TV Week: “The calm before the storm” Water Rats 6th February 1999

TV Week
6th February 1999

Raelee Hill prepares herself for shocks scenes as her character is taken hostage at gunpoint in the Water Rats season premiere …

Raelee Hill and her Water Rats character, Constable Tayler Johnson, have at least one thing in common – when in danger, neither is likely to wait around quietly for someone to rescue her.

In the 1999 series premiere a gunman on the run with $5 million worth of stolen gems takes Tayler hostage.

While her fellow Water Rats are on the trail, Tayler makes life as har as possible for the gunman and eventually takes the action needed to give Frank Holloway a clear shot.

In real life, Raelee says she may not be as clam and controlled as her television alter-ego if she ever came face-to-barrel with a gun, but she does believe her survival instincts would kick in.

“They say that the problem with a lot of women is that they can learn all the self-defence techniques and that sort of thing, but when it comes to the real even they don’t fight hard because they’re frightened of hurting their attacker,” she says.

“I’m frightened of being one of those sorts of women, but I don’t think I would be because I think the Irish and the Scottish would come out in me.

“I think I’d fight real dirty, with the teeth and the nails and I’d go for the groin, or whatever I had to, just to get away. Then you scream your lungs out and make a lot of noise.”

Having said that, Raelee can remember at least one incident, while a university student in Brisbane, in which her courage and her voice failed her in a crisis.

“I was mugged once and I didn’t even scream,” she says “These two guys basically wanted to grab my purse and run, I new they weren’t going to do anything else. I (later) wondered why I didn’t scream straight away, and I know that it’s because I chocked up. If anything further had happened, though, I’m pretty sure I would have been in there kicking and screaming.”

“In an emergency I tend to be ok. I’ve never really had anything too scary happen though … I’ve delivered a slap to an odd man’s face, to the odd suitor, but that’s about it.”

Never afraid of a little action, Raelee loved all the rough-house physical exertion that went into making the episode, in which Tayler is pushed from a hotel balcony by her captor and plummets into a swimming pool several storeys below.

It is a stunt she wanted to do, but wasn’t allowed because of the danger involved. She would have preferred to take the balcony plunge than do an earlier scenes which Tayler’s abductor, played by Philip Holder, forces a kiss on her and then menacingly licks her face.

“That scene is just disgusting.” Raelee says with a laugh.

“We made that up on the day. We chatted about it in rehearsals but didn’t actually do it until it came to the take. We want to do something to get across how scared of this guy she must really be.”

Full of beans and excited to be back on screen after a break of a few months, Raelee says there’s a good chance she of the supporting cast members will get bigger and beefier stories to sink their teeth into this year.

“I was happy last year because the dynamic between myself and (fellow on-set police officers) Sykes (played by Brett Partridge) and Tavita (Jay Laga’aia) was getting better all the time and I was getting more to do all the time,” she says.

“This year I’ve already had loads to do, which has kept me happy, and there’s still loads that can be done with the show. I do believe that it is really just coming into its won’t this year.”

I didn’t want to face losing Colin

Director of Drama Kris Nobel wept over Colin Friels’ final scenes …

The biggest Water Rats storyline of 1999 is the departure of major character Detective Frank Holloway, played by the respected stage, television and movie actor Colin Friels.

“I didn’t want to face it,” the Nine Network’s Directors of Drama, Kris Nobel, says. “But we’ve made the most of it and we’ll move on. Cleary, we would have loved Colin to stay but … for a whole range of reasons he feels it is better that he gracefully retire.”

Although Colin features heavily in the first episodes of 1999, he will depart around the end of March. Soon after, former guest star Steve Bisley returns full time as Detective Jack Christey, who had a brief romance with Goldie (Catherine McClements) last year.

Joining the cast before Colin’s departure is former Wildside star Aaron Pedersen, as charismatic young detective Michael Rielly.

“The last episode (of Colin’s) is the most emotional thing I’ve ever seen,” Kris says.

“I’ve seen it from script stage and have been very close to it for about wo months, and here I am in the audio booth, going through the sound cut, and I’m crying. I would have seen it 50 times and I’m still affected by it.”

Rather than dwell on Colin’s loss, Kris says the show is entering a new ear with different relationships.

“We thought if you just put someone else in they will always be compared, so we decided to extend it (with another detective). The dynamic between the three of them … is just fantastic, it really is.”

From Wildside to Water Rats

Aaron Pedersen plays good-time guy Mick, one of the new faces for ’99.

When Aaron Pedersen left the ABC’s acclaimed drama series Wildside late last year, he didn’t hesitate before jumping straight into another long term role in the Nine Network’s Water Rats.

While many actors like to take a break before committing themselves to another drama-heavy series, Aaron says it’s a luxury he doesn’t afforded himself.

“I suppose I’m in a different situation from most actors,” he says. “There are not a lot of Aboriginal actors on television, so my head space is to put as many of my people on the Australian television networks as possible.

The idea that the role of hotshot detective Michael Reilly has nothing to do with Aaron’s Aboriginality certainly helped make up his mind.

“I think my character is one of the first mainstream commercial characters offered to an indigenous performer that doesn’t have any mention of being indigenous or not.

“It is about time the film, television and theatre industry in general started casting indigenous performers as performers rather than just casing them as Aboriginal people.

“I want them to start realising that this country does have indigenous actors and does have indigenous people who live in it, and it is about time we start portraying that to the rest of the world and even to ourselves.”

As Mick, a good-time guy who seems to always have a joke to tell and a yarn to spin, Aaron is one of the appealing new faces that Nine hopes audiences will grow to love after Frank Holloway (Colin Friels) departs later in the year.

A believer in the idea that hard work and dedication will pay off in the end, Mick manages to charm Goldie with his flirty behaviour and simultaneously irritate Frank. Single and determined to see justice done on the job, he’s the product of a rough environment that taught him about life the hard way.

“He’s a bit different fro the rest of the team, Aaron says of his character.

“Viewers will have to decide for themselves what they think of him.”

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