‘ It’s how it SHOULD HAVE been ’
Marta Dusseldorp and Abby Earl on changes for a reborn A Place to Call Home
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.”
A PLACE TO CALL HOME, SOHO, SUNDAY, 8.30PM
“There are mornings when I have to really drag
MARTA DUSSELDORP ON PLAYING SARAH
Marta Dusseldorp and Abby Earl are enjoying being back
on A Place to Call Home, which was saved by Foxtel.