Stingers: articles

Street kid to beat kid

WHEN Jacinta Stapleton joined Nine's undercover police drama Stingers for last year's sixth season, she didn't exactly win the popularity stakes.

Stapleton, 23, arrived at the same time as TV veterans Gary Sweet and Rebecca Gibney. Fans took a while to warm to the show's new characters and direction.

Stapleton's character, rookie Constable Chris DiChiera, irritated long-time undercover operatives Peter Church (Peter Phelps) and Angie Piper (Kate Kendall).

But by the end of the series, DiChiera's feisty attitude and street smarts had cemented her as a crucial part of the team. She could also hold her own against Church and their mentally ill boss Luke Harris, played by Sweet.

"She's sort of rebellious and that comes from her past," Stapleton said.

"She's used to being tough and doesn't take well to authority. She's really had to make her mark with these people and they have warmed to her as well.

"That's what we waited for, for her to be included in the team. It brings a different aspect and opens up a lot of story-lines, especially with her being younger."

Stapleton received positive feedback from her peers and the public but appreciates it may have taken some viewers a while to warm to DiChiera, a former street kid, who is also of ambiguous sexuality.

"She was a different kind of character, people did not understand why she was there or her motives," she said.

"It definitely took a while to find out her motives and the reason is her past, which she has to hide.

"She's a street kid, a bad girl turned good. Obviously these things come up in the new series even more and we figure out where she is from and her past relationships."

DiChiera apparently changed her name and covered her tracks to get through her police training but Stapleton's not so sure that would be possible in real life.

Gibney's character, lawyer Ingrid Burton, is the only one who knows DiChiera's secret. She encountered DiChiera in the Children's Court but hasn't blown the whistle.

DiChiera begins dealing with her secret past in tomorrow's series return, when she becomes involved with a school friend whose mother is suspected of having terrorist connections. A few weeks into the series DiChiera accidentally shoots and kills someone from her past.

"It was challenging and emotionally taxing, because it's the first person she has ever shot and someone she knows," Stapleton said of the shooting episode.

"She has to go back into her past and deal with that and comes up against all sorts of emotions. There's a vulnerable side to Chris no one has seen before and that adds a new element to her personality."

Stingers is Stapleton's first regular gig since appearing in Neighbours from 1997 to 1999 as schoolgirl Amy Greenwood.

"It's completely different, Stingers almost shoots like a film, we shoot an hour a week and Neighbours shoots 2 1/2" she said.

"I think we have a lot more time and space for opinions, we can put in ideas and the directors listen, it's a really great process. Everyone's highly involved and that's very rewarding."

Stapleton's mother listed her with a talent agent when she was six and her brother Sullivan, also an actor, was eight. She has appeared in series such as The Genie from Down Under, The Flying Doctors and The Lost World.

Stapleton knew some people might be reluctant to cast her after her long stint in Neighbours but she was prepared to wait for the right role.

"I had to move forward, with no side steps, so it took a long time between projects to get something to really satisfy me," she said.

Series seven of Stingers will be 40 episodes, up from 14 last year and 22 in previous years, so that should certainly go some way to keeping Stapleton satisfied.

Stingers, Nine, Tuesdays, 9.30pm.

March 24, 2003
The West Australian