UN­RAV­EL­LING TAL­ENT

The mak­ers of Love My Way have come up with a world- class drama re­volv­ing around or­di­nary lives. Guy Davis spoke with Kat Ste­wart, the star of Tan­gle.

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Tan­gle is aptly ti­tled. But the web of re­la­tion­ships the show de­picts – among lovers, among friends, among sib­lings, among par­ents and their kids – is a dis­tinct joy to un­ravel, with this new Aus­tralian 10-part se­ries of­fer­ing the kind of com­plex­ity, hon­esty and in­sight that will at­tract and cap­ti­vate an au­di­ence with a taste for high-end drama.

Set in Mel­bourne, it re­volves around a group of friends and ac­quain­tances in their 40s, each strug­gling with their var­i­ous re­spon­si­bil­i­ties while yearn­ing for their own kinds of free­dom and ful­fil­ment.

Some find sat­is­fac­tion in their ca­reer, some in rais­ing their fam­ily, some in ex­tra-mar­i­tal af­fairs. While ev­ery­thing ap­pears neat and tidy on the well-kept, mid­dle-class sur­face, ten­sions are qui­etly boil­ing away un­der­neath it all.

It’s with the re­turn of Nat ( Kat Ste­wart) from Lon­don af­ter a 10-year ab­sence that those ten­sions be­gin to bub­ble over.

Nat is the sis­ter of the grounded Ally ( Justine Clarke), who’s mar­ried to phi­lan­der­ing al­pha male Vince ( Ben Men­del­sohn). She’s also the bi­o­log­i­cal mother of teenage Max ( Blake Davis), the son of ris­ing-star politi­cian Tim ( Joel Tobeck), who’s mar­ried to the tightly wound but strong-willed Chris­tine ( Cather­ine McCle­ments).

Of course, Nat hasn’t been part of Max’s life for the past decade, some­thing that suits Chris­tine just fine. So it’s only nat­u­ral that the re­ac­tion when Nat un­ex­pect­edly shows up at Max’s 15th birth­day party is some­one whis­per­ing “ Oh, s---”.

And play­ing a char­ac­ter that in­spires that kind of re­ac­tion is right up the tal­ented Ste­wart’s al­ley.

“ I love Nat, I love play­ing her,” laughed the star of Un­der­belly, New­stopia and : 30 Sec­onds. “ She’s a char­ac­ter that al­lows you to say and do things you wish you had the guts to say in real life. I never would!”

How­ever, there’s more to Nat than just the wild­card fac­tor. While Ste­wart ad­mits that her char­ac­ter is some­one who will act up and say in­ap­pro­pri­ate things and “ em­bar­rass peo­ple for kicks”, it’s mo­tive by mis­chief rather than mal­ice. Well, most of the time.

“ I think in some ways she’s kind of the cool kid in school who’d, you know, get caught smok­ing and go to all the best par­ties and have older boyfriends.

“ And she’s still that in a way. She hasn’t re­ally grown up in a lot of re­spects. And be­cause she’s been over­seas, liv­ing for the mo­ment, she hasn’t re­ally had to. But now she’s get­ting to a point in her life where she re­ally has no choice.”

Still, it’s not go­ing to be an easy tran­si­tion for Nat, who’s spent the past 10 years as a mid-level TV star in the UK, with Ste­wart well aware of her char­ac­ter’s flaws and virtues.

“ I think she’s one of those peo­ple that is re­ally in the mo­ment when she’s in the mo­ment. When she’s talk­ing to you, you’ve got her full at­ten­tion. But if she went some­where else, she’d for­get all about you. And without wish­ing to judge her too harshly, that’s kind of the way she feels about Max. She gen­uinely cares about her son but her re­al­ity is wher­ever she is at any given mo­ment.

“ So she comes back, and I think maybe even she is a lit­tle shocked by how much she wants to be part of his life. And it’s prob­a­bly not in the tra­di­tional ‘ I’m your mum’ kind of way but just in terms of hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship with him. And as we find as the show pro­gresses, the rea­son for them not be­ing to­gether isn’t as sim­ple as it seems.”

Like Nat, ev­ery char­ac­ter in Tan­gle is reach­ing a turn­ing point, and how they con­duct them­selves and be­have to­wards the peo­ple in their lives helps make the show so com­pelling. “ Peo­ple are com­pli­cated,” said Ste­wart. “ I’m in­ter­ested in what makes them tick.”

The pedi­gree of writer Fiona Seres and pro­duc­ers John Ed­wards and Imo­gen Banks also at­tracted Ste­wart, with the ac­tress im­pressed by the col­lab­o­ra­tion of Seres and Ed­wards on the ac­claimed Love My Way.

Web of in­trigue: Kat Ste­wart’s il­lus­tri­ous co-stars in­clude ( clock­wise from top left) Ben Men­del­sohn ( as Vince), Justine Clarke ( as Ally), Matt Day ( as Gabriel) and Cather­ine McCle­ments ( as Chris­tine).

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