Blue Heelers: articles

Lisa McCune—The Golden Girl of Blue Heelers

There's absolutely no doubt that Lisa McCune is the most popular Australian on television—her three Gold Logies in three years are proof positive of that. Playing Sergeant Maggie Doyle on the ever-popular Blue Heelers, Lisa has firmly established herself as one of the biggest homegrown superstars we've ever had.


When the opportunity arose recently to have a chat with Lisa, we jumped at the opportunity, and are very pleased to present the transcript of that interview below.

Congratulations on your Logie!
Thank you.

What do you think it is about Maggie that makes her so popular year after year? Three gold Logies is amazing. And the other Logies as well—it's not just the gold. [Lisa has also won Silver Logies.]
I don't know, I suppose you have to look at who watches TV and who reads TV Week and who watches Blue Heelers. I think it's a lot of young girls… And I feel such a huge responsibility, I was talking about this with someone the other day that so many… Like, if you took a 10-year-old girl who started watching Blue Heelers, you know, they'd be now 15 or 16 and they're becoming young women now. And I think Maggie is a really good role model and hopefully that's what translates into a gold Logie… I don't know.

I think it's also that's she's a real person, she's not someone who throws tantrums like people on Melrose Place… and she's in a responsible job, that's the other thing, it's not like she has this job that no one can aspire to.
She's so capable, but you never see if she gets the washing done!


This is probably a good opportunity to ask you what you think of Maggie.
I think she's fantastic and I love playing her. I like the fact that she's… you know, she's really got her head screwed on. I like the fact that she gets to do so much, like physical stuff. You always see her out and about doing things; she's a go-getter and that's been terrific and that's why I like playing her, because she's always in the thick of a situation. She never sticks around the edges, she just goes bang, straight in there.

Can you foresee that she might end up in a city police station because she likes the action so much?
Well, if all of a sudden the character is taken away from all that and put in a city station, I think she'd thrive on it, because she's ambitious.

She came from the city originally, didn't she?
Yeah she was a city character, she grew up in south Melbourne and [was] very much a city girl.

So you think she has adjusted to life in a country town?
Only because PJ's there. I think it helped.

Do you think she has changed since you first started playing her?
I think she's older! And, you know, with the character growing and the audience has grown with her, she's just matured and she's become a young adult, a mature adult, and she's much more aware of things and I, the actor, have grown along with the character as well, because I've learnt so much over the time as well. It's been a similar road to travel, I think, so it's always been quite nice.


You're still a spring chicken—still in your twenties—but you have a lot of experience.
And it's still in the one show, like I haven't had a vast experience elsewhere so…

Are you conscious a bit of having grown up on television?
Well, I feel like I've had my twenties here, but what a great way to spend my life… I don't feel like I've gotten carried away with anything or it hasn't affected me adversely to the point where I think, gee, I wish I'd had my life, because I couldn't have chosen a better life.

What would you like the future to hold for Maggie?
For Maggie? A career. I really hope… I really like the fact that the character is so career-driven and ambitious, I think that's really terrific. I think it's a good example and I like playing a character like that because I always knew she was fairly ambitious, but it's great to see the character with drive and a great love of what she does. It's a lot of history as far as her family goes too, like the story's set up that she's from a family of cops, she's a female in a family of male cops… she's got something to prove, you know… and she's proven it a lot. And I respect her, she's always wanted respect.

She does come across as fairly tough but still tender, so it's a good combination. You recently made the mini-series The Potato Factory—what kind of experience was that?
A very different one to Blue Heelers. Firstly, the time when it was set, in the 1800s. The fact that it was based on a book, so I used that as research; and it was shot on film and it looks amazing and it looks beautiful and it was shot in Sydney. And there were so many different kinds of things like wigs and make-up; it was like walking into a new world. It was fantastic.
Did you feel like you were playing dress-ups sometimes?
Yeah, I did. It was really nice to put something new on and be a new character, because I came back to Blue Heelers looking forward to it.

When can we expect to see The Potato Factory?
I don't know what they are going to do with that. I have no idea. Someone at Seven will have an idea!

Would you do period drama again? Or was it too much fuss and fiddle with costumes?
No, I'd love to do it again. I always thought I had a look that was far too contemporary, and someone actually said that to me years ago, and so I just thought that I'd never work in a period piece. But I'm really glad that I got an opportunity to do that.

