of the same outfit. We do about half a dozen loads of washing a day.

How many clothes do you have altogether? Thousands! We've got heaps of police uniforms and diver overalls.

How do you dress people for the show? With Dee Smart's lovely, natural dark skin, she looks fabulous in strong colours like red—and she can even wear green, which is a colour you can't use on some actors, because they look sick. Rebecca Smart's really tiny—a size 6 to 8—so 90 per cent of her clothes have to be taken in, especially when she wears overalls, which look like a sack on her. And I'm dressing Aaron Pederson in Hugo Boss and Country Road instead of Armani, so that the audience can relate to him more.

Georgia Bennet, 27—Extra work

Fleur and Georgia

How much money will you make today? All the extras are paid anything from between $80 and $100 for four hours' work.

What scenes do you look forward to? The police scenes are my favourites, considering how I used to be in the service. The show is pretty realistic.

Are you happy with your role today? Yeah, I'm playing a senior constable—I didn't actually make it as far as constable in real life!

Ultimate extra role? I would absolutely love to have a part as a dead body. I've seen a few dead bodies for real, so it'd be really interesting to see just how "dead" they could get me.

Kissing co-stars

Steve You approach those scenes just like you do everything else. Josephine Byrnes and I were in the shower together the other day. And we know each other really well, so there's no point pretending to be shy.

Rebecca My character's always got the hots for someone else and never gets lucky, poor thing. I've done it on other shows, though, and I never feel anything for them. At least you get paid for it.

Allison I haven't done it yet, but it could be happening soon. They're all good-looking guys, so I'm sure it won't be too hard.

Peter Bensley's acting advice

• Go in with absolute minimal rehearsal. I like to come in without preconceived ideas, and see where it goes.

• Develop a good memory. I'm quite good at learning scripts, although I've had stuff which was like reading pages from a telephone book, which makes it difficult

• Don't use up too many takes. You have to go quickly on this show—you can't have more than two or three takes. But once, I got to 15—I couldn't stop laughing. You do feel guilty after a while, because after take seven it's no longer funny.

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