The Saints go flying in
An emergency team breathes new life into Australia’s favourite medical show, writes Erin McWhirter
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.