Miss Fisher reels ’em in
Could a Christmas special be the last we see of that feisty Miss Fisher? Essie Davis spills the beans to ANDREW FENTON
ESSIE Davis may be the star of one of the ABC’s most popular TV series – Miss
Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – but most of the 900,000 or so viewers who tune in each week know little about her.
Despite an impressive career – including winning an Olivier Award for A Streetcar
Named Desire in London, roles in feature films Girl With
a Pearl Earring and the lesser Matrix sequels along with TV shows Cloudstreet and The
Slap – Davis has remained relatively anonymous.
“I think every character I do is completely different, so people don’t know that I’m the same person (in each role),” she suggests, over coffee and chai in the salubrious surrounds of the ABC cafeteria at Melbourne’s Southbank.
“I’ve also never personally employed a publicist or splashed myself about. I do like having a private life.”
With her natural strawberry blonde hair, she could easily blend in most places. Of course, sporting Miss Fisher’s signature black bob, which she is today, as it’s difficult to grow out, is a different matter.
“The haircut is the biggest problem,” she laughs. “But most of the time I’m fairly uncoiffed and strangely unrecognised.”
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries finishes its second season tonight with Christmas special Murder Under the Mistletoe.
Miss Fisher has been one of the ABC’s most conspicuous success stories, sold to 120 territories around the world – including France, where 3.5 million viewers tune in to watch her exploits.
Despite this, ABC’s recent 2014 program launch was notable for its lack of an announcement about a third season. Davis says they’d have to be filming “right now” to get the series on air next year. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not. It depends on financing – and on how many fans write to the ABC and tell them how much they have to have it!” she says, flashing a wicked grin.
To be strictly accurate, tonight’s episode is a Christmas-in-July special, allowing writers to get away with a white Christmas in the Australian Alps.
Most of it was shot at the Montsalvat artist colony in Eltham, which doubled for a chalet thanks to a wide variety of fake snow.
“We had cloth, quilting, bubbles, flakes, we had salt and all kinds of little bits of stuff thrown over us,” Davis says.
“It was beautiful. Amazing snow machines which were very noisy so there was lots of ADR (dialogue dubbing).”
Despite a high body count the episode dials some of the vaguely risqué elements back a notch in order to screen earlier than normal: “It has a G rating so the family can watch it together,” she says.
That might even win the approval of some tuttutting Americans who have expressed their displeasure over Phryne’s thoroughly modern approach. “I just wish Miss Fisher wasn’t such a tramp,” wrote one viewer on US streaming site Netflix. “She gives it away like Halloween candy.”
Davis finds the suggestion Phryne is a woman of loose morals to be hilarious. “I think my morals are perfectly … tight!” she says, breaking off into peals of laughter, before adding the television treatment is quite demure. “Not much is actually seen on screen – it’s all in your mind. How dirty is your mind?”
This leads into an anecdote about how she got into trouble hosting Play School. Despite wearing a T shirt “up to here” she explains, pointing at a thoroughly demure and modesty preserving location, “I got males saying my cleavage was showing when I went like that,” she laughs as she leans forward to demonstrate.
Apart from her day job as a sexy super sleuth, Davis is also the mother of young twins. “It’s an incredibly hard path to carve that balance,” she says.
“(But) really if it came down to picking between them and going to work, I would pick them.”
Husband Justin Kurzel is also in the industry – the director of breakout Aussie drama Snowtown is in London prepping a highprofile movie version of
Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard.
Davis says the life of a filmmaker is even less certain than that of an actor but “when he’s on that pursuit (of filmmaking success) is when he’s most attractive to me, and as much as both of us would like a stay-athome partner to make our lives easier and the children content, we’d probably kill each other! We adore each other in flight and love being together – it’s just always a tricky balance.”
MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES: MURDER UNDER THE MISTLETOE
SUNDAY, 7.30PM, ABC1