She shot to fame on A Country Practice as ranger Cathy Hayden in the 1980s, stealing the hearts of families across Australia with a series of dramatic and heartwarming storylines.
And now actress Kate Raison, 57, has opened up on what made the TV series such a success – insisting there needs to be a return to classic TV shows like it instead of the onslaught of reality shows we’re seeing today.
“I have great memories … It was always a very special time for me,” she said of her role on the show. “Since working on it, there really wasn’t anything like it and hasn’t been since. It’s particularly special.
“Only recently I attended Penny Cook’s memorial service and the feeling of that, and the legacy that the show has left behind, was palpable in that room. It speaks volumes about the people who made it and where it sat in the time, what it was trying to do and say. It really was quite a ground-breaking show when you look back.”
One of the things that made A Country Practice stand out from its competitors at the time was its choice to tackle real-life social issues – not shying away from traumatic or upsetting storylines and scenes.
One of the most memorable was much-loved character Molly’s death scene, and while Kate joined the cast after it, she said it shaped the show hugely and started a pattern of tackling tough topics in the years afterwards.
“They tackled everything from alcoholism to drugs, domestic abuse, all sorts of things way before many other shows were really concentrating on things like that – with a moral message I suppose,” she said.
“I’m sure we saw those things in many shows prior to A Country Practice, but there was very much a moral message involved in what he [the producer] wanted to say to the audience.
“Those scripts were very highly regarded, and they were worked on to make sure there weren’t too many loopholes. They took the deaths of those characters very seriously and I think it paid off. The show really stuck to its guns about certain things like that.”
Asked if she would like to see a return to classic shows like A Country Practice, over reality shows more widely seen today, Kate added: “Definitely. I think sadly the general public actually want that too, it doesn’t have to be expensive TV – looking back at those days it wasn’t expensive TV.
“Looking at Home and Away and Neighbours, they absolutely have their place and I think they’re terrific shows, and they do extremely well on I know not huge budgets, but looking back to something like A Country Practice and even E Street in its day, what it was was 40 minutes twice a week.
“Basically it was more of a serial than a soap, all the characters remained the same but that storyline changed … So yes, I’d much rather watch that than somebody cooking yet another meal that somebody gets voted off for! There’s so many cooking shows, some are great I’m sure, but we’ve had our fill.”
While Kate went on to enjoy roles in everything from E Street to Home and Away and Pacific Drive after her success on A Country Practice, she’s more recently been focusing on theatre roles – and she admitted the industry as a whole has become a lot tougher to find work as she’s got older – especially as a woman.
“There’s much more reality TV which is much cheaper to make,” she said. “People obviously feed off it and want it, which means there’s been a bit of a downturn.
“When you’re a woman in this industry, age plays a part. If you look across what we’re making at the moment, there’s not a huge amount of women in their late 40s. We don’t make stories necessarily about those women. They’re slightly on the periphery, we’re looking more at the young ones.
“I think it’s got a lot to do with the population and the money, it’s always been a problem. I think it’s been more difficult and will probably remain so. There’s still some terrific shows being made and great performances being given, I suppose we just want more of it and to make sure that it’s protected in some way so we never have to be concerned about bringing in an overseas market and not having our own.”
Kate is now appearing in Jim Cartwright’s comedy play Two alongside her husband Brian Meegan – with the pair playing an incredible 14 character between them. Set around two landlords, the play follows a series of characters as they come in and share their life stories – with both actors slipping into the different roles seamlessly.
“It really has to be done with the physical changes of the character and the vocal changes, all within your body. It’s terrific as an acting exercise!” Kate said of the role.
Two is playing from March 5-7 at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. To get tickets visit the theatre’s official website here or call the Box Office on (02) 8839 3399.