And they age you as well.
Yeah, I kind of age up a little bit, which is terrific. They were really talented people who were working on all that stuff, so it was great.

Have you done much theatre?
A bit, I've done an MTC [Melbourne Theatre Company] musical for the last two years in my summer break.

So not much of a break!
No, I haven't had a break for a couple of years actually but… I like doing that. I like doing it for six weeks, it's a nice run.

So you still sing, obviously.
Every now and then… mind you, you should hear me. I'm doing a show in July that I've got to get ready for and it's a little bit scratchy.


It won't be on concurrently with Blue Heelers?
It's just a three night performance of a musical, it's a stage version of a musical.

And was singing your first love or was it something that grew concurrently with the acting?
I think I was too young to ever think of myself as being an actor… you know, I was living in Perth, so there are no guest roles on anything if you wanted to be an actor, so singing was preferred. I went into practical singing training too, privately, so… that was the best way of venting any ideas that I might have had of wanting to be a performer. I like to consider myself an actor who sings because I think… I've let the singing go while I've been doing Blue Heelers, it's hard to keep both going with the hours we work and… you know, I do it when I can.

Growing up in Perth and having to relocate to Melbourne, was it quite a culture shock? Because Melbourne's a very establishment city, apart from which the climate's quite different.
Oh, the climate is terrific but… I was planning on living in Sydney, and then I started getting more work down in Melbourne and got the Coles contract here [Lisa appeared in several advertisements for Coles supermarkets], so I could face the cold for a year. It was very generous, I just went 'Wow!'. But it took me that six months to settle in. The first two months were… The minute I got my first job I was OK. The minute I was launched on a path I was alright. It was the real uncertainty of where I was going that was hard. And I was only 20 as well, which was really young.

Do you get homesick a lot?
No so much now, no, because I have a really wonderful life here and I've got a partner here and I love that.

You studied acting in Perth. If someone was going into the business would you advise them to study?
L: It's really different. I mean, I think some people need to go to a drama school. I think if you are really young it probably doesn't hurt. If I had a daughter who wanted to be an actor, I'd say go to university and get a degree so you have something to fall back on, or have some job that you've got to fall back on, it's so important. I don't know, some people don't need to go to a drama school I don't think… You can't learn everything at drama school, you take out of it what you need. Some people may be more advanced in other ways then others, and everybody's experiences are different, but I think life experience is such an important thing. I know now, being older, why they say that that's so important when you audition, to have life experience. And they do accept the odd young person in, but when I went to the academy I was just turning 17 and I didn't know a lot of the things that the other people knew… I wasn't up to speed.

You must have had a fair bit of talent, because that is quite young to be in the academy.
I was just really lucky. I think I just kind of flipped through the net but I was really committed to it, I never missed class and I never used my age as an excuse at all. And that was an advantage, to come out trained at 19 and get out on the marketplace, because I've got a lot more experience than people coming out now who are my age now. It's good to be out young I think.


What initially sparked your interest in acting?
I don't know actually, I think I used to watch a lot of old movies and I used to just role-play a lot, I suppose, and I wanted to be so many different things and I just fell into it, really. Which is something that I always have seemed to have… [it] was there in my life… it just happened. Do you know what I mean? It never… I never thought, 'I'm going to be an actor', it just kind of… I started doing plays and amateur theatre and then singing lessons, and it was just always there, and it's become a natural progression for me, really.

Has working on a television show for such a long period of time made you look at other things in the industry, like writing or directing or anything like that?
I'd like to maybe direct, but I'm not a writer. I'm good with ideas, I think I've got great ideas, but I'm not a good writer. I've never tried, but I don't imagine I would be. But directing kind of holds a bit of an interest for me.

The Gold Logies and the Silver Logies… obviously there is a lot of affection for you amongst the public at large and the viewers out there. Are you aware of it? Do people approach you on the street?
Yeah they do, a lot of people do, and a lot of people don't recognise me, which is fantastic. The people are usually… I like the people who are genuine with what they say: They don't like something on Blue Heelers, they don't like something that you've done, they'll tell you and that's fantastic and I don't mind those comments at all, I think it's really good as long as it's constructive and if they don't like something, if they tell me why… I think it's great.

And what's your take on the show? Going into its sixth year it's consistently top-rating all around the country.
I think it's because we all get on so well and we have a good time doing it. It helps a lot.

Seven Network Limited