TV Week
August 22nd 1998

Coroner Kate Ferrari (Wendy Hughes) returns this week to an array of baffling cases in a second series of State Coroner.

TV WEEK went behind the scenes of the popular series to find things pretty much as we left them in series one.

Andrew Clarke and James Reyne have joined the cast, but the only other changes to the show, which has gained a reputation for high production qualities and strong characterisations, has been some fine tuning.

The Network Ten series, which began as a telemovie, is a in production in Melbourne until September.

TV WEEK spoke with producer David Taft to find out what it takes to put together the second series of 14 one-hour episodes.

“We’re into a routine now, coming off the first series,” David says.

“People understand what’s required and how to pace their work. The cast are more confident with the characters they are playing, so it is fair to say that with the second series things are falling into place better.”

David says the look of the show remains the same, with only a few set changes – “not things the audience would notice” but matters that assist with the technical side of production.

The sets are authentic, Elaine Smith, who plays forensic pathologist Julie Travers, says their quality adds to the series’ production value.

“The autopsy room is particularly authentic,” she says, scanning the stainless steel walls and benches and chrome taps. “Mind you, there are so many kitchens that look like this nowadays!”

About a third of filming for State Coroner is done on location, with the same crew used for both location and studio shooting.

“We’re usually working in unfamiliar locations when away from the sets, and we move from location to location,” David says.

Two shows are filmed at the same time so production is consecutive. “It is the most efficient way of doing it, to shoot scenes from two different episodes on the one day,” David says. “I think anything more than that it becomes too formulaic.

“The schedule fills our particular show that has a fair lump of action on location and not a lot of concentrated material in the studio’s court set.

“But at any one point – take, like today – I’ve got two episodes being shot, two episodes in post-production, two episodes coming up in pre-production, and there are two episodes for which we are just finalising the scripts. So it is a lot at once.”

All 14 scripts for the series are written before filming starts, but fine tuning is made along the way. Evolution, as David describes it.

Some of the roles were written before new actors were cast, which meant some minor rewriting to accomdatoe what the actors brought to the roles.

“The new actor might bring something that you never thought about, and you go. ‘Great’. It might be something we never explored. So there has been a little bit of adjustment,” David says.

The weekly story aspect of State Coroner means it goes through a lot of guest actors.

While they help to make up the quota of “usual suspects” in the murder files that cross Kate’s desk, they also add dimension to the regular characters.

“It gives you somewhere to go,” David says.

“We have a great cast and they are playing great characters that are evolving and changing and interrelating.

“But in terms of storytelling, brining in guest characters gives even those regular characters somewhere else to go.”

And of course, they help to keep us guessing just whodunit!

By Geoff Shearer

Original content copyright TV Week.