New era beck­ons

Mandy McEl­hin­ney faces chang­ing times in Love Child

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McEl­hin­ney: “On the first day where Joan and Ma­tron had words this sea­son, the whole crew went, ‘ Yes, we’re back’, be­cause they love it when we fight.”

It’s 1972 and the times they are a changin’ for the cast of Love Child.

One char­ac­ter who is re­ally feel­ing this era of ad­just­ment is Ma­tron Frances Bolton, the woman pre­sid­ing over Stan­ton House – the home for un­wed moth­ers where so much of Love

Child’s action has taken place. This is a year of po­lit­i­cal change and up­heaval in Aus­tralia as Gough Whit­lam is about to be voted in, herald­ing an era of free ed­u­ca­tion and free think­ing, and Ma­tron’s stable world is get­ting rocked.

“Most peo­ple, re­gard­less of when they’re born, will know the im­pact that Gough Whit­lam had on the coun­try. You don’t get much more of a re­sound­ing cry than La­bor get­ting in, voted by long- haired men, women burn­ing their bras, so Ma­tron is be­ing told fairly strongly, ‘ Your era is over’,” ac­cord­ing to Mandy McEl­hin­ney, the ac­tress who plays Ma­tron.

“The con­ser­vatism and the post- war in­sti­tu­tion­alised way of think­ing is over. Peo­ple are broad­en­ing their hori­zons and these revo­lu­tion­ar­ies, the univer­si­ties, they’re the ones that are go­ing to rule the world and you’d better ei­ther shape up or ship out.”

This change in the air offers a new chal­lenge for McEl­hin­ney. The ac­tress says she has mod­elled Ma­tron on her nana – her re­silience and prag­ma­tism have been as­pects of Ma­tron’s that she’s long ad­mired and tried to bring into her own life.

So much of that at­ti­tude, McEl­hin­ney re­flects, came from her ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing through a war, some­thing so many women of that gen­er­a­tion had to learn to sur­vive through.

“The things they went through, I don’t think we have any con­cept of go­ing through a war and see­ing all the young men around you that you know die,” she says.

“Ma­tron’s gen­er­a­tion didn’t waste any­thing, they took care of things. They had the same pair of shoes and they pol­ished them and took care of them, and they would mend their clothes, which is now seen as a lit­tle bit of a hip­ster kind of thing. They didn’t come from this con­sumerist and self- ob­sessed cul­ture. She’s re­ally con­verted me.”

But it’s prov­ing dif­fi­cult this sea­son for Ma­tron to hang on to that post- war at­ti­tude as the world is shift­ing around her, how­ever she has a friend in new char­ac­ter Fa­ther Ross, played by Matt Day.

“Ma­tron has never re­ally had a con­fi­dante, some­one she says is her equal and some­one she can be com­pletely her­self with, and it’s re­ally won­der­ful they’ve de­vel­oped this char­ac­ter played beau­ti­fully by Matt Day, where you see this other side to Ma­tron and see how she is in close per­sonal re­la­tion­ships,” she says.

“I think the rea­son that she’s con­nected with him so much is that they’ve both ded­i­cated them­selves to their vo­ca­tions, they’ve both ded­i­cated them­selves to a life of serv­ing peo­ple, and they’ve sac­ri­ficed a lot to do that per­son­ally and

they’re coming from a great place. They re­ally un­der­stand and re­spect each other.”

Day is just one of the new ac­tors join­ing the cast this sea­son in­clud­ing Dan Hamill as Dr An­drew Pat­ter­son, Danielle Catan­zariti as Elena and Ir­ish pop­star Ro­nan Keat­ing who plays Dr Lawrence Faber.

Keat­ing im­pressed his new cast mem­bers who didn’t know what to ex­pect from the singer.

“As soon as he walked on set he was such a truly good per­son. As Ma­tron would say, ‘ He’s a well brought up boy’,” McEl­hin­ney says.

“He came so pre­pared, he came with hu­mil­ity but also just got on with it. He was re­ally good, he’s a re­ally good ac­tor.”

It’s ex­cit­ing for the cast to wel­come new mem­bers es­pe­cially when they weren’t even sure when, or if, sea­son four would be go­ing ahead.

“We thought maybe we were film­ing last year, and it wasn’t un­til maybe August or Septem­ber that I found out it wasn’t hap­pen­ing last year and then we just had to wait for an­other month or two to find out when we were go­ing,” she says.

“Then, as al­ways, as it hap­pens, we’re told, ‘ OK, we’re go­ing ahead and it’s in just a few weeks’.”

This sea­son, the key re­la­tion­ship be­tween Joan and Ma­tron is also fac­ing up­heaval.

“Joan is a woman who is tak­ing charge of the new op­por­tu­ni­ties she has, and Ma­tron is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of women’s role be­fore, and the sta­tus quo. Ma­tron re­ally does rep­re­sent the power of con­ser­va­tive Bri­tish think­ing, so her role is to al­ways try to re­turn things to the con­text that she un­der­stands and she fights ev­ery sin­gle char­ac­ter.

“She’s an ad­ver­sary of ev­ery sin­gle char­ac­ter in the show so her role is to be the peb­ble in some­one’s shoe,” McEl­hin­ney says.

There’s some­thing about the Joan/ Ma­tron re­la­tion­ship that seems to per­son­ify what the women of each gen­er­a­tion are fac­ing. It’s such an im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship in the show that McEl­hin­ney says their clashes are cel­e­brated on set.

“On the first day where Joan and Ma­tron had words this sea­son, the whole crew went, ‘ Yes, we’re back’, be­cause they love it when we fight,” McEl­hin­ney says.

“I think they have the most won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship, some­times mother/ daugh­ter some­times sis­ters, and I think they’re more sim­i­lar than they want to ad­mit. If they could come to­gether they would be an un­stop­pable force.”

Kin­dred spir­its: Ma­tron Bolton ( Mandy McEl­hin­ney) with Fa­ther Ross ( Matt Day).

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