Flying the Aussie flag in Broadchurch

PAUL KALINA
Last updated 05:00 27/05/2014
broadchurch

FLYING THE AUSSIE FLAG: Simone McAullay in British success series Broadchurch.

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The leap from iconic Australian cop show Blue Heelers to Broadchurch is one that Simone McAullay calls, "A gift, a privilege, an opportunity that as an actor you hope will come flying through the door".

Which it did after the 38 year old, best known as Susie Raynor on the long-running Blue Heelers, was invited to audition for the British thriller, which has become a benchmark for the new wave of sophisticated crime mini-series.

Armed with nothing more than the scripts of the first two episodes, and a sketchy outline of its small-town setting, she recorded an audition at her home in Sydney and sent it to the show's writer and producer, Chris Chibnall.

Several months later she found herself at a seaside town in England filming Broadchurch, which turned out to be as much of a mystery for her as it is for the audience consumed by the show's final moments.

Broadchurch revolves around the hunt by a pair of detectives, played by David Tennant and Olivia Colman, for the murderer of an 11-year-old boy, Danny Latimer.

Mystery clouds many of Broadchurch's inhabitants, all of whom are, in one way or another, implicated in Danny's tragic demise.

While McAullay's character, Becca Fisher, who manages Broadchurch's struggling hotel, is soon eliminated as a murder suspect, she has a significant role in the unfolding drama with revelations of an affair with one of the main suspects.

According to McAullay , Chris Chibnall always wanted Becca to be an Australian.

"Being Australian made her instantly an outsider and also that kind of brassiness - that Australian sensibility of saying what you think," she says.

Becca's partner left her with unpaid taxes and bills after they set up the boutique hotel in Broadchurch.

She is a tall poppy in a community whose residents were born and raised there.

She had dreams of travelling the world and is something of a "good-time girl", which leads to a rather awkward encounter with David Tennant's DI Alec Hardy after he tries to hit on her and is rejected.

"In different circumstances, she would have (slept with him), but she's reining it in because she's been exposed as the other woman. She flirts, it's part of her nature, but it's all gone tits up. No one is who they were any more."

According to McAullay, Becca's backstory has been deliberately left open, in part to be explored in a second season of the show, which has been confirmed, and in part to make it difficult for the audience to judge her.

Working with David Tennant and Olivia Colman was something of a leveller for her.

"There's no ego about them, they just get in and do their jobs," she says. "Everyone was thinking on some level, 'I hope I get this right'. No matter how many jobs you've done, everyone goes in on that level. No one sails in going, 'I've got this sewn up'. There is that kind of equality."

The show struck a nerve in Britain and is being remade for the American audience.

"It swept the nation, the figures were off the charts (in the UK)" Simone says. "Chris (Chibnall) is still confounded by the success.

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"Gambling agencies were running books on it. Everyone was swept up in the whodunit part, but I think it was a lot more than that.

"(Chris) has managed to write about something so horrific and so tragic and so sad but in a way with such tenderness and soul that it's strangely healing. And I think that's a key to such writing because it's not gratuitous, it's respecting its own material.

"Its redemptive, almost healing quality comes from putting humanity in something so awful. I think that sets it apart. It's a tough watch but it's not exploitative."

For now, McAullay calls London home, at least as much as a jobbing actor can. She has no inkling of what Becca's role in the next season will be, but is content simply to be involved.

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