Something In The Air: articles

A haven from the hectic life

Tammy MacIntosh needs a gentle caress. The action girl of Flying Doctors, Police Rescue, The Feds and Wildside has had a rough, tough and emotional year and, for a while at least, wants some time away from the “bang bang, in your face, blah blah, sex and all that” of television.

The pastoral promise of the ABC’s new drama serial Something in the Air appeared to be where she might find a moment to recover. Soulful, inspiring… old-fashioned, but with a modern twist. Just lovely.

“You know, watch it and it’s like sucking on one of those old-fashioned barley sugars, like that gorgeous feeling you get when you visit those old Victorian ghost towns,” MacIntosh says.

“I really liked the honesty of the show, but, when I read the script, it became very important for me to do it.”

MacIntosh plays Christine Rutherford, the troubled daughter of Kate Fitzpatrick’s character, Julia. Christine, a childless lawyer’s wife, arrives at Emu Springs in next week’s run of episodes, thrown into an extraordinary family crisis after discovering her mother is expecting another baby.

While considering the role, MacIntosh found herself facing a series of personal crises. A close childhood friend in Melbourne called to reveal she was seriously ill. As the actress sat at a cafe in Sydney’s Avalon, devastated, taking in the news, she felt alone and desperately began reassessing her own family life.

Something in the Air allowed MacIntosh time to be with her friend. But precious little relaxation. The pace of production was, as it always is on the show, extremely brisk. The part itself was emotional, full on.

“It’s about the things in life you can’t have, but you think you deserve because it’s a human right, the baby thing,” MacIntosh says.

“And it’s about honesty. The mother’s pregnancy serves as a catalyst to discuss many years of underlying deceit, lying and manipulation.

“There were some scenes where I just explode at Kate and I had to say to the producer, `Why am I going off like this… I feel like a mental patient?’ And he said, `Well, it’s 20 years of stuff you’ve never broached with her and, in the face of her lies, you just let it rip’. Interesting family dynamics!”

When you suggest maternal yearning is unusual for someone more often involved in explosive police drama, MacIntosh reminds you she did play a mother in the series G.P. Admittedly, she adds, that was an alcoholic nurse and mother. But we’re likely to see her in more varied roles.

She will be in Geoffrey Atherden’s new local-council comedy, Grass Roots, playing the successful operator of a private child-care service.

MacIntosh has been absent from the TV action here, having spent a year doing the rounds in Los Angeles. She stayed in Malibu, living with the production designer from Pink Floyd and his wife. “The house was lit wonderfully,” she jokes. She came to know Hollywood well, driving her car around LA and hitting 20 auditions a day. Not always rewardingly.

“It took me three months to work out that anything anyone said to me was often complete and utter bullshit,” she says. “And Guy Pearce had told me this again and again and again, but I suppose you don’t really know until you’ve experienced it yourself.

“But it was great—something every actor has to think about, because, well, if you’re a chef, you have to study in Paris! I do want to go back there…

“I just read something about Portia (de Rossi) earning $3.6 million since she’s been doing Ally. I mean it really pays. You could earn in a year what it would take a lifetime to earn here, so I suppose, as a long-term investment, it really is worth the five or six years it takes to get your feet in the door over there.”

MacIntosh, who will be in Something in the Air this week and later in August, says she is in awe of the show’s regulars. She is impressed at the quality they achieve in such a short time. After a hectic, highly emotional day on location, during which between eight and 12 minutes of the serial was taped, she found herself reeling.

“At the end of it all I said `What a day!’ and they said `Wait until you get into the studio tomorrow where we’ll do 18 minutes’. I thought they were setting me up. Yeh right! Next day? Eighteen minutes. And the actors just pull it off wonderfully. They really give to each demanding moment… there’s no skating over it.”

And clearly, for guest stars, no gentle caress…

Something in the Air screens from Monday to Thursday on the ABC at 6.30pm./i>

By Brian Courtis
June 29, 2000
The Age