Div­ing into lake­side mys­tery

Os­car win­ners Jane Cam­pion and Holly Hunter re­unite for a tele­vi­sion mys­tery, writes Toni Ma­son

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION - Top of the Lake: Sun­days, 7.30pm, UKTV.

SIGN­ING on for a lead­ing role in the tele­vi­sion minis­eries Top of the Lake was a no-brainer for Holly Hunter – not the least be­cause it would re­unite her with her fel­low Os­car-win­ner for The Pi­ano, Jane Cam­pion.

‘‘Just the fact that it’s Jane puts it in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory, with­out even read­ing it,’’ says Hunter.

Hunter has ap­peared on tele­vi­sion – in­clud­ing three sea­sons of the TV show Sav­ing Grace (2007-2010) – but she’s best known for her work on film.

It didn’t take long for Hunter to take the role of the enig­matic GJ in Top of the Lake. The pair have been life­long friends since they worked on The Pi­ano in 1993.

‘‘Ini­tially I was hes­i­tant and I didn’t un­der­stand why she would think of me for it . . . she was just in­cred­i­bly per­sua­sive, as Jane is.’’

Both projects were filmed in New Zealand. Hunter says the dif­fer­ence be­tween the North Is­land, the set­ting for The Pi­ano and the South Is­land, set­ting for the TV se­ries, was marked. How­ever, the re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment Cam­pion cre­ated for her ac­tors was the same.

‘‘She loves to work, there’s no other place she would rather be and you know that when you’re work­ing with her,’’ Hunter says.

Filmed against a stun­ning back­drop of a large lake with soar­ing moun­tains all around, the seven-part se­ries deals with a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion that’s launched when 12-year-old Tui Mitcham (Jac­que­line Joe) is dis­cov­ered to be preg­nant and then dis­ap­pears.

Tui is the daugh­ter of lo­cal crime lord Matt Mitcham (Peter Mul­lan) who ap­pears to have many chil­dren to var­i­ous women and who runs a walled en­camp­ment, helped by his adult sons.

The se­ries has a stel­lar cast, in­clud­ing Mad Men’s Elis­a­beth Moss as big-city de­tec­tive Robin Grif­fin re­turn­ing to her home town to visit her ill mother (Robyn Nevin).

While there Robin works on Tui’s case with lo­cal cop Al Parker (David Wen­ham) who re­sents her involvement.

Hunter is drawn to Cam­pion’s work by the rev­e­la­tions it con­tains about the characters – both male and fe­male.

‘‘In Jane’s movies there are no vil­lains, even though you do have peo­ple who do things that are ex­treme or evil . . . she is a film­maker who in a way stands in no judg­ment of the peo­ple she brings to the screen.’’

Di­rectly in con­flict with the crime lord is the ‘‘women’s camp’’, set up on the shores of the lake and run by Hunter’s char­ac­ter GJ – who ap­pears to be of­fer­ing a group of wounded women a place to re­cover.

‘‘You can tell from the be­gin­ning this is not a char­ac­ter who is go­ing to have easy ex­pla­na­tions for how she is, (or) why she is how she is,’’ Hunter says.

And she says she thor­oughly en­joyed work­ing with the var­ied group Cam­pion as­sem­bled for her to lead, which in­cludes Aus­tralian Genevieve Lemon, who has pre­vi­ously worked with Cam­pion on The Pi­ano and her 1989 fea­ture de­but Sweetie.

‘‘This group I worked with at the women’s camp were a stun­ning group of ac­tresses,’’ Hunter says.

‘‘We had a ball. It was like go­ing to play in­stead of go­ing to work.’’

Hunter says the success of the en­sem­ble and of the se­ries over­all will be due to Cam­pion’s un­bi­ased at­ti­tude when pick­ing the right per­son for each role.

‘‘She’s got a really gen­er­ous eye with ac­tors,’’ she says. ‘‘She will see any­body. She will have any­one au­di­tion if they really feel that they’re right for the part, even if she thinks that they’re not.’’

Top of the Lakes stars Elis­a­beth Moss and Holly Hunter

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