Feel­ing at Home

Marta Dus­sel­dorp is com­fort­able bal­anc­ing melo­drama with se­ri­ous so­cial is­sues on A Place to Call Home. By CLARE RIGDEN

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - News -

MARTA Dus­sel­dorp is a real ac­tor’s ac­tor. She should, by ex­ten­sion, be more at home play­ing se­ri­ous roles such as the ti­tle char­ac­ter in Janet King, than suited and booted in ’50s garb, act­ing out the melo­dra­matic plot lines of A Place to Call Home.

And yet, she’s equally happy in both worlds.

“I was sur­prised to be cast ini­tially [in A Place to Call Home],” she ad­mits. “Be­cause I’m not re­ally ‘com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion’ in that I’m not re­ally the com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion ‘type’. But I’ve been thrilled to have got­ten the chance to play such a com­pli­cated char­ac­ter.”

The show has been on air for five sea­sons, thrown a life­line by Fox­tel in 2014 af­ter it was pre­ma­turely axed – to great up­roar – by Seven.

It’s since gone from strength to strength. And yet, crit­ics have taken much longer to em­brace it than the show’s le­gions of fans both here and over­seas (the show screens in 140 coun­tries).

Need­less to say, this year’s Lo­gie for Most Out­stand­ing Drama – a peer-voted cat­e­gory – was es­pe­cially sweet for cast and crew.

“It was nice,” Dus­sel­dorp says. “But for me, the best recog­ni­tion was in recog­nis­ing [writer and cre­ator] Be­van Lee.”

Lee, a vet­eran of the in­dus­try, has his hand­print on ev­ery as­pect of the show, and last sea­son wrote all but two episodes.

“I think it’s quite un­usual for some­one to write an en­tire sea­son,” Dus­sel­dorp says. “[Af­ter the Lo­gies win], I sent Be­van a mes­sage say­ing: ‘ This is yours. This is for what you do. This is for how you light up the Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion scene – and have done for 30 or 40 years’.”

This sea­son picks up in 1958 – four years from where they last left things. “Sarah has got a four-year-old son, and she has moved onto the prop­erty at Ash Park, though she’s not in the house yet,” Dus­sel­dorp says.

“Her and Ge­orge are not mar­ried – she’s still a fairly in­de­pen­dent woman, and she’s still work­ing.

“I think she’s in a good place, ac­tu­ally.” Surely, this can’t last long. “Yes, Be­van Lee – he doesn’t let you stay there for too long,” Dus­sel­dorp laughs.

“There is no way he’s go­ing to leave Sarah happy.”

The show is un­de­ni­ably soapish at times but it has also never shied away from tack­ling se­ri­ous so­cial is­sues.

And this sea­son is no ex­cep­tion. Not only does the gay sto­ry­line – in­volv­ing Henry (Tim Draxl) and James (David Berry) – con­tinue to play out, but this time the sub­ject of men­tal ill­ness is also ad­dressed, via the show’s res­i­dent vixen Regina (Jenni Baird), last seen lan­guish­ing in a locked ward of an asy­lum.

“We look at men­tal ill­ness, with the Regina sto­ry­line,” Dus­sel­dorp says. “Which is another taboo sub­ject.

“These things are be­com­ing more talked about but Be­van, he pushes re­ally hard, down into the melo­drama, to make it a re­ally gritty so­cial com­men­tary as well.

“I re­ally think he’s a ge­nius when it comes to spin­ning a tale out­side of the nor­mal thrills and spills.”

It’s com­pli­cated: Marta Dus­sel­dorp ex­pects her char­ac­ter Sarah won’t stay happy for long on APlace­toCal­lHome.

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