cover story: Meet Aunty’s saucy new sleuth
HE latest heroine to hit the small screen is a lady sleuth who packs a pearl-handled pistol, cuts with her dagger-sharp wit and leaves a trail of admirers in her wake.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a new 13-part drama series, which follows the adventures of heroine Phryne Fisher, an intelligent leading-lady detective character from the novels by Australian author Kerry Greenwood.
Theatre and film favourite Essie Davis ( Cloudstreet, The Slap) plays the lead, Phryne Fisher, whose adventures unfold against the backdrop of glamorous 1920s Melbourne.
‘‘It’s an unusual murder mystery, kooky and peculiar, action-packed and amusing,’’ Davis says.
‘‘It’s not like anything I’ve seen before on television anywhere in the world.
‘‘Phryne is like a fantastic superhero with the smarts of Sherlock Holmes and the suaveness of James Bond.
‘‘She has a string of lovers and loves to flirt but she’s also extremely clever, witty and skilled – she can fly a plane, speak Russian and Mandarin, throw a dagger, scale buildings, dance the tango – she’s delightful.’’
Davis says her Phryne makeover began with an hour a day in the hair and makeup chair before she donned one of 150 custom-made costumes ahead of 14-hour day of filming.
‘‘The costumes were very authentic, the costume designer was adamant about that,’’ she says.
‘‘There’s lots of beautiful furs, silks, with a European edge – absolutely beautiful garments. And the hair and makeup is exquisite, very authentic for the ’20s.’’
While Phryne is a ‘‘bit of a minx’’, Davis says sex scenes aren’t hardcore.
‘‘Every man I had in my arms was beautiful. The sex scenes were vivid and romantic and sometimes acrobatic, depending on the lover,’’ she says.
Novelist Greenwood, who was on the casting panel, was moved to tears when Davis auditioned for the role.
‘‘I guess I have a great dexterity with language from my work in Shakespeare productions and classic writings. Phryne is adept at language too,’’ she says.
‘‘It was very humbling to receive her (Greenwood’s) blessing.’’
The cast includes the vivacious theatre great Miriam Margolyes, famed for her role as Professor Pomona Sprout in the Harry Potter films.
‘‘Miriam is one of the most delightful women I have ever met,’’ Davis says.
‘‘She’s hilarious and down to earth, a fantastic actress.’’
Davis hopes the show will appeal to a a wide demographic.
‘‘It holds something more than the title suggests and is very modern, so younger viewers would find it interesting too,’’ she says.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries:
Fridays, 8.30pm, ABC1.
She’s as smart as Sherlock Holmes and as suave as James Bond, writes
Kate Hickson Essie Davis.