SPIES LIKE US
Aussie fave Jacqueline McKenzie tells us what she can about the stealthy goings-on at our top-secret outback cloakand-dagger facility that’s at the heart of her new drama
Jacqueline McKenzie is envious. the Aussie actress is jealous that
TV SOAP has already seen the first two eps of her new show Pine Gap. And she should be. Pine
Gap looks for all the world like a fantastic spy thriller, full of action, international intrigue, romance and betrayal, inspired by life in one of the most important spy bases on Earth. In the first episode a civilian plane is shot down by terrorists near an APEc summit featuring the US President and the Australian PM. the international staff at Pine Gap – co-led by Kath Sinclair (Jacqueline McKenzie) – must find out who did it… and why.
Jacqueline, who won a Silver Logie this year for Most outstanding Supporting Actress for Romper Stomper, reveals what she can about the six-part joint ABc/Netflix production.
Tell us about your character, Kath.
She’s the head of the Australian side of the joint facility at Pine Gap. She’s tough and intelligent and ball-breaking. She can go head to head with the toughest in the room and win. She’s a force to be reckoned with and loves her work. She’s not terribly lucky in love at the moment, but that’s not her focus.
What did you discover about the real-life Pine Gap in your prep for the role? What exactly do they do out there?
I couldn’t believe the breadth of what they can do there: it’s internet and telephone communications all over Asia and china, the Middle East and Eastern Europe and all the territory around it. My God, it’s phenomenal. they can figure out if a missile has been launched in any of those areas and can listen into phone calls in any of those areas. It’s a massive endeavour. It’s one of the most important spy bases outside of America. they can follow you all the way back from Alice Springs.
Some of the people who work at your fictional Pine Gap are pretty young. Would it be daunting being that young and supplying information that could lead to a drone strike?
I think no matter what the profession, sometimes the younger you are the more fearless you are because you don’t understand the full consequences...
Pine Gap’s been an object of mystery in Australia for some time.
It sure has. Back in the 1970s and 1980s people used to protest out there, saying it was a spy base and saying that we’re just puppets for the Americans and it should be shut down, and it endangers us by having a facility there that serves the Americans and probably doesn’t serve us. But in our story and in our research… it importantly serves us as well; it is a joint facility. I guess in the old days they weren’t being honest about what was going on there.
I guess because it’s a joint facility it provides good opportunity for drama: that both the Australian and the US sides might have their own different agendas.
that’s right – and they do! I think each morning they have a meeting where they say, “oK, what are we listening into and what are we watching today?” Australian operatives might have their choices of what they want and that might fly in the face of what the Americans want to look at that day, and they’ve got to work it out together. Not everything is shared, I believe.
It’d be tough dating someone if your partner had to be vetted by ASIO!
I think it’d be just easier to date someone in the stable, to be honest… not having to pretend that you don’t work there, not having to pretend you’re a florist or something! How do you meet people when you’ve got to operate like that?
It’s exciting that Pine Gap is a joint ABC/Netflix production. It’s a golden era for TV at the moment.
It’s very exciting in Australia to have these huge giants of world streaming like Netflix and Hulu and Amazon working with local actors, and local stories being told. It’s really exciting for us. tvs Pine Gap debuts with a double episode airing on the ABC on October 16, with all episodes then available on ABC iview