All Saints: articles

Allison Cratchley

Allison scrubs up

Blood and needles aren't normally her thing and nor is medical jargon, but this Water Rat turned All Saints star is loving her new role, and it's about to get juicier

The term "cut" took on a whole new meaning for All Saints' Allison Cratchley prior to her filming her first scenes for the long-standing No.1 local drama. To get a feel for what it's like to be a doctor, Cratchley spent a few days at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital's Emergency Department.

The 31-year-old says she did learn a lot while observing how doctors work. For one, she realised she had a stronger stomach than some of her acting colleagues.

"I had heard of cast members who had done a recce (at a hospital) who had vomited at the sight of injuries," she says.

Cratchley watched on as a young girl was treated for massive injuries after falling 10 storeys from a building. Somewhat astoundingly, the girl managed to survive.

And throughout, the All Saints recruit didn't bat an eyelid.

"I surprised myself. I'm not normally good with blood, nor with needles."

While standing there in hospital scrubs - the apparel worn in surgery - she was also taken by surprise when a doctor who had just started a shift approached her and asked how a patient was faring.

It sounds like a moment straight out of Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, in which Leonardo DiCaprio impersonates a surgeon.

But Cratchley confessed and divulged who she was.

"I said I was really the wrong person to ask. But at least I looked the part," she says during a break from filming scenes for All Saints.

Cratchley stars as Dr Zoe Gallagher, one of the newer regular characters on the popular Aussie show. She's been on screen for roughly a month and can't stop raving about her "new" job.

"It's going so well. I love the cast and I feel quite privileged to work with such a talented crew."

She also praises the All Saints scriptwriters who work hard to ensure the medical jargon comes across correctly.

For Cratchley, who some people may recognise as Constable Emma "Woodsy" Woods from now defunct drama Water Rats, the jargon has meant her role as a doctor has been more mentally draining than playing a police officer, which she found more of a physical challenge.

But fortunately, the nanny who looks after Cratchley's 14-month-old daughter Claudia, also happens to be a nurse. Any medical word or term Cratchley doesn't understand, it's straight to Susan (the nanny).

In All Saints, we first saw Dr Gallagher as an intern helping out Frank Campion (John Howard). But soon there is friction between her character and Dr Charlotte Beaumont (Tammy McIntosh).

While the show's producers have been keen to establish Dr Gallagher as "nice", Cratchley hints that we'll soon see a different side which will make us question whether "she has PMT or something else is going on".

All Saints, now in its eighth year, has shown remarkable resilience in the face of tough times in the local TV drama scene.

When budgets tighten, it's expensive local dramas which often get cut.

At Seven, it became impossible to house both All Saints and Blue Heelers.

One had to go and Saints had the better ratings. And it continues to post impressive results. Last week its only real competition, Nine's McLeod's Daughters, attracted 1.2 million viewers, while Saints did 1.37 million. Although it's worth noting the shows air at different timeslots on different days.

Saints executive producer John Holmes looks at the competition between the two shows philosophically: "I think you're only as good as the opposition allows you to be. The timeslot does play a part in how you rate."

Saints' success must have caught some people by surprise.

Many presumed that when Georgie Parker (who played the core character Therese "Terri" Sullivan) quit in June last year, the show's vital signs would fade and it would be cancelled.

But then Howard stepped up and took on the role of core character, whether he was aware of it at the time or not.

Holmes traces Howard's importance to All Saints to long before Parker left, back to the time when he told her character to "f... off".

"John Howard came on with a huge splash," says Holmes.

"The public was outraged, but it was the best way to enforce that this character was going to dominate the series."

Recently, another character captured the public's imagination: veteran actor John Waters as Dr Miklos Vlasek. The so-called rock'n'roll surgeon proved fascinating to watch.

Although Vlasek left the hospital under a cloud after being busted for morphine addiction, Cratchley has hinted he may be back in future episodes.

Saints may be shaping up to be stronger than ever, but of course its ratings are considerably lower than those of US medical drama Grey's Anatomy, which routinely is Monday night's most watched show.

"We'd love to have Grey's Anatomy's budget," says Holmes.

"But our budget is probably their bar bill."

By Stephen Downie
September 27, 2006
The Associated Press