Deb’s crime time

She’s all sun­shine in real life, but Deb Mail­man has tapped into a stee­l­ier side for Nine’s po­lice drama BiteClub, writes, HOLLY BYRNES

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

FOR one of Aus­tralia’s most dec­o­rated ac­tors, Deb Mail­man sits un­easily in front of a stills cam­era.

Prompted to de­liver her sex­i­est “Blue Steel” glare, the 46-year-old dis­solves into a gir­lie fit of gig­gles – ig­nit­ing the room with the warmth of that smile which has bright­ened our screens, big and small, for more than two decades now.

It’s a rainy day in Syd­ney when we meet, but Mail­man is pure sun­shine.

Poised like a Greek god­dess for TV Guide’s cover, be­fore kick­ing off her high heels for more shots and a “nat­ter,” she is the bright­est part of this gloomy af­ter­noon.

Fans of the Off­spring and Red­fern Now star know she can flick the switch from light to dark, from one show to the next, but she is shades of both in her lat­est role – as the head of homi­cide in Nine’s new po­lice drama series Bite Club.

The Lo­gie-win­ning ac­tor ad­mits even she was sur­prised to be of­fered the job as “boss lady” in the six­part se­rial killer thriller – her first time in the crime genre.

“My guilty plea­sure is Law & Or­der: SVU, so all I kept think­ing about was, ‘What would Olivia do?’ she says, with a laugh, ref­er­enc­ing the US show’s lead char­ac­ter, played for 19 sea­sons by Mariska Har­gi­tay.

“Her and Stabler (Ben­son’s for­mer polic­ing part­ner) are the coolest team, the coolest team,” she en­thuses. “So to be given the op­por­tu­nity to play in this genre I love so much was just so ex­cit­ing for me. Then to be given the role of boss lady … like, hello? Of course I’m go­ing to do that!”

That “boss lady” is De­tec­tive Su­per­in­ten­dent Anna Mor­ton, who wields her power with a firm hand, al­beit in a vel­vet glove.

Ad­ding in­ter­est for Mail­man is the fact her char­ac­ter risks alien­at­ing some of the au­di­ence and her po­si­tion by hav­ing an af­fair with a subor­di­nate (played by Un­der­belly heavy­weight Robert Mam­mone).

It’s a moral twist the ac­tor con­tin­ues to wres­tle with, she says. “Anna’s com­part­men­talised this re­la­tion­ship in her life and I think that’s how she is as a per­son, how she works. In her mind, I know she knows what she’s do­ing is wrong, but the re­al­ity of what she’s do­ing is right in front of her,” Mail­man says.

The show’s co-cre­ators and writ­ing duo Sarah Smith and John Ri­d­ley wrote the “moral am­bi­gu­ity” of Mail­man’s char­ac­ter be­fore she was cast, but ad­mit they were “de­lighted” by her abil­ity to balance the role’s du­al­ity.

“She has to be quite hard be­cause of what she’s do­ing, and also be­ing in con­trol of all these peo­ple,” Ri­d­ley says. “But to have that hu­man­ity … Deb has that in spades.”

Smith adds: “You get that warmth but she’s got a stee­li­ness to her that I was sur­prised by … she played the boss re­ally well.”

In other un­ex­pected choices by the Play­maker pro­duc­tion, the show stars Do­minic Mon­aghan ( Lord of the Rings) as the se­rial killer hid­ing in plain sight. Giv­ing dou­ble-mean­ing to the ti­tle, Mon­aghan is po­lice dog han­dler Stephen Lan­g­ley, a men­ac­ing vil­lain who col­lects the teeth of his vic­tims.

Mail­man says she leaned on the ex­pe­ri­ence of her co-star Mam­mone, who is sea­soned in crime drama – fa­mously play­ing Mel­bourne gang­ster Tony Mok­bel in Nine’s Fat Tony & Co.

“He knows the world so well in re­gards to this genre and I re­ally loved watch­ing how he works,” she says. “He sort of an­chors ev­ery scene with his ex­per­tise and un­der­stand­ing of it … he’s just bril­liant.”

Role re­ver­sal: Deb Mail­man has turned her hand to po­lice drama with the se­rial killer thriller BiteClub.

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