“I grew up reading lots of Agatha Christie. I’ve always loved period dramas, mysteries and crime,” says Ms. Fisher star Geraldine Hakewill.
“When the original series was being cast I was just graduating from WAAPA.
“I was asking ‘Are there any guest roles coming up?’ but they said ‘You’re not Melbourne based, so it’s tricky!’”
Next week her wish comes true, sort of, when she debuts as the star of Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, a much-anticipated sequel to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
Set in the 1960s the series from Every Cloud Productions was developed after London-based star Essie Davis was not available for a new series. Fan campaigns were hungry for more of the original, and Hakewill is not under any delusions about their expectations.
“Of course there were nerves. How do I fill those shoes? The fans are so invested in it. It rivals Wentworth!” she exclaims.
“I think we’re all just hoping the fans invest in this as something that complements the original. Peregrine is her own woman. There are similarities with Phryne but it’s about making her a bit different. There’s no way I could ever replicate Essie’s performance.”
Hakewill plays Peregrine Fisher, the fearless niece of Phryne Fisheer who inherits a windfall when her famous aunt goes missing over the highlands of New Guinea. While the two bear family similarities, Peregrine is also her own woman, fitting for the swinging ’60s.
“She is far less refined and elegant,” Hakewill explains. “She grew up in a caravan in Western Australia, so she has a very different experience of life. She’s slightly more reckless, if that’s possible. And she’s a real collaborator.
“She literally fell into this job through the ceiling.”
“When there are thing she doesn’t know she’s not afraid to ask questions or seek help, even though she dives into things all the time. She likes being part of a team to solve the crime.
“She’s a novice. She literally fell into this job through the ceiling. But it’s a great joy for her because she’s found something she’s really good at. It’s taken her a long time to find where she fits in the world.”
The Wanted star won the role after a casting call whilst filming with Rebecca Gibney in South Australia.
“I got the make-up artist to put me into a ‘60s look. I finished a day of shooting and ran to the casting place to put it down. One of the Wanted actors read for me. It was pretty mad, but I did think ‘That was quite a good audition!’
“I usually know if I’ve done a good job, but it’s more about whether you are ‘right’ for something.”
“After the third one I was like ‘Holy mackerel!’”
Set to screen as 4 telemovies, the shoot last last year was intense with Hakewill required for the majority of scenes. It was an eye-opener compared to the rigorous shoot of Wanted, despite it being location-heavy.
“After the third one I was like ‘Holy mackerel!’” she laughs.
“I did think a lot about Rebecca juggling being an executive producer and being in every scene. I think she protected me a lot of extra stuff she had to do, like watching rushes.
“But it was great finishing Wanted and then doing this, because I was fit. I was ready for it.”
Ms. Fisher also features Joel Jackson, Catherine McClements, Toby Truslove and Louisa Mignone. Striking the balance between mystery and the trademark Fisher exuberance has been part of the challenge, but viewers can expect more colourful cars, costumes and hairstyles in an era marked by the women’s movement and pre-Vietnam.
“There is a cheeky and effervescent quality to the franchise”
“It took us a few weeks to figure out what the tone was. We had the original to reference, but it’s a different period to the ‘20s. They wanted to ground us a bit more in the truth of the horror the murders.
“But there is a cheeky and effervescent quality to the franchise we’ve kept,” she assures.
“As an actor you always strive to be truthful so as witty and flirtatious as it is, you’re also dealing with people dying. So you don’t want to be flippant about it, because it loses any tension.
“The more you invest in something the more the audience does. So we’ve tried to strike a balance of frightening, sad, mysterious and having a lot of fun with it.”
Surprisingly, Hakewill insists the most challenging scenes are those revealing the killer.
“You end up ‘monologuing’ a lot telling them what they did and what they didn’t. Finding ways to do that in an interesting and realistic way is quite challenging. So I take my hat off to all the detectives who have gone before! Those scenes are really difficult!”
Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries airs 8:30pm Thursday February 21 on Seven.