‘ It’s how it SHOULD HAVE been ’

Marta Dus­sel­dorp and Abby Earl on changes for a reborn A Place to Call Home

Herald Sun - Switched On - - FRONT PAGE -

Even though she knows what’s com­ing, hav­ing mem­o­rised the script and re­hearsed the scene, play­ing out her char­ac­ter’s dra­matic life of­ten hits Marta Dus­sel­dorp like “a punch to the face”.

The ac­com­plished ac­tor has played many heavy roles in her long and suc­cess­ful ca­reer, but there’s just some­thing about Sarah Adams from A Place To Call Home that lingers with her.

“It’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing to play her, but also ex­haust­ing at times,” Dus­sel­dorp, 42, says. “Some of her ex­pe­ri­ences have stayed with me. You could say it’s haunting, ab­so­lutely.

“There are morn­ings when I have to re­ally drag my­self up. It’s like, oh gosh, this is what’s ahead? It’s hard to stay sus­pended (in char­ac­ter).”

Those dark themes over the past two sea­sons have in­cluded Sarah’s hor­rific ex­pe­ri­ence in a Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp, the ups and downs of new love, small-town nar­row­mind­ed­ness and the dis­cov­ery that her hus­band, Rene, wasn’t dead af­ter all.

And sea­son three on Fox­tel — the sub­scrip­tion TV provider saved the pe­riod drama af­ter Seven axed it — will only up the ante when it be­gins on Sun­day, Dus­sel­dorp prom­ises.

“The au­di­ence knows the char­ac­ters well enough by now that we can af­ford to delve in much fur­ther,” she says.

“The cliffhanger leaves big chal­lenges that need to be dealt with. Sarah is spun into the un­known. She’s al­ways been a some­what placed, cen­tred per­son — she loses all sense of that.”

Rene, played by her real-life hus­band, Ben Win­spear, is a cen­tral fig­ure in the tur­moil and more about him will be re­vealed in the weeks ahead.

“We get to ex­plore their re­la­tion­ship much fur­ther,” Dus­sel­dorp says.

“You un­der­stand more about what they had and what they could still have. With that comes some re­ally beau­ti­ful scenes. But there are plenty of wounds from the war.”

But as was the case in post­war Aus­tralia, those things were typ­i­cally hid­den away be­neath a proper, busi­ness-as-usual ex­te­rior. It’s some­thing her own fam­ily did in that era.

“At that time, if you’d looked at my grand­mother’s house on Wil­liam St in Dou­ble Bay, you would’ve thought from the out­side that it was ideal.

“But then you would’ve opened the door and there were eight apart­ments in the one house, a shared kitchen, plenty of qui­etly tor­tured souls.

“My grand­fa­ther was a pris­oner of war. These mo­ments we see of Rene ... I re­mem­ber things like that. There was a fear about it — the cliche of ‘let’s not talk about the war’.”

Even on the most dif­fi­cult day in the depth of film­ing a har­row­ing sto­ry­line, Dus­sel­dorp feels a sense of pride about this story.

While each role she ac­cepts is loved and en­joyed, she has a pro­tec­tive af­fec­tion for Sarah. It’s a char­ac­ter she’ll look back on in years to come as a high­light, she sus­pects.

“It was left un­fin­ished but then we got to come back, which was great. It’s the way it should’ve been.”

Co-star Abby Earl agrees, say­ing there’s more for her char­ac­ter, Anna — the youngest of the Bligh chil­dren — to ex­plore.

She be­gins the new sea­son a new­ly­wed, af­ter mar­ry­ing lo­cal farmer Gino (Aldo Mignone), but the hon­ey­moon pe­riod will be very brief, Earl says.

“From the get-go, they’re on shaky ground ... they clash about their be­liefs, she does some­thing he asked her not to do ... it’s the re­al­i­ties of mar­riage, re­ally.

“It’s not a cliche fairy­tale, which I like. There was a risk that it could be that, she be­ing the princess and him be­ing the poor farmer.

“We ap­proached it like Romeo and Juliet, and what would’ve hap­pened if they’d lived and got­ten mar­ried.”

This was the 25-year-old’s first big role af­ter drama school and, like Anna, she’s grown up a lot since then.

“I’m more grown up. It was quite jar­ring to go back to this girl who’s still very naive, wideeyed and cu­ri­ous.

“I wasn’t sure I’d know her any­more. But in the end it was fine. I put on the cos­tume and sud­denly I was back there.”

As the new Mrs Po­letti, Anna will swap the lux­ury of Ash Park for a hum­ble farm­house — some­thing Earl rel­ished.

“I love be­ing in the dirt,” she laughs. “I’m very clumsy though and there’s plenty of po­ten­tial to do some­thing stupid in that rus­tic set­ting. We’ll be film­ing some­thing and then I’ll ac­ci­den­tally poke my­self in the eye with some­thing and ev­ery­one will be like, what just hap­pened here.”


“There are morn­ings when I have to re­ally drag

my­self up”


Marta Dus­sel­dorp and Abby Earl are en­joy­ing be­ing back

on A Place to Call Home, which was saved by Fox­tel.

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