Caroline Craig hoping mum approves of ANZAC Girls

2014-08-05_2257Caroline Craig is very happy to be appearing in ANZAC Girls on the ABC, because it means her parents may finally recognise her vocation as an actor.

“My parents hate that I’m an actor and they are constantly trying to get me to do something else,” she says.

“Every time I get a job my mum says ‘Are you getting paid this time?’ So I’m glad I have a job on the ABC because they’ll know I haven’t been wasting time!”

Craig (pictured second from left), who has been the voice of Underbelly for multiple seasons and whose credits include Blue Heelers and a string of theatre roles, is now living in New York with her husband and new baby.

But she is more than familiar with the cycle of work and non-work. At one point she tried to please her parents with a job at a law firm.

“But then I did a play reading and I thought ‘Oh my god I love this so much!’ I found myself thinking ‘What am I doing?’ It’s really tricky being an artist. It’s almost like you don’t choose it. It’s something that chooses you,” she suggests.

“I think a lot of new opportunities come when you say yes to things. I wouldn’t say I am overly-discerning but I choose projects based on who’s involved.

“I’m working on a writing project while I’m over here because I’m kind of stuck at home and because I have some writer friends. So we’re working together and it really keeps your spirit alive and it keeps that imaginative side of you which is what got me into acting, anyway.

“It puts you in control of your own creativity, and often with acting you feel like a bit of a pawn, really.”

For ANZAC Girls she campaigned for a role with producers Screentime, for whom she had worked on Underbelly. The series is scripted by Felicity Packard, based on the book The Other ANZACs by Peter Rees.

“She writes amazing female characters in the crime world so I was intrigued to know what ANZAC Girls was about. So I wrote and said I would love to be considered,” says Craig.

“I love their take on true stories. That’s why it’s such a thrill to play someone who really did these things.”

Craig plays Matron Grace Watson in Cairo and Lemnos Island, senior to the younger nurses played by Laura Brent, Anna McGahan, Antonia Prebble and the show’s central character, played by Georgia Flood.

“My character is kind of a mentor and it’s almost a coming of age story about a young, idealistic person with a romantic view of war who then gets pretty tied up in the reality of it. Which is not romantic at all,” she explains.

“She is the leader of the girls and a mentor to them. Her brother is one of the first to sign up and she follows him, but she wasn’t quite prepared for how gross it would become. None of them knew how long it would go for. So they find themselves in knee-deep.”

Also drawing upon diaries, letters and photographs, the series depicts characters who were true-life nurses at Gallipoli and the Western Front. Craig’s research into Matron Watson, both before and after the war, revealed much.

“She actually served in the second world war as well, and in between and afterwards she was a head nurse for the RPA in Melbourne,” she says.

“At 75 she got married and fell in love, so she’s a pretty amazing lady.”

The 6 part series, filmed in Adelaide and South Australia, depicts war from a female perspective, strategically played by the ABC as the centenary anniversary begins and before two major dramas on Gallipoli to give a predominantly male perspective in 2015.

“We’ve seen that story before, so this is an opportunity to see what happens back at the hospital tent, or before the troops go. It gives you a more human connection, I think, than the carnage on the battlefield,” says Craig.

“Women weren’t allowed to marry. That was the number one rule for nurses. Which was kind of a double standard, because the soldiers were. But it fed into the idea that women probably shouldn’t have been there at all because they were vulnerable and would distract the men. Also that they might be distracted by the thought their husband or lover would be facing death while they were trying to do a job.

“The friendships between the women –more than the relationships with the men- are what resonated with me when I read it.

“I wanted them to survive. The mateship between the women is what made it unique and an important story.”

ANZAC Girls airs 8:30pm Sunday on ABC.

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