Con­fronting role a real eye-opener for Ashleigh

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY -

EENAGE ac­tor Ashleigh Cum­mings says be­ing cast in a lead role in the com­ing-ofage se­ries Pu­berty Blues has made her more sex­u­ally aware.

Cum­mings says she started read­ing the novel, writ­ten by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey in 1979 about two 13-year-olds grow­ing up in Cronulla, when she found out last year she would be au­di­tion­ing for the role of young teenager Deb­bie Vick­ers.

The 19-year-old says she was star­tled by what she dis­cov­ered inside the cov­ers of Pu­berty Blues.

‘‘On the sur­face I was a bit shocked by the con­fronting na­ture of it and how young the girls were,’’ Cum­mings says. It was, she says, ‘‘quite sur­real’’. ‘‘In terms of the sex­ual na­ture of it, I wasn’t aware of a lot of that and I’ve learnt so much (do­ing this movie).’’

The pre­miere, eight-part Net­work Ten se­ries fo­cuses on Vick­ers and best friend Sue Knight (played by Brenna Hard­ing), their sex­ual awak­en­ing and am­bi­tions to be with the in-crowd. It is be­ing called a fleshed-out adaptation of the novel, made into a film by di­rec­tor Bruce Beres­ford in 1981.

Cum­mings says the se­ries re­mains true to the book. con­text and ev­ery­thing, the cus­toms and life­styles of the ’70s.’’

Cum­mings took some surf­ing lessons to pre­pare for the role.

‘‘We had a few surf­ing ses­sions but the na­ture of our surf­ing abil­i­ties (in the se­ries) was sup­posed to be lim­ited any­way,’’ she says. ‘‘But I am pas­sion­ate about it now and I want to give it a good hot shot.’’

The hot, sunny days por­trayed on screen are in sharp con­trast to the re­al­i­ties of film­ing. The se­ries was shot over au­tumn and win­ter, and Cum­mings and Hard­ing had to steel them­selves for the cold wa­ter and windswept shores of Cronulla beach.

‘‘It was quite a chilly at times, but they were re­ally good, giv­ing us hot wa­ter bot­tles and heat packs and jack­ets’’ Cum­mings says. Cum­mings will head over­seas for three weeks to work as a vol­un­teer in South-East Asia be­fore re­turn­ing to Mel­bourne, where she will reprise her role of Dot in the sec­ond sea­son of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mys­ter­ies for the ABC. Brenna Hard­ing (left), as Sue, and Ashleigh Cum­mings, as Deb­bie, in Ten’s new se­ries

Filmed in Suther­land Shire, where the book is based, there is no hold­ing back ei­ther: nu­dity, drug ref­er­ences and sex­ual themes punc­tu­ate the se­ries.

‘‘The essence of the book and the story is still very much present,’’ Cum­mings says.

‘‘It was not an adaptation of the book. The story lines have been fleshed out and ex­plor­ing the parental roles of that gen­er­a­tion and it’s in­trigu­ing.

‘‘There is so much stuff in terms of the so­cial

Wed­nes­days, 8.30pm, Ten, Ten SC.

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