THE LAST WORD... ‘ I’d be careful looking at this as a complete history’ version of our early
WITH RYAN CORR, PRIVATE MACDONALD IN BANISHED
“THE series sort of explains itself when it comes to what Jimmy [ Banished coproducer Jimmy McGovern, who has been criticised in some circles for the absence of indigenous cast members in the series about the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney] wanted to do with it. It’s 1788 in the penal colony of Australia and he used that as a platform to tell pretty emotional, often epic stories in a very personal way. And I think it succeeded in that way. It’s not pretending to be a docu-drama or a tale of modern history at all. I’d be careful looking at this as a complete version of our early history. I know one of the things people were critical about, which I spoke to Jimmy about initially, was the lack of having natives [indigenous Australians]. Obviously Jimmy is a huge advocate for indigenous rights, having done Redfern Now and everything, but he said if he wants to tell that story he wants to tell it properly and give it the attention and the truth that it deserves.
You can’t do that in seven, one-hour episodes when it’s contained in these two weeks and you’ve got all these other characters to serve. It’s a character-driven piece, like all the great series on at the moment. I mean, I took three attempts at Game of Thrones before I worked out which person was from which world; and in a similar way, if you jump on board with [ Banished], get involved with the characters and start caring about them, then it has a life of its own.
I’ve only seen a few episodes for [postproduction] and will see it out here like everyone else, but all in all, I think it works well. In the UK it came second in its timeslot when it was released and remained very high in the ratings. My character’s [Private MacDonald] relationship with Joanna Vanderham [as Kitty McVitie] is a tale as old as time … that love triangle with Joseph Millson as Major Ross [who commands his military junior to share his lover]. Joanna was a saint, just really lovely and a vibrant young woman. These guys [UK cast] came down and were in Sydney for the first time.
When you all get chucked in together and they say, ‘Let’s just do this for five months’ you form relationships really quickly and well. MacDonald really doesn’t get a break in this series and his love for her is his own undoing. He feels like he’s butting his head against a brick wall and is this interesting exploration with Major Ross … does he manipulate her? Does he not? The idea that women were commodities and owned by soldiers, which absolutely would have taken place, is a fascinating look at the politics of the day and how the law was changing in this new place.” BANISHED THURSDAY, 8.30PM, BBC FIRST