IT FEELS RIGHT
STARS OF THE WRONG GIRL JESSICA MARAIS AND IAN MEADOWS ON THE ELECTRIC CHEMISTRY THEY SHARE
Actor Ian Meadows nibbles on a piece of vegemite toast as he explains how he came to be cast as Pete Barnett, a barista with slightly more creative aspirations, in the new TEN drama series The Wrong Girl.
“I read the first two scripts and laughed a lot, out loud, which rarely happens,” he says, still looking somewhat shocked months after the fact.
“They were talking about who’d play Pete and they had a list of about 20 people ... I never thought that I’d actually be in it. Then an audition came up and I joined the cast just after.”
“He nailed his audition,” Meadows’ co-star, the goldLogie-nominated Jessica Marais chimes in. “He was just the perfect Pete, right away.”
The Wrong Girl is based on the best-selling book of the same name written by modernday Wonder Woman Zoe Foster-Blake. It follows the trials and tribulations of 29year-old Lily Woodward, a hotshot breakfast TV producer, as she navigates through the debris that scatters when love, life, work, family and friends spectacularly collide.
“I’d done the Hamish and Andy Show a couple of times before and I’d long admired [Zoe] for her columns, her flair, her intelligence and her humour,” Marais says.
“I was a fan of the book. It had circulated among my friends, girls in particular who were young single mums, or single girlfriends of mine who hadn’t yet settled down. It was one of those books that was kind of a surprise. I started reading it thinking I wouldn’t be that invested in it and that it would just be a fun read. At the end I thought, this is more than just a lighthearted, romantic comedy novel. It’s got a lot of heart and soul to it.”
But that’s not to say there’s not a generous helping of belly-laughs on offer too, with Zoe’s real life husband, funnyman Hamish Blake, starring as the pun-tastic weatherman Hamilton.
“Him and Ryan Shelton were kind of given free reign,” Meadows says. “The rest of us were squeezed in – we’d have to get it in two takes so they could spend three hours with those guys just riffing, and improv-ing and coming up with funny things. Hamish had a lot of great metaphors and double entendres.
“I think he steals all his material of Zoe to be honest!” Meadows adds, describing the mum and author’s humour as naturally hilarious.
Blake and Shelton weren’t the only ones flexing their freestyle chops on set though.
“Jess got the green light pretty early on from writers who are pretty tough about sticking to the script that she could go off and do her own flairs and improvise bits and pieces,” Meadows says.
Having portrayed characters as disparate as a 1970s obstetrician in Love Child (for which she won the Logie for Best Actress this year) and
the eponymous transgender entertainer in Carlotta, it comes as no real surprise that the writers entrusted her with their precious material.
“I think I’ve put more of myself into Lily than I have for a lot of other roles,” Marais says. “A lot of other roles have been quite different to me … So, if people don’t like Lily they might not like me very much either!
“It was typical though. They wanted me to play Lily and I wanted to play Lily, but as I read the book and started being more involved in the process, I wanted to play all the other characters. I was like, I want to be Sasha! No, I want to be Nikki! But I really want to be Simone! And they were like, no, you’re Lily. You’ve said yes to Lily, you’re going to be Lily,” Marais giggles.
“I would watch a show where you played all the characters,” Meadows chirps. “Yeah, Nutty Professor- style!”
It’s clear that Meadows and Marais have a natural ease about them, laughing at each other’s jokes and quick to praise the other’s strengths, but they say the recent media attention claiming they’ve got “electric off-camera chemistry” is ridiculous.
“There was one great (photographer) who’d taken a (tabloid) photo of us in an actual scene together,” Meadows says with a disbelieving chuckle.
I’VE PUT MORE OF MYSELF INTO LILY THAN I HAVE FOR A LOT OF OTHER ROLES ... IF PEOPLE DON’T LIKE LILY THEY MIGHT NOT LIKE ME!
“We bounce off each other and work together really well,” Marais says. “I think that’s a positive thing. It doesn’t mean ... I mean, I’ve also been dating Matt Le Nevez, apparently. So I’m very busy!”
It’s all water of a duck’s back for Marais, who’s dealt with more than her fair share of tabloid stories that have attempted to probe her personal life after the break up of her relationship with former
Packed to the Rafters co-star and father to her four-year-old daughter Scout, James Stewart.
“Life throws you curveballs, consistently. You can think you’re headed in one direction then a curveball comes and you have to roll with the punches,” Marais says. “Essentially, that’s life, and it’s messy.”
The Wrong Girl, Wednesdays, TEN
Jessica Marais and Ian Meadows say they bounce off each other on set.
Meadows, Marais and Rob Collins form something of a tricky love triangle on the show.