The Saints go fly­ing in

An emer­gency team breathes new life into Aus­tralia’s favourite med­i­cal show, writes Erin McWhirter

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HANG­ING over cliffs and drop­ping from a he­li­copter hov­er­ing over dense bush­land has be­come part of John Wa­ters’ role on the set of hospi­tal drama All Saints.

It beats stomp­ing the cor­ri­dors of the emer­gency ward, but it’s a phys­i­cally drain­ing task.

‘‘I haven’t done much in the way of he­li­copter res­cue and winch­ing down out of the chop­pers has been very ex­cit­ing, but it’s cer­tainly a big chal­lenge phys­i­cally,’’ ad­mits the vet­eran multi-tal­ented per­former who has played pot-stir­ring Dr Mike Vlasek on the Aussie med­i­cal drama for the past three years.

‘‘We’ve been do­ing a lot of ab­seil­ing over cliffs and do­ing res­cues out in the field. But it’s been great. An av­er­age joy-ride is 15 min­utes and costs a cou­ple of hun­dred dol­lars, but we get to go whizzing around for free.’’

The best thing about th­ese adrenalin-filled scenes is that the Aus­tralian Film In­sti­tute (AFI) and Lo­gie award-winning star doesn’t have to do them alone.

The he­li­copter and out­door work is part of All Saints’ re­ju­ve­nated for­mat which marks the in­tro­duc­tion of the Med­i­cal Re­sponse Unit (MRU) and para­medic Jo, por­trayed by show new­comer Mir­rah Foulkes.

Com­plet­ing the MRU team is All Saints reg­u­lar Dr Steve Tay­lor (Jack Camp­bell).

‘‘The Med­i­cal Re­sponse Unit is a way of get­ting doc­tors and sur­geons to the site of ac­ci­dents rather than just wait­ing for paramedics to bring them into hospi­tal,’’ Wa­ters says.

‘‘It saves lives by get­ting to them ear­lier.

‘‘View­ers will still see the reg­u­lar All Saints char­ac­ters in action through var­i­ous sto­ries in the emer­gency depart­ment, but it’s all tied to­gether (by the MRU se­quences) to broaden the show out a bit and it has given the show more action.

‘‘I think it’s been a great thing for the show as a whole, par­tic­u­larly for those of us who get to do all the ex­cit­ing stuff.’’

Foulkes went straight from film­ing hor­ror movie Dy­ing Breed to her All Saints role as Jo Mathieson in Septem­ber, and will make her on-air de­but next month. For her, the hard­est thing is co-or­di­nat­ing the med­i­cal jar­gon with the stunts.

‘‘It can get re­ally tricky. I get a bit mixed up when all the stuff is com­bined,’’ the 27-year-old Queens­land-raised ac­tor says.

‘‘With all the heavy med­i­cal stuff (ter­mi­nol­ogy) it’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing to see how ac­tors be­come re­ally ac­com­plished at that be­cause they are re­peat­ing it all the time, but to me it’s still ter­ri­fy­ing. A cou­ple of weeks ago I was do­ing my first CPR ex­er­cise. Do­ing chest com­pres­sions is a new thing for me and when you com­bine that with the ab­seil­ing, it can be tricky try­ing to make it look like you’ve been do­ing it for years.’’

Learn­ing the lingo may have taken time, but set­tling in to the pro­gram, which be­gan in 1998, and break­ing into a well-es­tab­lished cast has been easy for Foulkes.

‘‘It’s ex­cit­ing that the show is tak­ing a new di­rec­tion and I re­ally en­joy the lo­ca­tion-based work,’’ she says. ‘‘I’m mainly out on lo­ca­tion so I don’t get to see the other cast ev­ery day. But the out­doors stuff is re­ally suited to me. I love do­ing the lo­ca­tion stuff. Who would rather be in­doors?’’

DE­SPITE the show’s makeover, Wa­ters says fans should rest as­sured all the traits that make All Saints en­joy­able will stay. This in­cludes Dr Vlasek rub­bing Dr Frank Cam­pion (John Howard) up the wrong way with his cock­i­ness.

‘‘The new unit gets up Frank’s nose and just gives Frank all the more rea­son to think Mike is a w---er,’’ Wa­ters says with a laugh.

‘‘Mike has all the money he needs to start the MRU and Frank’s strug­gling. Of course, Mike schmoozes the ad­min­is­tra­tors to get what he wants and he is poach­ing Frank’s staff, so he won’t be happy.’’

Sky’s the limit:

John Wa­ters, with co-star Mir­rah Foulkes, en­joys the he­li­copter joy-rides that go with his new role.

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