Water Rats: profiles

Toni Scanlan as Helen Blakemore

Toni Scanlan

Helen Blakemore is the patrol's fearsomely able intelligence Officer, sitting at the centre of a complex information web, sifting facts, figures and coincidences to pass on to Hawker, the Tactician. Although desk-bound, it's a job which puts her in touch with all the officers, and some of the younger ones are quite intimidated by her efficiency and sharp mind.

The daughter of an army NCO, she joined the police 20 years ago, at a time when it was much tougher for women. Serious about her job and extremely ambitious, she would lay her life on the line for someone who does their work equally well, but will barely hide her contempt for those who aren't up to it. She gets on well with Frank, finding his contacts and information invaluable, but is suspicious of Goldie. As for her private life, she keeps it that way. If she ever felt being a lesbian with a live-in lover compromised her professionally, she'd report it to Clarke immediately. But it hasn't yet, so it's no one's business but her own.

Toni Scanlan has found a number of challenges in playing the role of Helen Blakemore. "Helen is very ambitious, which is not me," says Toni. "She doesn't like to play the fool, whereas I like to fool around a lot. She's an observer who is constantly bemused by what she sees, I'm more of a participant." But the hardest thing of all? Trying to look sexy in a police uniform. "People who are really smart and independent are sexy—and she is. But it's a hard thing to do in uniform. Let's face it, they are a bit frumpy.. and I'm sure police women everywhere agree! "

Toni spent her childhood in Perth and went overseas when she was 21-years-old, graduating from The Drama Centre in London in 1981. Since her return to Australia, she's lived in Sydney, becoming a highly regarded stage actor, singer and dancer along the way.

Just before joining WATER RATS, Toni played an inspector in the Queensland Theatre Company's play about police corruption, THE FAMILY, for which she did a great deal of research, meeting many senior police officers, including the Commissioner. Among her many theatre credits are KING LEAR, PRIVATE LIVES, CLOUD NINE and CARMEN MIRANDA. She has also had a number of roles in feature films including CANDY REGENTAG, HIGH TIDE and VACANT POSSESSION.

Apart. from the odd episode in various series, Toni has never done much television, but was keen for the experience of learning about the demands of the medium—"I feel much less self-conscious on stage!" she says—of becoming part of the Water Rats cast.