Satisfaction: articles

Peta Sergeant talks about her role in Satisfaction

PETA Sergeant put in a lot of research in a taboo world for her sex-worker role in Satisfaction, the new drama set in a Melbourne brothel.

SINCE graduating from NIDA in 2000, Peta Sergeant has played parts ranging from a trauma surgeon in All Saints to a lesbian sex worker in Satisfaction.

She admits to fainting on set when she first saw blood in All Saints, but psyching herself up to play Heather in Satisfaction -- a series about the lives of six women who work in an upmarket brothel -- was another challenge altogether.

"When I got the Satisfaction script, I was ready to do something different," Sergeant says.

"I love my character. She's very funny. She's also capricious and incredibly dry -- a really arid, no-nonsense woman. And she is so strong and sexy.

"It's not about men, because she is a lesbian. It's a very different kind of charm, so it has been interesting to find how to play that in terms of flirtation, sexuality and sensuality."

Sergeant, who grew up in Brisbane, wasn't put off by the subject matter -- she found it intriguing.

"The producer (Roger Simpson) says we are not here to glorify or educate. We are presenting a drama, not a documentary," she says.

Satisfaction was filmed in the Melbourne nightclub Eve, which had a $3 million fit-out only 18 months ago. It is decorated in retro-chic style, with Florence Broadhurst wallpaper and designer furniture.

"What really interested me about the show was, even though it is on a grand scale, it reflects on a very real level the nature of deception we all live -- the extent to which people will go to achieve intimacy -- and how people confuse sex and intimacy," Sergeant says.

Preparing for the role involved the actors visiting real brothels and talking to sex workers about their experiences.

"It was really hard doing the research, because it is a world that is taboo for a lot of reasons," she says.

"We met several of these women. I don't know how they do it. Some seemed really in control and normal, but others were incredibly broken. Many of them told us stories about men falling in love with them and wanting to rescue them.

"What astounds me is that those men can suspend their disbelief, to not think there is someone coming in 15 minutes later, that they are paying for a service."

Sergeant (right) says there was another important aspect she learnt about the job.

"The women listen, on every level," she says. ``They say it's a real skill to be able to read the men. If they have had a hard day at work, who do they talk to about it? It (sex-work) is more than just a job, because it really gets at you."

She used this research to deepen the character of Heather.

"She's someone who has been judged a lot in her life, and as a result, she's a great therapist," Sergeant says. "She deals with a lot of clients who have nowhere else to go."

Heather has a client with a most peculiar fetish, but she manages to make him feel accepted.

"Heather's very bright -- not at all your stereotypical man-hating lesbian," she says. ``She's tolerant of humanity, which makes her good at what she does. She's a lot softer and warmer than I'd anticipated and I found myself really wanting to look after her."

IN THE series, Heather's partner Ally is desperate to have a baby. This was something Sergeant says she had never really considered.

"Most of the lesbian scenes are incredibly heartbreaking," she says.

"Until I played this part I had no idea how many women struggle with pregnancy. I just assumed it was natural. I thought you had all the time in the world.

"When I started doing the research, I found out how many women go through trauma trying to get pregnant and how corrupting it can be in a relationship."

Sergeant has a supportive partner in her own life, actor Rohan Nichol, and they've been together 5 1/2 years, after meeting while acting in a play at the Sydney Fringe Festival.

By Suzanna Clarke
December 14, 2007
Herald Sun