Tak­ing the lead

The star of the much-an­tic­i­pated re­work­ing of the Doc­tor Blake se­ries, Nadine Garner opens up to Sue Smethurst about the grief she felt over Craig McLach­lan’s “trial by me­dia” and about in­d­ing her­self, once again, a ris­ing star.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Interview - Nadine GARNER PHO­TOG­RA­PHY by YIANNI ASPRADAKIS • STYLING by RE­BECCA RAC

It is a blus­tery, ice on the car kind of late winter morn­ing in Mel­bourne. In a lofty sub­ur­ban ware­house, Nadine Garner is pos­ing ef­fort­lessly, wide smile and trade­mark blue eyes pierc­ing the lens of the cam­era, obliv­i­ous to the chill per­me­at­ing the stu­dio’s walls.

She muses that, af­ter spend­ing the last six years lm­ing The Doc­tor Blake Mys­ter­ies in the draughty man­sions and wind-swept pad­docks around Bal­larat, she’s im­mune to the cold. The cam­era clicks away and she owns the mo­ment as you’d ex­pect from an ac­tress of her stature, yet iron­i­cally, we’re here to dis­cuss a ma­jor ca­reer break­through, three decades af­ter she be­came a house­hold name.

At 47, Nadine and her much-loved char­ac­ter, Jean Blake, are nally step­ping out on their own, com­mand­ing the star­ring role in the up­com­ing tele­movie The Blake Mys­ter­ies, but what should be cause for cel­e­bra­tion, a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for the ac­tress and her char­ac­ter, is also un­de­ni­ably bit­ter­sweet.

“I went through a griev­ing for what hap­pened to Craig per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally,” she says of her for­mer co-star Craig McLach­lan, who is ght­ing al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault. “Be­fore we stepped on set, I did a lot of imag­in­ing as to what it would be like with­out him. So, by the time we were ready to shoot, I’d worked out in my head how it would be be­cause, once we were shoot­ing, I had a job to do and I had to put emo­tions aside.”

In Jan­uary this year, the mum of two boys, Eden, 12, and Jem, nine, was in her Mel­bourne kitchen, el­bow deep pre­par­ing back-to-school lunch­boxes, when news broke that her co-star Craig McLach­lan, who played her on-screen hus­band Dr Lu­cien Blake, had been ac­cused of in­de­cent as­sault. To say she was shocked is an un­der­state­ment.

She ini­tially had thought there may have been a dras­tic mis­un­der­stand­ing about the man she’s worked along­side for the past six years, de­scrib­ing him as “ irty, fun, cheeky and a bit bawdy at times,” be­fore point­edly adding “… and he’s been that way for 30 years.”

“I thought this was a storm in a teacup that would all blow over,” Nadine says. But she was very wrong.

Hot on the heels of the in­ter­na­tional #MeToo move­ment, a me­dia restorm en­gulfed McLach­lan, who has been ac­cused of in­de­cent as­sault, sex­ual ha­rass­ment and bul­ly­ing while on the set of The Rocky Hor­ror Show in 2014. McLach­lan ve­he­mently de­nies the claims, which ran on the front page of The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald and in the ABC’s 7.30, and has since launched defama­tion pro­ceed­ings against Fair­fax Me­dia, the ABC and one of his ac­cusers, ac­tress Christie Whe­lan Browne. The case is set down for trial in Fe­bru­ary 2019.

“Whether or not his be­hav­iour is al­ways po­lit­i­cally cor­rect is not for me to say,” Garner ad­mits, “and what’s true or not true and what ac­tu­ally hap­pened be­tween him and the women who ac­cused him is not for me to say ei­ther. I have no idea and I don’t deny the women felt what they felt. But re­gard­less of Craig’s po­si­tion in this, I ve­he­mently op­pose that sort of trial by me­dia of any­one. [The me­dia’s] char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tions like that are just not fair.

“Craig is who he is and he’s been that way for a very long time. He brings a per­sona to the set which ev­ery­one en­joyed for six years. He’s an en­ter­tainer who never switches off and I think he was an easy tar­get for the me­dia.”

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion into McLach­lan’s be­hav­iour on the set of The Doc­tor Blake Mys­ter­ies cleared him of any wrong­do­ing, but the dam­age was done and the Seven Net­work, who’d res­cued the show af­ter it was axed by the ABC, can­celled a fu­ture se­ries. Garner and her col­leagues, 100 lo­cal cast and crew, were sud­denly un­em­ployed.

How­ever, the show’s pro­ducer, Ge­orge Adams, wasn’t will­ing to let the hugely pop­u­lar Doc­tor Blake go so eas­ily and be­gan ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of Garner and her muchloved sup­port­ing char­ac­ter, Jean

Blake, step­ping up to take the lead. When the Seven Net­work jumped at the chance, the pro­duc­tion team swung into ac­tion, work­ing tire­lessly writ­ing new scripts, sto­ry­lines and scenes, and in a marathon 13-day shoot, they cre­ated a tele­movie, The Blake Mys­ter­ies: Ghost Sto­ries. The Blake phoenix rose from the ashes one more time.

