IT FEELS RIGHT

STARS OF THE WRONG GIRL JES­SICA MARAIS AND IAN MEAD­OWS ON THE ELEC­TRIC CHEM­ISTRY THEY SHARE

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - JEMMA GALVIN

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.

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