TV Week: “Black & Blue Heeler” Blue Heelers & Fire 13th January 1996

13th January 1996

The physical demands of Lisa’s job are turning her into a … Black & Blue Heeler … and Fire newcomer Totti is also feeling the heat!

TV ACTION women Lisa McCune, of Blue Heelers, and Totti Goldsmith, of Fire, are used to getting battered and bruised in the course of their jobs.

“| had bruises all over my hips after shoot- ing on Blue Heelers one day recently,” says Lisa, who plays Constable Maggie Doyle.

She is referring to the dramatic two-part episode that starts the year when the show returns in February.

“| also missed the mat at one point and whacked my head really hard,” Lisa adds. “| wanted to cry! But | couldn’t, because we were running behind schedule.”

Fire — the second series of which is currently shooting but is yet to be scheduled — is renowned for difficult, physically demanding shoots, even more so than Blue Heelers.

“The heat is extraordinary,” says Totti, who plays new character Tex in the Seven Network series.

“We were doing some fire scenes recently and it was so hot inside that | singed the ends of my eyelashes!

“We put gel on our skin to stop getting burnt, but if you miss any tiny place, it gets you. It was unbelievable.

“| was being chased by a wall of fire that was pulled by cables. Every time | turned around to see where the fire was, | felt the mascara melting on the ends of my eyelashes. It was frightening, but it was also very exciting!”

Totti says that, like Lisa, she sometimes feels like crying on the set. “There’s one set we use where the temperature gets up to 50 degrees,” she says. “We have a nurse on hand who feeds us Staminade every time we turn around. “It’s so stinking hot in there — | can’t begin to tell you. You do get used to it, but then you have days where you’re doing a fire scene and you have to wear your turn-out gear, which includes a woollen jacket, and you feel like collapsing and saying, ‘What am | doing here?”

Both Lisa, 24, and Totti, 33, are required to appear convincing in physical scenes and to do many of their own stunts. While Totti keeps fit and works out at the gym whenever she can, Lisa admits she’s not a big one for exercise, and so finds action scenes more difficult.

“ve decided I’ll have to get fit for this year,” Lisa says. “I’ll have to get some sort of exercise regime happening. We’re never short of a bit of action on Blue Heelers.”

Totti pumped up her usual fitness routine before she started on Fire in November last year. For three months, she jogged 3km to the gym every day, then did a 40-minute class followed by 10 minutes on a Stairmaster.

Being in top physical condition helped her get through the rigorous training sessions with professional firefighters in Queensland that all the cast are require to do.

“The hoses are very heavy,” Totti says says. “We trained with the really big ones, but on the series we can use ta size down so we can manoeuvre them easier.”

Although she enjoyed the training course, Totti says some aspects of it were less than pleasant.

“During one exercise, when we had to go into a burning house, went down on to a (hose) branch. There was a guy behind me, but I didn’t notice that his oxygen had run out, and he had to leave.”

“I’m calling out, ‘Help me, help me!’ The others can’t hear me, and I don’t realise I’m doing the hand signal that means, ‘More water pressure’!

“So they turned up the pressure, and I was lifted off my feet! For the first time, I had a moment of panic. It was about five minutes before anyone came to help me. When I got back out, I burst into tears because of the shock.”

Totti says she wouldn’t like to be a firefighter in real life.

“It’d be too sad.” She says “We were looking through a house the other day that had burnt down only five days before. This family had lost everything — the house went up in flames in five minutes.

“It smelt so strongly of smoke, and it was so sad being there.”

Lisa has enormous respect for police officers, and she tries to use characteristics of real constables she has met in interpreting her character, Maggie Doyle.

“Two years on, I still love playing her,” Lisa says. “She just goes in there, boots and all, and doesn’t think of herself. I like that. She’s determined to succeed.

“Maggie would never do anything wrong. She always goes by the book. She’s straight down the line.”

But viewers will see some changes in Maggie this year, Lisa says.

“She’s been at Mt Thomas two years, and she’s been a copper for four years. The character is getting a bit of maturity now — she’s not as green. She’s starting to get a grip on things.

“But what I love about Maggie is she still has a vulnerability. She’d never show it in the office, though. She’d go home and have a cry.”

Before the TV WEEK shoot, Lisa and Totti had never met, although they knew one another’s work. And they struck up an instant rapport.

“I actually knew a lot about Totti, because I sang with her cousin, Brooke Mitchell, in Flares,” Lisa says, referring to George Kapiniaris’ band, for which she sang back-up vocals before Blue Heelers started.

Story: Caron James
Cover and pictures:
Dave Mason

Original content copyright TV Week.