Always Greener: articles

Cait's great

ALWAYS Greener's resident single mum Sandra Todd is similar in many ways to Caitlin McDougall, the friendly, quietly spoken actor who plays her in the popular drama.

Beneath McDougall's gentle exterior are two women—one real, one fictional—who know how to stand up for themselves.

In the pilot episode of Always Greener, Sandra took immediate action when her mean neighbour shot the family's pet rooster.

Since then, the mother of two teenage children has confronted many tough situations head-on as her family tries to adjust to city life.

McDougall can relate to her endearing character's feisty and vulnerable sides.

"If a neighbour shot my chook, there would be all hell to pay," she says.

"But Sandra has also got this wonderfully vulnerable side, which I totally relate to, and the more I play her, the more I'm sure there will be things that she will teach me."

A graduate of the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, McDougall is pleased to be exercising her craft on a regular television character after years in theatre and guest roles in such TV series as Xena: Warrior Princess, The Last of the Ryans, Neighbours, Above the Law and All Saints.

"I am over the moon about my character," she says.

"Sandra's sense of humour comes out in certain situations and she uses that as a survival tool.

"She has that country get-up-and-go, but her private side is vulnerable and, being widowed, she is really quite alone and has to keep a brave face for her family.

"She is a good woman with a good heart who is compassionate towards other people, but she has also got a strength."

Twelve months after the death of her farming husband, Sandra and her children, Campbell, 16, and Pip, 15, agreed to swap houses with her city slicker relatives and start afresh.

But nothing is cheap in the city. Cam (Abe Forsythe) and Pip (Bree Walters) are having trouble relating to their new surrounds and friends, and Sandra is struggling to find a job she really wants.

"The humour and the situations that come up for them are very much sprouting up out of the concrete," McDougall says.

McDougall is also enjoying working with the young actors who play her offspring.

"Bree, Abe and I clicked right from the beginning," she says.

"Abe is one of the funniest people I have ever met and sometimes we have to be told to be quiet because we laugh so much.

"I love them dearly and always think, 'I wouldn't mind a couple of kids like this'."

McDougall believes the show's popularity stems from its unpredictable humour and its portrayal of one of the great Australian dreams.

"I have been describing the show as a drama with a sense of humour," she says.

"It is heartfelt on one hand and completely silly buggers on the other.

"Also, a lot of Australians do have a bit of the 'always greener on the other side' philosophy.

"I know a lot of people my age who are working in the city to make the bacon, but they have this dream that one day they will have a place in the country and run a lavender farm, or whatever.

"It's probably highly romantic, but a lot of people feel they need the two worlds."

• Always Greener, Channel 7, Sunday, 7.30pm

Louise Napier
October 31, 2001
Herald Sun