Ambassador for local drama
Sea Patrol's Lisa McCune champions her passion for Aussie drama to TV Tonight and indicates a growing interest in adding Producer to her skillbase.
When it comes to promoting Sea Patrol, Lisa McCune could almost be photographed at the front of the HMAS Hammersley in a style used for the movie Titanic. Such is her enthusiasm for making Australian drama, and such is the reliance of the network on her star-power to propel the series.
But McCune, who studied as a teenager at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, is defiant in championing the industry and it is her true spirit that has connected her with audiences since becoming a star on Blue Heelers.
She understands her appeal meets a broad demographic, equally as much as she understands footage for promotional campaigns will make the most of her popularity.
“When the Channel Nine Marketing Department get it my face is up the front and I get that,” she tells TV Tonight. “That’s just what happens when you market a show.
“But on a day to day shooting basis I’m there all day most days, and I can’t make that show without the other nine actors or the crew or the brilliant guest actors we have.
“I’m not in it for personal glory. I would have taken my career in a different lurch if I had wanted that. I like working as part of the team.”
McCune says she accepted Hal McElroy’s invitation to join the series at a time when Australian drama needed endorsing.
“I was really insistent on it being an ensemble piece,” she says. “The star of the show is the boat and the navy. And the great thing about the show that keeps it rolling on is that in navy life, characters do transfer on and off boats. So this character could be transferred off and the show still keeps running. So I guess I felt really strongly that it would be a company show.
“I think there’s a real danger about a show being based around one person too much, unless it’s like a Halifax-style show where the show is about that person.
“We’re all in it together, the main cast, and we’ve got a really strong guest cast as well.”
The fourth series has 16 episodes, 3 more than previous years. The first series had FFC miniseries funding which required an ongoing storyline arc. But at 16 episodes this approach has been more challenging to sustain. According to McCune, the end result is more focus on characters, to the benefit of the finished product.
“I think our character development hasn’t been as strong before as this series,” she says. “We see the personalities and the light so much more this time around.”
At the McCune acknowledges that Sea Patrol is a broadly-appealing commercial work, which aims to draw Australians families to Australian drama. As she accelerates her own interest in production, she has also engaged in discussions with Producer Hal McElroy on scripts.
“I said to him ‘I think sometimes it’s a little bit obvious.’ And he’s really smart, he said, ‘This time of night when the family is pretty busy, you just sometimes have to explain a little bit more when the audience is younger.’
“Interestingly too on the flip side of that, our televisions are becoming bigger. And the bigger they become sometimes the less we need to say because it becomes almost filmic.
“I’ve got a family here, and they’re a little bit young, but at 7:30 they’re watching something that’s a little bit more obvious. You haven’t the focus completely of someone who’s just sitting down to watch television,” she says.
“I think for adult drama we’ll have to say less and show more. Which is kind of scary because it’s digital now so when you’re seeing it close you’re seeing it really raw.”
McCune is already pursuing interest in becoming a Producer, developing a project with writers Tony Morphett and Gus Howard. Children’s producer Jonathan Schiff is also mentoring her on another project.
“Now that I’m a bit older and confident I’m a bit more willing to take a risk. I’ve optioned a book, and there’s a play that I’d like to option. I’ve got a lot of people who are giving me good advice. No matter what comes of it, it adds to my sensibilities as an actor to know what goes on on the other side of the camera,” she says.
Such passion for Australian drama even extends to ideas on programming. McCune isn’t at all surprised to see shows like Underbelly pulling big audiences following the end of Daylight Saving.
“When it’s Daylight Saving I can’t get my kids into bed before 9. I look forward to the day when we have a 7pm news bulletin and we can start producing drama from 8 to 9 and then 9 to 10pm. And I think that will help solve the Daylight Saving problem that we have for 6 months of the year, for those states that have it,” she suggests.
“There’s no way I can see a 6pm News. 7pm would be great for me. I know you’ve got it on the ABC, but I think programming on the hour would be great because at the moment when you see a 9:30 drama it doesn’t end until 10:30, but they bleed it over until 20 to 11. So from 8 to 9 and 9 to 10 you can still be in bed by 10 and see a good bit of drama.”
As for the future of Sea Patrol, to which she is clearly pivotal, McCune says its destiny lays with viewers.
“Ultimately something has to work on commercial television. I’m a strong believer that things can artistically work as well as commercially work. Perception is very important. I just hope when people review Sea Patrol, ie. journalists, that they review it as someone with a broad demographic rather than saying ‘I love this kind of television, or that kind of television.’ Sea Patrol is family viewing.
“But at the end of the day the audience decides. They are the power in television and we have to remember that. If they want more Sea Patrol then they’ll watch and we’ll make more,” she says.
“I don’t believe television is dead. We have a strong industry and there’s a lot being made at the moment. It’s very exciting.”
Sea Patrol airs 8:30pm Thursdays on Nine.