Blue Heelers: articles

Extra Special Cop

Actor William McInnes can sum up his five years with Blue Heelers in one surprising statement: "I'm the highest-paid extra in the history of television."

McInnes's Sgt Nick Schultz has remained something of an enigma since the popular drama began. We know he's deeply scarred after losing his wife and small daughter in a car accident, that he's a loner and that he's got a dry sense of humour—but that's about all.

The reason is that most Blue Heelers episodes centre on Tom Croydon (John Wood), Maggie Doyle (Lisa McCune), and PJ (Martin Sacks). Too often, Nick is on the sidelines shuffling papers and answering phone calls, but it's a situation that McInnes has become resigned to.

"I get to star in an episode occasionally, which keeps me happy," McInnes says. "But sometimes when all I'm doing is opening the door for Tom Croydon or giving him a fax I'll think, 'I'm 34, what the hell am I doing here?' But I don't want to be Mr Blue Heelers. I want a career after the show and I think the best way to do that is to stay in the background a bit."

Frustration clearly creeps into McInnes's voice when he reflects on his character's lack of progress over the years. "Nick is a week-to-week proposition. He is whatever the storyline needs him to be," he says. "He'll do something one week and something completely different the next."

This year has been a turning point for McInnes and his character, however. All of a sudden the writers are beginning to flesh out Nick Schultz. In the 1998 opener, Nick proved he was willing to bend the law to save a molested boy. Two weeks ago McInnes gave a stunning performance in an episode where Nick is visited by his parents, re-opening old wounds with his father.

McInnes takes centre stage again in tonight's episode when Nick proposes to Dr. Zoe Hamilton (Karen Davitt) after a long romance. When Zoe's former boyfriend is found dead, however, the relationship comes under new strain. "I like to think there's a certain amount of believability to the relationship—that it's not all a bed of roses," McInnes says. "I've also tried to make Nick's romance with Zoe quite different to the one between Maggie and PJ.

For McInnes, father of Clem, 4 and new-born Stella, the main attraction of Blue Heelers is the money. "Television is a mortgage buster. That's its great attraction," he says. "You get the benefits of constant work and a constant pay packet. If I left Heelers, I could end up with the backside out of my trousers, but that's a chance I may choose to take. I'm not going to be there when it finishes."

While McInnes says that he has never been totally happy with his work on Heelers, an opinion not shared by critics who have praised the actor's fine performances, he is proud of the show's success and critical of people who dismiss it because of it's popularity. "If you wanted to be nasty about it you could say that Heelers is 'cup of soup television'," he says. "But occasionally, the cup of soup comes up tasting really good.

"It has ben a really good, fun time," he says. "It'll probably sound touchy-feely, but it's a very supportive environment and everyone gets on so well together."

Colin Vickery
Herald Sun
April 15, 1998