Stingers: articles

Undercover cops give Stingers a tick

When Roxane Wilson and the rest of the Stingers cast were given permission to meet the Victoria Police undercover unit, it was supposed to be a mutually beneficial exercise. "I think they picked our brain for about half an hour and we picked theirs for about two hours," Wilson recalls, laughing.

The meeting, held in secret to protect the identity of the undercover cops, provided an invaluable experience for the actors and writers of the popular Melbournebased series.

"It was absolutely fantastic, being able to sit in on their training sessions and actually talk to them about little trade secrets… what they would do and what was going through their minds," she says.

Wilson says the undercover unit was impressed with Stingers, which draws heavily on the experiences of its technical adviser, former undercover officer Guy Wilding.

"What was really good was getting the thumbsup from them and the fact that they watch the show," she says. "When they initially started watching it, they found it disturbingly close to their lives."

Acting has always been the first love of South African-born Wilson, who spent most of her teenage years on her parents' "hippy farm" in Eungai Creek, New South Wales.

A modelling career took Wilson to Sydney and New York before she returned to Australia and enrolled in the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

"In Perth we were told to fail and to make huge mistakes. We were told to stretch yourself, do roles you would never be cast in, experiment, ham it up, pull it back—try it."

Wilson had to draw on all her strength recently when her character, Danni Mayo, faced a difficult pregnancy and, ultimately, an abortion. Despite tongueincheek encouragement from the producers, Wilson, who is married to actor Grant Bowler, was not pregnant during the shoot. "We just had me wearing baggy shirts all the time," she says.

The character of Danni was added to the Stingers cast at the start of the third series in a bid to broaden the program's audience.

"What they were finding was that the male audiences loved the show, but women wouldn't have a bar of it and in all their research, women control what is watched in the house. The show was lightened up and started to investigate the characters' private lives more."

Rather than compromise the previous two series, Wilson says her character was the vehicle used to make the changes.

"She is kind of the opposite of undercover, she is nosey, wants to talk about what's going on, asks lots of questions and they kind of use her as a catalyst to draw people out."

If the ratings are any measure of success, the changes are working. Last week's episode—the series' 99th—scored its best ratings for the year, pulling 1,133,376 viewers across the five capital cities.

A sixth series has been commissioned by Nine and goes into production later this year.

Says Wilson: "The formula is well and truly up and running and rocking along."  Peter Ker

Stingers screens on Tuesdays at 9.30pm on Channel Nine.

By Peter Ker
April 25, 2002
The Age