Feisty woman from Snowy River

Marlborough Express - - ENTERTAINMENT -

down­side for me at that time. [It’s] very dif­fer­ent from the United States, the op­po­site tra­jec­tory al­most.’’

A few fac­tors were at play – bud­gets cer­tainly con­tracted, but shows set in that era sim­ply went out of fash­ion. ‘‘It was an­other kind of cringe. Only more re­cently have we started to ma­ture and re­alise that there’s room for all of it – his­tor­i­cal, fu­tur­is­tic, sci­encefic­tion, con­tem­po­rary. All of it. And that’s what’s so ex­cit­ing. The strong­est story can be set in any pe­riod.’’

Which brings us to Thorn­ton’s cur­rent mis­sion: cham­pi­oning writers. The shift away from film to tele­vi­sion in re­cent years was in large part the re­sult of writers mov­ing away from the big screen. ‘‘Be­cause the writ­ing is where it all starts, the writ­ing is the fun­da­men­tal key to ev­ery­thing. If the writ­ing is great, ev­ery­thing else flows from that.’’

Fresh back from a plan­ning day in Syd­ney for Scripted Ink, a board she re­cently joined, she’s ex­cited about the work ahead. Founded by Aus­tralian writer/pro­ducer Shane Bren­nan, best known for his work on the NCIS fran­chise, the not-for­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion was set up to help scriptwrit­ers. Part of that is en­sur­ing writers get a big­ger slice of the fi­nan­cial pie but it’s more about po­si­tion­ing them as the foun­da­tion of cre­ative work.

It was fab­u­lous writ­ing that at­tracted her to the ground­break­ing SeaChange. Af­ter some time ‘‘in the wilder­ness’’, Thorn­ton rein­vented her­self in the late 1990s in the lead role of Laura Gib­son; au­di­ences fell in love with her neu­rotic, big-hearted city lawyer turned small-town judge. She was com­plex and messed up and hon­est about life be­ing a strug­gle.

‘‘We found her at the thresh­old of some­thing and we were able to ex­plore this new world through her eyes and get a bet­ter look at it be­cause she was a stranger.

‘‘I can’t think of very many things about SeaChange that weren’t com­pletely joy­ful for me. Fun­da­men­tally, it was be­cause the writ­ing was so rich but also An­drew [Knight] and Deb [Cox] cre­ated some­thing very un­usual at the time – the fact of it be­ing com­edy/drama, that was very new in Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion.’’

The show was pi­o­neer­ing in part be­cause it re­flected re­al­ity, es­pe­cially the peo­ple who don’t fit stereo­types. ‘‘The alchemy of the cast was ex­tra­or­di­nary. There was some­thing about that group of peo­ple com­ing to­gether with that ma­te­rial at that point in time that was very spe­cial,’’ Thorn­ton says.

‘‘It showed you peo­ple that you knew... and there are lots of peo­ple out there like that. Even though those peo­ple were quirky and stranger than truth, they were peo­ple we could un­der­stand and re­late to and em­pathise with.

‘‘They weren’t tacked on, they were gen­uinely em­bed­ded in that com­mu­nity. The beau­ti­ful thing the show was about was com­mu­nity in­ter­ac­tion.’’ – Fair­fax

re­turns 8.35pm, Mon­day, TVNZ2.

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