“I’m still pinch­ing my­self,” Nadine says. “It’s a dream re­ally be­cause it seemed like all hope was lost and the odds were stacked against us, so it’s in­cred­i­ble to see it come to life.”

It has been 33 years since Garner burst onto our screens as the love­able Ta­mara Hen­der­son in the hit 1980s se­ries, The Hen­der­son Kids. She was just 13 years old when she landed the role along­side fel­low show­biz new­com­ers Kylie Minogue and Ben Men­del­sohn. Au­di­ences in­stantly fell in love with both Nadine and the show, and in 1986, at the ripe old age of 15, she won the Lo­gie for Best Per­for­mance by a Ju­ve­nile.

“It was the most signi cant time of my life,” Garner says, re­call­ing how pri­vately she was deal­ing with the break-up of her mum and dad’s mar­riage whilst pub­licly learn­ing to cope with be­ing mobbed as she walked along the street.

“I do re­mem­ber hav­ing a bit of an iden­tity cri­sis and it was hard for my fam­ily when I was sud­denly be­ing recog­nised ev­ery­where we went. I had this pub­lic per­sona be­ing beamed out into liv­ing rooms and a cri­sis hap­pen­ing at home.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence could have scarred her for life, but in­stead she found com­fort and com­mu­nity in her cast­mates, many of whom were around the same age.

“In some ways, the cast and crew re­placed my fam­ily. Many of them be­came my role mod­els. I at­tached my­self emo­tion­ally to those peo­ple and I still have a very deep at­tach­ment to them to­day. It was a for­ma­tive time in my life and the peo­ple on set swept in and scooped me up and sup­ported me when I needed it most.”

Her love of act­ing was im­me­di­ate and she threw her­self into the craft, carv­ing a for­mi­da­ble ca­reer in shows like Pris­oner, Neigh­bours, The Fly­ing Doc­tors and Changi. Be­hind the cam­era she’s found suc­cess too. Nadine wrote and di­rected the short lm Af­ter­glow, which was nom­i­nated for an AACTA award for Best Screen­play.

Show­biz is a ckle in­dus­try though, and de­spite her suc­cess there have been long pe­ri­ods of un­em­ploy­ment and many times she’s been tempted to give it away. She’d reached that point when The Dr Blake Mys­ter­ies came along in 2013. The show was an in­stant hit, be­com­ing the ABC’s high­est rat­ing lo­cally pro­duced TV show, and aired in 130 coun­tries.

“My ca­reer has been a huge roller-coaster. For the ma­jor­ity of my work­ing life I haven’t had enough money – that’s the harsh re­al­ity of it. It’s very hard to sur­vive as an ac­tor. I get frus­trated with the myth that act­ing is a life of fame and for­tune

– it’s not. Most ac­tors, es­pe­cially in Aus­tralia, have huge amounts of down­time. There are very few peo­ple who are con­stantly em­ployed. That’s just how our in­dus­try is, we live with nan­cial in­se­cu­rity.

“Each time I’ve said to my­self, ‘right, that’s it, I’m look­ing for an­other job,’ some­thing comes along to just get me across the line. Then along came Blake, and it changed my life in many ways. I felt like it was a mes­sage that this was what I was meant to do. I love act­ing, I get so much from it and Blake has been a joy, but equally, I am cir­cum­spect – if it all falls apart to­mor­row, it isn’t the end of the world. Mother­hood changed my fo­cus com­pletely and brought a great deal of per­spec­tive to my life.”

It is not lost on Nadine that her el­dest son, Eden, is ap­proach­ing the same age she was when she landed the role of Tam Hen­der­son. Neither Eden nor Jem have shown a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in show­busi­ness, de­spite both par­ents work­ing in the in­dus­try. “Although,” she laughs, “Jem wants to be a YouTu­ber!”

Nadine’s for­mer hus­band, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Cameron Bar­nett, now lives in Los An­ge­les where he has worked with peo­ple like Shawn Mendes, Elon Musk and Ali­cia Keys. They re­main on good terms and she de­scribes him as a won­der­ful fa­ther, but she unashamedly says life as a sin­gle work­ing mum, par­tic­u­larly with Cameron based over­seas, has its chal­lenges. Dur­ing lm­ing, she’s re­quired on set long be­fore dawn most days, so a babysit­ter helps get the boys up and ready for school.

“There is no such thing as bal­ance for work­ing mums,” she in­sists. “We just lean into what­ever we are do­ing at the time. Then, when it’s over, you lean into an­other part of your life.

“My work is im­por­tant to me and I love what I do, but the chil­dren are my fo­cus. I have a very close re­la­tion­ship with the boys – they are the cen­tre of my life and the rea­son

“Then along came Blake and it changed my life.”

Above: Nadine as Jean with co-star Craig McLach­lan on the Doc­torBlake set. Right: Re­ceiv­ing her Best Ac­tress AFI award for Mull, aged 17. Be­low: Nadine and Kylie in theirHen­der­son Kids hey­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.