The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - SEANNA CRONIN Pine Gap con­tin­ues on Sun­day at 8.30pm on ABC-TV

Anew Aussie drama imag­ines the spy games that are likely tak­ing place in the out­back. Pine Gap, the ABC’s first lo­cal co-pro­duc­tion with global stream­ing gi­ant Net­flix, is named af­ter and set in the in­tensely se­cre­tive world of the US/Aus­tralia joint de­fence fa­cil­ity in Cen­tral Aus­tralia.

Lo­cated 18km out­side of Alice Springs, Pine Gap is one of three mas­sive satel­lite sur­veil­lance bases which al­lows the NSA and CIA to mon­i­tor and col­lect in­tel­li­gence from Asia, east­ern Europe and the Mid­dle East.

“It’s a mas­sive sec­tion of the world we have our elec­tronic ten­ta­cles in,” ac­tor Jac­que­line McKen­zie says.

“Thank God in a way, be­cause it’s able to tune in to ter­ror­ism plans and plot­tings, or whether there’s a pro­lif­er­a­tion of nukes any­where. I felt a bit more con­fi­dent know­ing that we had an ear to what was go­ing on in the rest of the world.

“The tricky bal­ance is to make sure it’s very much a joint fa­cil­ity and the power bal­ance is equal.

“That’s where a lot of the drama lies for us – the power strug­gle between the Amer­i­can side of things and the Aus­tralian side of things.

“Then there’s the in­ter­per­sonal side of things … there’s the chance for ro­mance and in­trigue and test­ing of loy­al­ties. It’s a fab­u­lous hot­bed for drama which is com­pletely unique.”

McKen­zie plays nonon­sense Deputy Chief Kath Sin­clair, who works closely with her Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, Chief of Fa­cil­ity Ethan James (Steve Tous­saint).

“If you want a head of a fa­cil­ity, you want some­one tough,” she says.

“You want some­one who can stand up to the plate for Aus­tralia’s sake to be heard.

“What a great role for a woman. They could have eas­ily put a male in that head role. I said thank you to (the cre­ators) Greg (Had­drick) and Felic­ity (Packard) for writ­ing me a ball-breaker.

“Her job means ev­ery­thing to her and I would like some­one who’s de­fend­ing my coun­try to be like that.”

Kath and Ethan face a tough task when a leak is dis­cov­ered and the only way the in­for­ma­tion could have got out was a mole within their ranks.

“There’s joint in­for­ma­tion of course, but the Aussies and the Amer­i­cans are also run­ning their own races,” McKen­zie says.

“They have meet­ings ev­ery day about what they’re go­ing to be track­ing. Some­times the Aussies want to track things they don’t want to talk about and they don’t have to di­vulge, and the Amer­i­cans do the same thing. You have to trust, and in our series that trust comes un­der tremen­dous threat.”

With ac­cess to the real Pine Gap off lim­its, the fa­cil­ity’s hi-tech con­trol room was recre­ated on a sound stage in Ade­laide and the nearby de­com­mis­sioned Holden plant served as the ex­te­rior. Other scenes were also filmed on lo­ca­tion in Alice Springs.

“The old Holden fac­tory looked sur­pris­ingly sim­i­lar,” she says.

“Govern­ment of­fi­cials aren’t sup­posed to have any for­mal com­ment on the fa­cil­ity, but we got the in­side edge from David Rosen­berg, who wrote the book In­side Pine Gap.

“He was able to tell us if what we were do­ing looked and sounded authentic.”

Jac­que­line McKen­zie stars in grip­ping new ABC TV drama Pine Gap.

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