Underbelly: articles

Anna Hutchison

Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities' Allison Dine (Anna Hutchison)

When she was bad, she was Anna

A young New Zealand actress has hit a high note as a gangster's moll, writes Paul Kalina.

IN AN earlier era they were unflatteringly known as "gangster's molls", the tough-minded women who fell in love with criminals and proving in many cases think Bonnie Parker and Blanche Barrow to be just as dangerous as their infamous lovers.

It's a similar story in Underbelly and its sequel, where the fictional versions of Roberta Williams and Allison Dine are active participants rather than innocent bystanders in the dubious affairs of their rotten partners.

In the new series, Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, we see Allison Dine (Anna Hutchison) take her place as public enemy number one, not only enjoying the fruits of Terry Clark's (Matthew Newton) lucrative heroin network but serving as his very capable drug courier.

There was certainly nothing in Allison Dine's background, says New Zealand actress Anna Hutchison who plays her, to suggest where events would take her character after she becomes the lover of Clark.

"She starts off as a kindergarten teacher and enters this world which is quite far removed. She doesn't realise what she's into until the detectives and narcs come and say, 'This is what you've done, this is what you've enabled other people to do.' That's when she begins to realise."

Hutchison, 22, is about the same age Dine was when she fell for Clark. Having had love in her life, Hutchison says she can relate to Dine's blind infatuation with Clark, who by all accounts was a charmer despite his ominous day job.

Moving from Auckland to Sydney last October was "an opportunity to have a bit of fun", says Hutchison, as it would have been when Dine left small-town New Zealand for the bright lights of Australia a few decades earlier.

The similarities, however, stop there. "I haven't been involved in any of that heavy stuff yet," Hutchison laughs.

Likewise, there is nothing in Hutchison's acting resume to indicate that she would one day take the bad-girl role in a series with such lofty expectations.

She played a tomboy on New Zealand soap Shortland Street for 2 years and was Yellow Cheetah in the Power Rangers Jungle Fury TV series.

She had little inkling of what the role entailed and the baggage that would accompany it when the show's producers auditioned actresses in New Zealand.

She was one of about eight actresses summoned for a call-back audition. Only then did Hutchison watch the original Underbelly. "Whoa," she recalls thinking.

For writer and producer Greg Haddrick, Hutchison had the right combination of youth, attractiveness and innocence. "She could look innocent, but you knew she was also smart and in particular when she falls in love with Terry you can believe that here is someone for whom she'd do anything. That is one of the key elements."

Hutchison says the role was challenging and fulfilling on account of the emotional journey her character travels.

(Warning: spoiler follows.) While Dine is seen to clearly enjoy the spoils of Clark's ill-gotten wealth, she seeks redemption when events turn against her. And events certainly did turn. After skipping bail for drug charges in Australia, she was located by the FBI in the US. She was granted immunity if she testified against Clark.

She is in a witness protection program and her current whereabouts are unknown.

For Haddrick, Dine's role is as much about salvation as it is about what she did in the white heat of passion for Clark.

He doesn't subscribe to the view that she cold-heartedly betrayed others to save her own skin and that she got off virtually scot-free.

"She did have to stand up and be cross-examined four times in two countries by QCs who were calling her evil, lying and manipulative, all the while under intense protection because a lot of people wanted her killed.

"She went into witness protection where she could no longer see any of her family or friends ever. So on the one hand this is not a jail term, on the other hand it's a not insignificant curtailment of your liberty."

Haddrick acknowledges parallels between the characters played by Kat Stewart (Roberta Williams) and Hutchison in the original Underbelly and the sequel; the "enablers" who colluded with homicidal criminals.

"It's always fascinating how women operate and fit into that criminal milieu and I think Allison Dine does so in a very different way. It's a different character to Roberta and that's one of the exciting things about the series is that we're not repeating ourselves, we're showing a very different relationship."

Terry, says Haddrick, "acquired women like books in a bookcase". Through his romantic attachments to Allison, wife Maria Muhary (Jenna Lind), with whom he had a child, and lawyer Karen Soich, we see three very different types of "underworld" relationships.

"Maria knows what he does, but doesn't get involved," Haddrick says. "Alison knows and becomes very involved and Karen Soich doesn't know what he does. So you see the different relationships with three women and how they all come unstuck to varying degrees."

Haddrick anticipates that A Tale of Two Cities will propel Hutchison's profile and fame in much the same way that Underbelly did Kat Stewart's.

"My experience of Anna to date is that she has risen and met every challenge that we have thrown at her creatively and artistically, so I see no reason why, when the pressure builds, she won't rise to the challenges of being able to manage and handle the pressure and publicity she receives."

Not that the fresh-faced and giggly Hutchison is giving it much thought. For now, she's happy to pursue her new-found passion for surfing, nurse the associated bruises on her legs and wait for the phone to ring with her next job.

By Paul Kalina
March 19, 2009
The Age