Always Greener: articles

Abe Forsythe and Georgie Shew

Green and talented

Young actors on Seven's new country drama are proving to be something to crow about

That darn rooster. It's hard to get its image from the opening credits of Seven's new Australian drama, Always Greener, out of your head. One minute it's sitting proud atop a fence post, welcoming the soft morning sun with a hearty "cock-a-doodle-do". The next minute the life is rudely blasted out of him with a shotgun.

As your eyes follow a flurry of feathers, a thought sneaks into your head: maybe Always Greener could be as special as they say it is.

The series is based around two families, the Tailors and the Todds. The Tailors are city dwellers who desperately want to escape the rat race. The Todds are country folk who would love to pursue a new challenge in the city. It's wish fulfillment, a dream come true. It's one for the true believers that life is always greener and who strive to achieve it.

According to producer Jo Porter, who came on board from All Saints, one of the factors that puts Always Greener in a league of its own is the young and almost unknown cast of youngsters who drive the show. For them, these are the dream roles that will cast them on the road towards fame and fortune.

One fresh face belongs to Georgie Shew, who plays 16-year-old Katy Turnbull. The undisputed belle of Inverness, she is used to breaking hearts with her flirtatious glances.

Shew, on the other hand, is not. Her last semi-regular role was in Home And Away where she played the unlucky-in-love Tasha Mills. "That character was a dork," Shew says simply.

So the role of a sexy young thing in Always Greener was quite a turn around. "The character breakdown I was given said I was a 'rural Kirsten Dunst' and I must say I was struggling to work out how I could possibly be like her," Shew admits. "But I've got blonde hair."

We soon find out she's got more than that. As every adolescent boy's dream girl, she appears in some very revealing fantasy sequences. In episode one, she struts down a country lane wearing nothing but red lingerie. Later she is riding a horse while wearing nothing at all.

"The totally naked bit wasn't actually me," Shew, 22, admits. "Because it was hard to control the horse they used a double. I can ride, but hitting the marks and being naked probably would have been too much for me.

"It's all part of the job. When you have to kiss someone you don't know [on screen] for the first time that's awfully scary but the second time it's not so bad and nude scenes are like that."

And playing a character six years her junior is not a problem. "It's surprising how much more mature teenagers are today," she says. "When I was 15 I was still hanging out in the school yard with my Cabbage Patch dolls."

Another new face to TV drama is Abe Forsythe, who plays a character four years younger than he is: Campbell Todd, the 16-year-old country boy who comes to the city in search of adventure.

In a sense, Forsythe, the son of actor/comedian Drew Forsythe (Three Men And A Baby Grand) has already been on his great adventure. He was once the only boy in a class of seven at The McDonald College for Performing Arts in Strathfield before he went on to Newtown High.

Then he dropped out when he was 15, took to the road with his dad in productions of the Mikado and The Pirates Of Penzance and made quirky, off-beat underground movies that have earned him a considerable reputation among his peers.

But Forsythe fears it's the words "crusty top, soft bottom" that are destined to haunt him for the rest of his life.

These words—which come from his role in a bread commercial—have been yelled out by students at Glebe High School, where Always Greener has been filmed. They also rib him about his part in the dancing kid Coca-Cola ad.

Forsythe would rather be known as the kid who won the Tropicana award at Tropfest in 1998 when he was only 16 and was then congratulated by Keanu Reeves, Samuel L Jackson and Baz Luhrmann for his efforts.

Or for his first acting job at the age of 10 with John Bell and Jackie Weaver in the STC's production of Shadowlands, followed by a part in Bell's production of Richard III.

Or as the kid responsible for the hit Internet movie, The Computer Boy, which he made in just 10 days as a "high-octane" spoof of The Matrix. It is now one of the most popular movies downloaded from a movie Internet site.

"If you go about something the right way," he says of his production successes, "you can make something that gains a lot of attention."

Like Shew and Forsythe, many of the other actors are in fact older than their characters. For instance, Michala Banas, who plays 18-year-old Marissa Taylor is in her 20s. Bree Walters, who plays 14-year-old Philippa Todd is also in her 20s.

Still, the ages of the actors have put them in good stead to understand the troubles their characters must endure in their journey towards maturity.

Porter says Always Greener makes no attempts to view the world through rose-coloured glasses.

"It deals with serious issues. Teenage sexuality, work pressure and stress, and bullying is a big thing initially," she says.

"It's a show about change and really it could have been set anywhere. I think it's just really nice to see a family who is real and they have their ups and downs. The humour that is in there is very Australian and very cheeky."

Cheeky indeed. It was brave to include a fart joke in the first episode, let alone take it to such giddy heights it leads to a major turning point in the plot.

Credit for a lot of the laughs must be handed to some of Australia's best-loved actors who have major roles, including John Howard and Anne Tenney who play city slickers and parents of three, John and Liz Taylor.

Porter says having experienced actors on board makes her job a lot easier.

"It's great to have actors of the calibre of John Howard and Anne Tenney who all the young cast can look up to. They're so professional. It sets a great tone."

Tenney is best remembered for her TV role as Molly, in A Country Practice, one of Australia's most-loved characters. Recently Howard played one of Australia's most intriguing characters—Bob Jelly in SeaChange.

Tenney and Howard have never worked together before, but on screen they look as though they've been a husband-and-wife team all their adult lives.

"It's a developing relationship and has started off very well," Tenney says. "John and I get on well. I feel we are very comfortable together, and also the scripted relationship is a very comfortable one. These guys have been married for 20 years and ultimately we serve the writing, but also our ideas often meet."

It was the strong, well-rounded characters that attracted both lead actors to their respective roles. Howard says he's happiest playing people with little hypocrisies, "especially when characters are stumbling through life, or when it is their own nature that gets in their way".

Always Greener, Sunday, Seven, 7.30pm.

September 06, 2001
Daily Telegraph