TV Week: “Lunch with… Sigrid Thornton” SeaChange 25th July 1998

TV Week
25th July 1998

The first series of SeaChange is about to end, but the show’s star Sigrid Thornton can’t wait for the second series to begin. TV WEEK asks Sigrid over lunch why she thinks SeaChange has been such a success?

TVW: You’ve been working on the series for some time now, are you still enjoying it?
SIGRID: I am very much. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing the scripts for the second series. I really enjoy the material. I think the scripts are very strong and I love the cast.

TVW: Do you ever watch the show?
SIGRID: I watch it go to air because I like to see it in its proper context. I like to feel what it must be like for a viewer watching it, someone who has nothing to do with the show. The only difficult thing is when I look at my work I see mistakes, but because it’s an ensemble I can watch and enjoy what my fellow cast members are doing. I think it has a wonderful cast.

TVW: Do you have any theories behind the success of the show?
SIGRID: I think there are lots of reasons, one being that it’s dealing with a commonplace fantasy, and that is to escape to the country. It has that going for it, but one of the things I like enormously about it, is that it’s set in a small community and the life that one enjoys in a small community is completely different to the city. It is very much richer in many ways.

TVW: It’s a small town, there’s less people and less to do. but in what other ways does it differ from city living?
SIGRID: Well, when you live in a small community such as Pearl Bay you are kind of squeezed in together with a relatively small number of people in a really intimate way and you have to like it or lump it. You have to come to grips with who you are and how well or not, you are able to relate to those people around you.

TVW: Do you live in a small community yourself then?
SIGRID: I live in the city, but I feel strongly about neighbourhood and I think it is something we are losing in the city and that’s something SeaChange explores in a very honest way.

TVW: SeaChange has been romping home in the ratings, out-rating 60 Minutes on several occasions. Is that something that gives you a bit of a thrill?
SIGRID: I have never paid much attention to ratings, except as an exploration as to how Australian material goes, but when you are actually involved with a TV series that is on the air every week, you can’t help but become involved to some degree. It is an important gauge, but I don’t think one should ever make a show to chase the ratings. You try and produce something that you feel strongly about and that has something to say for itself and is entertaining. That is the ideal, anyway. The fact people are watching, that’s like cream, it’s wonderful.

TVW: Have people treated you differently since you began working on SeaChange?
SIGRID: I suppose the response has been interesting to the extent that it is the widest exposure I’ve had in a comedy genre, not that I call SeaChange exclusively comedy. I suppose I call it comedy-drama because it juxtaposes the two all the time, which is one of the things I find interesting about it. So, the fact I’ve had the exposure doing comedy, which is something most people haven’t seen me do, is good. It’s ideal for an actor to be able to stretch his or her limits and for people to see them in a different light.

TVW: When people do approach you. what kind of people are they and what do they say?
SIGRID: A lot of people come up to me and say they like the show and it’s a cross-section of people, politicians to postmen, and all ages as well. That’s another thing I like about the show, it appeals to all ages. I can actually watch it with my own family. There are few shows on TV that give something to all age groups In SeaChange, there is enough complexity in the scripts to satisfy adults and enough whimsy to satisfy children.

TVW: You’ve played many lawyers, you must be just about qualified by now.
SIGRID: I have played a few lawyers, but I’m hardly qualified. I did have to research the role and one of our own executive producers is a lawyer so that helps. She helped me with some of the research and we went to the magistrates’ courts both in the city and country. I did talk to one or two magistrates, but observing was the most important thing for me. There was a bit of difference between the city and the country. I had never been into a magistrates’ court before. Of course I had been in other courts, exploring other facets for other roles, but the magistrates’ court is a dramatic place to be, it is actually very moving, deeply moving at times, which is surprising.

TVW: You lived and worked in Los Angeles for a while, how did you like it and do you miss it?
SIGRID: I was in L.A. for about 3!* years. (Sigrid had a role in the U.S. TV series Paradise.) I liked the experience of living and working in another culture. It was an adventure, but I don’t miss my life there. It is not a healthy place to bring up children. (Sigrid has a son and daughter to husband Tom Burstall – Ben, 12, and Jaz, 6).

TVW: Does your family always come first?
SIGRID: Yes, absolutely, that’s normal. Not many people say their job comes first… well not many people admit to it anyway.

TVW: Work has now finished on the first series. What are your plans?
SIGRID: I am going to lie in bed and my children are going to bring me grapes and boxes of chocolate!

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