City Homicide: articles

True grit keeps it real

City Homicide's stars got to great lengths to make the show as authentic as possible.

In 1977 production ended on what remains Australia's longest running series, Homicide. The police procedural drama, filmed on location and in Seven's South Melbourne Studios, ran from 1964 to 1977.

In a nice piece of historical symmetry, Seven's latest foray into crime TV, City Homicide, is being filmed in the same South Melbourne studios. Part of the building being used is cramped, the walls look like they're in need of a good paint job and the rabbit warren-like hallways feel unheatable.

Fittingly, this is where you find the police interrogation rooms. Upstairs is the more hospitable office for the homicide squad. The set is bathed in earthy reds and browns, which belies the kind of intense, high-stakes drama being played out. It's here the young lions of the homicide squad - Jennifer Mapplethorpe (Nadine Garner), Simon Joyner (Daniel MacPherson), Duncan Freeman (Aaron Pedersen) and Matt Ryan (Damien Richardson) - strut their stuff.

Their superiors are Detective Senior Sergeant Stanley Wolfe (Shane Bourne) and Detective Superintendent Bernice Waverley (Noni Hazlehurst).

It's a nice mix of youth and experience.

"You have these young guns who would sell their families to get ahead in homicide and to prove themselves, and then you've got older heads who are trying to steer them in the right direction. It makes for great chemistry on set," says MacPherson.

Once a star of Neighbours and Britain's The Bill, MacPherson deploys an adjective he believes perfectly encapsulates City Homicide: "confronting".

"I think the audience will find that this is not your average fluffy, nice cop drama," he says. "It's dark and it's edgy and it's tough stuff. It's gritty."

As the series plays out we will learn more about the characters. Joyner, for instance, is brilliant but perhaps a little too cocky.

"There is almost a bit of self sabotage with Simon. It's almost as though he has had things too easy in his life. He is a naturally gifted copper, but he's already got a chip on his shoulder and he's getting into real trouble. Deep down he probably thinks that even if he did get kicked out, he always seems to end up on his feet."

Or in the back seat of a car. In the first episode, we find out Joyner is having an affair with a colleague's wife (played by Alyce Platt). And his colleague has just found out.

"You get the sense that if it came down to him having to stop chasing women or stop being a copper, Simon would choose women over being a copper any day."

Garner's character Mapplethorpe puts her career ahead of everything. She's lucky to get a gig on the sought-after homicide squad and she's not giving it up.

"It's a very gruelling career to take on and it seems to be something people are drawn to early on in life," Garner, who shot to fame in 1985 in The Henderson Kids before series such as Stingers, says. She spent time with real-life homicide squad detectives to get a sense of the role.

"There is a long waiting list to get into homicide. The people who choose this career have a very strong morality. They believe there is a wrong and a right; things are black and white. They do tend to lack the sort of greyness that, say, artists or actors normally operate in."

Hazlehurst's character, Superintendent Waverley, is supportive of Mapplethorpe because she believes that, as a female, she adds something to the team.

"Males' egomaniacal posturing can make talking to them like talking to a mask. Women tend to be less like that," Hazlehurst explains.

She spent time with a Victoria Police superintendent to prepare.

"He didn't want to show me his office, but it was really useful observing him. He seems to have an inexhaustible fatigue because he's at work from 7am until 7pm and his phone is never off. It's a very difficult job to have any sort of family life."

City Homicide is contemporary in mood and script. It may borrow part of its title from a '70s show, but this is a cop drama with its feet firmly planted in the present.

"I don't understand what point there is in making something that isn't contemporary," Hazlehurst says.

"I think people are well used to seeing issues with police on the front pages of newspapers all the time.

"I'm embarrassed when our television reflects that rosy glow of the'70s. I think it is boring and irrelevant. I wouldn't expect anyone to watch this if it was like that.

"It doesn't reflect Australian city life. There are just too many other places to get your entertainment these days. If it's not believable, why would you bother?"

By Stephen Downie
August 22, 2007
The Daily Telegraph