TV

Nadine Garner spills on her hotly anticipated return to The Blake Mysteries

“It's good to be back”

By Luke Dennehy

There was a moment early this year when actress Nadine Garner could barely face leaving the house.

Two things had happened that left her worried and uncertain. First came the surprise decision by the ABC in 2017 to axe its high-rating drama series The Doctor Blake Mysteries after five seasons.

Then, in January, her long-time friend and co-star Craig McLachlan, who played Dr Lucien Blake in the 1950s period drama set in Victoria, found himself at the centre of damning allegations.

Although Channel Seven took steps to pick up the popular series, there were doubts as to whether it would eventuate.

The events left Nadine wondering if her days playing Jean Blake, the doctor's new wife, were over. The thought sent her into a funk.

"I was aware I was suffering circumstantial depression," Nadine, 47, reveals to TV WEEK.

"I just sat on the sofa and didn't feel like going anywhere. There were days where I didn't really leave the house."

The uncertainty affected Nadine not only emotionally, but also put her career in limbo.

"There were real financial fears," she says.

"I wondered what I was going to do. I didn't know where my contract [with Channel Seven] stood. I'd already signed on, but did that even mean anything?"

Nadine in the new Blake Mysteries.
Nadine in the new Blake Mysteries.

Thankfully for Nadine and the rest of the cast and crew, Channel Seven decided to press ahead with the Doctor Blake telemovie, though Craig would not be returning.

In January, there were media reports that the 53-year-old actor and singer had been accused of engaging in sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying during a production of the Rocky Horror Show in 2014.

Craig has vehemently denied the allegations and is currently suing two media outlets for defamation.

In the wake of the allegations, the producers of The Doctor Blake Mysteries held an internal investigation that cleared the actor of any wrongdoing.

"There were no findings of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct or workplace bullying by Craig McLachlan or any other person on Doctor Blake," a production company statement said.

Now, The Blake Mysteries: A New Beginning sees Nadine's character Jean stepping into the lead role.

"Sometimes really, really bad stuff happens, but something good can come from it," Nadine reflects.

Nadine is one of Australia's most established and respected actresses.

She got her big break at the age of 15 in 1985 series The Henderson Kids. But despite her long list of credentials, which includes drama series such as A Country Practice and City Homicide, Nadine has never played the sole lead. Until now.

Nadine with Craig McLachlan in *The Doctor Blake Mysteries*.
Nadine with Craig McLachlan in The Doctor Blake Mysteries.

When TV WEEK joined Nadine filming in a haunted mansion on location in Melbourne, we were struck by her positive energy.

Nadine was on a roll. Not only was she nailing her scenes in just a handful of takes, she was also clearly relishing bringing Jean back to life.

The new-look Blake Mysteries telemovie commences with a shocked Jean being told her beloved Lucien is missing, presumed dead.

The news sends Jean into a tailspin, but there's also a respectful approach to the handling of his departure.

"We had to find the right tone," Nadine stresses.

"I was very clear that we can't abandon the marriage or the investment in that union. We had to acknowledge that and grieve through it – and we've done that."

Despite the trauma, Jean manages to pick herself up and focus on what she does best: solving murder mysteries.

Joining Nadine are fellow returning cast members Joel Tobeck as Chief Superintendent Matthew Lawson, David Whiteley as Senior Sergeant Bill Hobart and Belinda McClory as Dr Alice Harvey. Newcomers Tom Wren and Joshua Orpin have also been added to the line-up.

Nadine says she's proud of how the cast and crew have handled themselves.

"We had to make the best of the situation," Nadine says.

"I'm proud we've been able to create something new."

Nadine starring in *City Homicide* in 2007.
Nadine starring in City Homicide in 2007.

Nadine declines to comment on the allegations against Craig. But as a consummate professional, she also believes the show must go on.

"Obviously, I worry for him as a friend and a colleague, and wish this hadn't have happened for anybody involved," Nadine says.

"But we just decided, in a positive light, that the best thing we can do is just keep on going."

Not only does the series have a new leading lady, it also has a new home on Channel Seven.

However, many of the Doctor Blake cast members admit to still feeling a little perplexed about why the ABC cancelled the show in the first place.

"We were bewildered, because we'd been delivering them this high-rating drama," Nadine recalls.

Nevertheless, she's delighted Channel Seven has taken a chance on the series.

She remains optimistic that if viewers like it, it could lead to more Blake Mysteries telemovies.

"We're grateful to Seven for having faith in us to keep going," Nadine says. After a year that got off to a tumultuous start, The Blake Mysteries: A New Beginning is finally about to hit screens.

"Life can take many, many turns, and you never know what's coming," Nadine says of the events.

In a year of ups and downs, Nadine looks set to finish 2018 on a real high.

To read more about Nadine and her life growing up as a Henderson Kid, pick up a copy of this week's issue of TV WEEK. On sale now!

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