The Doctor Blake Mysteries' Nadine Garner on the show's 'love that can't be'
The biggest question on The Doctor Blake Mysteries is not whodunit but will the medical sleuth wed his loyal housekeeper?
Craig McLachlan, who plays crime-solving country GP Lucien Blake in the Australian period drama, has made no secret of his wish for his character to make an honest woman out of war widow Jean Beazley. But Nadine Garner, who plays the upright housekeeper, can't see it happening soon.
"From where I stand, the currency of the show is definitely about a love that can't be and that's worked really well for five series," she says.
The fifth season (due to screen in Australia this year) will be its last and it has been announced the drama will wrap up with a one-off final movie-length special which fans hope will tie up loose ends – including the troubled romance.
The producers have teased the unresolved sexual tension between the pair for more than three years now and just when it looked like Lucien was about to pop the question, Mei Lin (Ling-Hsueh Tang), the Chinese wife he believed dead, turned up on the doorstep of his Ballarat home. And, as always, Jean does the right thing.
"She steps aside and says to Lucien, 'This is your wife. You wouldn't have embarked on anything with me had you known she was still alive so I'm going to step aside and let you two resolve it'," Garner says.
"It's really awful to watch her go through that pain and anguish but she does it and we love her even more for doing that because we understand her goodness is so deep that that is what she would do."
While many see Jean as outdated in her attitudes, Garner disagrees.
"As modern women, it's very easy for us to say they should give her more to say or that she should be more political. You've got to remember the time she comes from," she says of Jean, who became a housekeeper after her farmer husband was killed in the war.
"She's not educated. She's been extremely brave and resourceful. She hasn't had a family to fall back on.
"She hasn't quickly remarried a man and taken shelter under his wing. She's been really courageous and quite modern.
"Until Blake came along, I don't think she ever really saw herself as being available, or anything other than a widow and somebody who was in service to the people around her. I don't think it is a weakness on her part. I think she's just a product of her time, her society and her church."
Even Lucien, who uses her as the Watson to his Holmes, still expects her to have the roast dinner on the table – even after she has been working with him all day.
"And he never helps with the washing up," Garner adds, laughing.
"There's a beautiful kind of confusion and grey area for Jean as she moves from being his housekeeper to his partner and I love all that. I love how complex that is for her and, in the moral code of the day, how unacceptable that would have been in Ballarat back in the 50s when you are a woman employed by a single man and are edging towards being his love.
"It's just scandal and particularly for someone like Jean who would never imagine she would find herself in the position where people were talking about her behind their hands."
Garner, who found fame as a teen on The Henderson Kids and has appeared in everything from Blue Water High to the gritty police drama City Homicide, is a little surprised at how popular The Doctor Blake Mysteries has become. In Australia, it is regularly the most-watched show on television.
"It's a pretty staid, conventional murder-mystery show. It's nothing we haven't seen out of England for the last 50 years or whatever," Garner says, adding she believes the show offers viewers something different from the current plethora of reality shows.
"We're now doing naked dating on television. Well, we are the other end of the spectrum to naked dating. We're about conduct and protocol and respect and being careful and being human.
"People want to see people who are behaving nicely and people take time to put on a nice coat and nice hat and behave in a good way and not in a base way.
"I just think there are a lot of people who long for that on their screen and not just base human behaviour which is what a lot of reality TV trades in."
The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Vibe, starts Friday April 7.
- TV Guide