Blackjack: articles

Sophie Lee

Sophie plays her ace

SOPHIE Lee's appearance in Sunday night's BlackJack telemovie is sure to make many viewers do a double-take.

Gone are the long blonde locks and girl-next-door charm that propelled Lee's small-screen career in the '90s.

Here, a brunette and bespectacled Lee, playing a forensic specialist, makes for a powerful presence in the murderous new feature, again led by Colin Friels.

In many ways, the role in BlackJack: Dead Memory marks a triumphant return for Lee, who cut back on her involvement in the industry at the height of her fame following Muriel's Wedding because she was disillusioned with being typecast.

"I fought those stereotypes during my 20s and dropped out of the TV scene and started doing fringe theatre," Lee says.

"I was being offered decorative feminine roles - roles I strongly rejected. In hindsight, looking back at that time, I feel I may have fought a little too hard, given that life is just so short and, at times, any work is good work."

The one-time host of TV shows such as What's Up Doc and Sex says maturity – she's now 38 – has finally allowed her the strong roles she so desperately sought earlier in her career.

"I suppose that is one of the nice things about getting older," she says "There's a lot less work for women as they get older but, on the plus side, you get to play strong women who have professional careers and are not just arm-candy or some bloke's girlfriend."

Lee's "confident and assured" Denise Kennedy in the fifth BlackJack outing provides inside forensic knowledge to basement-dwelling detective Jack Kempson (Friels). When Kempson's cold case crosses Inspector Kavanagh's (David Field) murder investigation he comes to rely on Kennedy.

Lee admits their relationship is not all work.

"I guess you could say she becomes Jack's love interest," Lee says. "They do share a few dates."

Lee is now the mother of two young children and is quick to point out that she regards that as her most important role. But she admits she enjoyed the break from maternal duties provided by BlackJack.

"It was a welcome relief from being ensconced in a baby vortex, although the logistics of getting to work on time and child care - you know, being a working mother - were mind-boggling."

BlackJack also marks a return to the small-screen for Daniel MacPherson. Best remembered for his turn as triathlete Joel Samuels on Neighbours, MacPherson has had a trying couple of years.

After coming home following a successful run on The Bill in Britain, MacPherson signed a lucrative deal with Ten, which saw him host the spectacularly unsuccessful talent show The X Factor last year.

MacPherson is delighted to be acting rather than hosting. In addition to BlackJack, he's also shot several episodes for Ten's much-anticipated new drama series Tripping Over.

"What a great comeback to have," MacPherson says of his shady character Craig in tonight's feature. "I love acting because it constantly forces me to keep improving and learning. With a job like this and a cast like this, I've been watching guys like Colin (Friels) and Garry (McDonald). You learn a lot about these blokes - it's great."

By Richard Clunes
August 27, 2006
Sunday Mail