WHO
7th February 1994

Garry and Kate McDonald team up as a father-daughter act in Mother and Son

Life and sitcom fuse in the new series of Mother and Son. Or should that be Father and Daughter? Adding a filial twist to the ongoing feud between Ruth Cracknell’s Maggie Beare and Garry McDonald’s sidekick son Arthur, the first episode of the new season (ABC, Feb. 7) features McDonald’s real-life daughter, Kate, in a brief appearance as a dark-tressed goth who becomes the unwitting custodian of a wandering Maggie.

Indeed, it’s hard getting away from the McDonalds these days, and Kate-who had cameos last year in E Street and G.P. and is now studying drama at Sydney’s Ensemble Theatre-knows this better than anyone. Back at her family’s rambling Art Deco house in Sydney’s east after a break in Queensland , the spirited l9-year-old is in the throws of flying the coop herself: She is looking for a place to rent with boyfriend Luke Ridley, 20. And professionally, she’s just as restless. “I don’t want to be in anyone’s shadow,” she says, lounging in the family sunroom, clad in a crocheted bikini top and sarong. “I’d like to be out there.”

Despite her yearning for independence, there are some things Kate won’t be able to leave behind. Like her pedigree. Besides father Garry (who is in rehearsal with Cracknell for the Melbourne Theatre Company production of Hotspur), there’s actress mum Diane Craig-last seen in E Street and about to appear in Three Hotels at the Ensemble-and brother David, 22,who’s helping with props on the Seven Network’s top-secret new Andrew Denton show. “She’s a natural,” Ruth Cracknell says of the family’s latest showbiz recruit. o’Cenes are genes are genes are genes.” “She has her mother’s voice quality and, of course, her looks,” says Mother a1ld Son director Geoff Portman. “Sometimes on- camera, there’s a very young Liz Taylor looking at you.”

Not even Kate’s voluptuous Cat on a Hot Tin Roof looks have managed to assuage the inevitable whisperings of industry nepotism at work. “You just learn to deal with it,” she says. While her parents have helped with the odd audition piece, “that doesn’t mean you get work because of them,” she insists, “but you are a little more known.” Says Portmann: “W’e auditioned Kate just as we would anyone else.’We thought she had the ability to fit in there and do it, and at the end of the day that’s what mattered.”

Anyway, being the daughter of the Little Aussie Bleeder had its drawbacks for Kate. “Kids like to pick on you for anything that they find,” she says. “If you have well-known parents they think you’re fair game.” Undeterred, Kate went to the McDonald College of Performing Arts at 15, showing off her dramatic prowess in school productions. Together with family friend Katie Little, daughter of cabaret queen Jeanne, ‘they used to stand out,” says Garry. It paid off when she was cast as “a young bossy boots” in the 1988 children’s series Touch the Sun.

Father Garry worries about his daughter’s fickle career path. “I always feel anxious-that’s one of my problems,” says McDonald, who pulled out of The Norman Gunston, Show last March after suffering a nervous breakdown. Still, “she’s very tough, very assertive. She can’t be hoodwinked.” Garry’s breakdown also gave Kate cause for contemplation. “It’s given me a warning because my personality is very similar to my father’s,” she says. “l’m a perfectionist. So if any slight signs start to show, [I’11] just relax and take.” things a little more easy.” In the meantime, she ekes out a living by nannying Home and Away stars Debra Lawrance and Dennis Coard’s 1-year-old baby, Grace. But then Kate has always managed to survive on relatively little. In restaurants as a child, recalls brother David, she dined on “water and corkage” to save money. “She was a parsimonious child,” quips Garry. “Now she’s dieting and doing it again. I guess there’s something to be said about the Scottish name.” Still, this one goes a long way.

By Michael Fitzgerald and Marianne Bilkey

Original content copyright Who.