Wildside: articles

Wild for a while

Abi Tucker is making a powerful, but all too brief, impact on Wildside.

IT’S BEEN A CURIOUS SUMMER for Abi Tucker. Last December she and her fellow cast and crew said farewell to Wildside as the acclaimed gritty, high-budget drama was axed by the ABC. She was out of a job before a single episode she appeared in had gone to air

It is only now that viewers can find out what they have missed. Tucker’s character, Kate Holbeck, joined the Wilde Street police operation as a rookie cop with a can-do attitude and just a slight tendency towards reckless behavior when guns are being drawn.

Kate first made her mark by sneaking up behind a schizophrenic who was holding his sister-in-law at knife point and successfully distracting his attention by filling him with half a dozen bullets.

Boom, boom, boom, boom. It was a classic Wildside moment: jumpy cameras, rapid-fire editing, massive amounts of sweating and yelling.

The dramatic presentation combined with some spectacular acting and tight, tense scripting made the program look like a sure-fire overseas hit.

But it was insufficient foreign sales that killed the series in the end. Tucker admits she hates watching herself on television and says she’s not sure what it was about the programs that failed to win overseas programmers’ hearts.

“I do know that overdubbing was quite a hard thing to do — that had something to do with it,” she says.

Chatting with Tucker — who has worked with many of the Wildside gang before on Heartbreak High — she sounds a lot like her character Kate: funky, confident, pretty relaxed mostly. But there’s no evidence of that edginess that makes Kate such a riveting figure in the first couple of episodes of the new series.

Tucker says it took a while to find the energy level necessary to play the frenetic scenes the show requires.

“I drew parallels between the fact that she was starting and I was starting,” Tucker says. “It’s a pretty full-on show. Luckily for me I was playing a nervous character. Otherwise I would’ve been shaking without a good reason!

”Evidently the series’ producers, Ben Gannon and Michael Jenkins, had liked Tucker’s style in Heartbreak High, which they had also produced.

At Heartbreak, Nico Lathouris, who played Alex Dimitriades’ father, coached the younger actors. On Wildside he assumed similar teaching duties, workshopping the actors through the difficult high-energy scenes. “Nico is renowned,” Tucker says. “He’s just a mad, mad man. He’s excellent. We also had an ex-detective on set who could help us out with our responses to situations, such as what you might be thinking at an armed hold-up. It was so I wouldn’t blurt out something ridiculous — which is quite common!

”With the last shows in the can, Tucker no longer has to worry about what she blurts out. She’s been filling her time shooting a low-budget film called Snow Job, and writing a few songs for the musical wing of her career. As for Wildside’s demise, Tucker’s response is as laid-back as her character Kate can be wound-up.

“Everyone was so disappointed when the show finished, but a show runs its course like anything. The good thing about it was that it was credible right to the end.” The Wildside party is over for Tucker; for us there are still months of credible sweating and yelling to look forward to.

By John Mangan
March 18, 1999
The Age