Doctor Doctor's Nicole da Silva on balancing feisty Franky and warm Charlie
Australian actress Nicole da Silva is a woman of many parts.
Five years as Wentworth's feisty lesbian Franky Doyle has given the 35 year old an international following and turned her into an icon for the LGBT community.
However, it is the role of schoolteacher Charlie Knight in Doctor Doctor that has turned her into a household name in her native Australia.
"For me, the biggest drawcard to do it (Doctor Doctor) was it was such a contrast to Franky and I got to explore a really different side of my skill set," says da Silva from Sydney, where she is about to start filming the second season of the hit new series.
Even the fact that filming the new show clashed with the fifth season of Wentworth failed to dampen her enthusiasm.
"There was a period of about two weeks where they overlapped and, I have to admit, it was pretty chaotic," the actress says.
"I was flying between Sydney and Melbourne and switching between roles. I'm just lucky that Franky is a role that I've inhabited for so long so it's not a huge stretch."
Doctor Doctor follows what happens when disgraced but brilliant heart surgeon Hugh Knight (Rodger Corser) is banished to the rural town of Whyhope to work as a GP for a year after one transgression too far.
The move reunites Hugh with his family and friends including Charlie, his former girlfriend who is now married to his brother Matt (Ryan Johnson).
Charlie may not be as tough as Wentworth's Franky, but she is no pushover either.
"That was always the calling card for Charlie," da Silva says.
"She needed to be warm and strong and, yes, she's flawed and confused and Hugh's coming back into town certainly throws her for a second there but she does have her own strength."
In much the same way, Doctor Doctor might be a country drama, but it is edgier and naughtier than its predecessors.
"That's what the joy of the show is. It's taken an almost traditional structure of a show and a traditional concept and it's subverted it in a lot of ways and it's done that with the characters, too," she says.
"The characters are all very fully formed, all are flawed, and they're all quirky in their own right and I think in a lot of respects you don't expect that from a traditional show about a country town."
It is, da Silva adds, roles like this that keep bringing her back from Los Angeles where she is based.
"I really love telling Australian stories and that's what continually pulls me back here.
"I think the quality of Australian television just improves year after year, so for me that's really exciting," she says.
"It's also important for me that the younger generation of Australians have Australian role models to look up to and have Australian stories and Australian characters to connect to. That will always be a priority for me."
Da Silva's commitment doesn't end on screen. In 2014, she was appointed the first National Champion of UN Women Australia – she supports women's empowerment and gender equality at events around the country.
"I always try to keep myself stimulated outside of work. I think it's very important to live a full life because then you can bring more than that into your characters," she says, admitting she is always exploring new avenues for personal development, including set building and producing.
"The set building came about because I've always had an interest in it. I've always had an interest in carpentry and renovation so I actually got involved with that while I was in LA. That was a really great experience and I hope I get to do more of that at some point.
"And the producing has always been there for me. When I got out of drama school, I started producing my own theatre. It was a step I had to take because I knew that I wanted to create my own work. That really hasn't changed. Acting, however, is still number one."
Doctor Doctor, TVNZ 1, Wednesday.
- TV Guide