Wildside: articles

Examining the dark side

Jessica Napier's first big acting job was the short-lived soapie, Echo Point. It's been all up since then . . . Story by Meaghan Shaw. Jessica Napier seems to have caught the bug going around at the moment and is a bit sniffly, wrapped up in a long black overcoat. She reminds you of a delicate, wilting flower — a far cry from the spunky, feisty Gerry Davis, her character in the acclaimed ABC series, Wildside.

She has a husky voice with slight traces of a New Zealand accent from her early childhood (she came to Australia when she was eight). She often starts mumbling towards the end of an answer and then laughs self-consciously, as though embarrassed by the media attention.

With her angelic features, Napier is usually cast as an innocent, but in Wildside she plays an 18-year-old former prostitute-turned-youthworker.

"For me it's good because I'm always cast as the girl next door… and to play someone who's not a good girl — she's been there, she's done that, she's got a bit of an edge to her, she's seen the world and she's decided where she wants to go… I enjoy that fact; I enjoy that she's got a history.

"Napier, 19, has been with the series since shooting began last June but it seems she will not return for the next series — a mutual decision between her and the producers. "I won't say whether I'm leaving or not, but because I'm the youngest in the entire cast, they're finding it hard to place her (Gerry); they don't know where she's going, and for me that's frustrating because I want to do more,"she says.

The daughter of actor Marshall Napier — who played Frog in the first two series of Police Rescue — Jessica Napier began acting with a guest role in the same series five years ago. That led to the role of resident bitch Edwina in Echo Point, Channel 10's maligned soapie lasted only four months in 1995.

Among the telegenic blonde hopefuls pouting their way into our lounge rooms each weeknight, Napier stood out as an actor with potential. But she doesn't like talking about it.

"I don't want to go there," she says, again laughing hesitantly. "It was great fun and it kicked me off, but it is Echo Point." Then there were guest roles in Twisted Tales, Water Rats and Murder Call, and movie roles in Love Serenade and Blackrock. Now Napier would really love to try her hand at theatre.

"I've never done theatre and I said (to my agent): 'Look if I could get a theatre gig that would be great,'" she says. "I'm just hoping that something will come up… because I don't really want to go straight back into another series.

"Napier has an unusual living arrangement, sharing a place with her father, brother and boyfriend, actor Anthony Hayes, who plays Stevie in The Boys: "So I've got my three main men in the one household," she says. A recipe for disaster? Not according to Napier. "It's all cool. They all get along really well. Sometimes I feel like I'm the outsider. My brother and my boyfriend are attached at the hip half the time."

By Meaghan Shaw
May 14, 1998
The Age