Erik Thomson & Kate Richie open up about playing a couple going through unimaginable pain

''It's my worst nightmare.''
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They’ve played some of Australian TV’s most-loved characters over the past three decades.

But it took a devastating story of loss to bring Kate Ritchie and Erik Thomson together on screen.

In two-part drama The Claremont Murders, based on real events, Kate and Erik play Carol and Don Spiers, the parents of 18-year-old Sarah, who disappears from the Perth suburb of Claremont after a night out with friends in January 1996.

Two other young women are murdered in the months that follow and their bodies are discovered, but no trace of Sarah is ever found.

The Spiers have to lean on each other during their cruel ordeal.

(IMAGE: Supplied)

”I’m a parent and I have a teenage daughter, and it’s my worst nightmare,” Erik, dad of Eilish, 15, and Magnus, 12, tells TV WEEK.

Kate, who has an eight-year-old daughter, Mae, calls the pain the real-life Carol must have endured ”unimaginable.”

”No preparation or the drawing on my own experiences could ever come close to those of Carol or the families who lived through the loss of their daughters, sisters, friends,” she says.

Neither Kate nor Erik got to meet the couple who inspired the characters they play, but Kate says she did as much research as she could.

”I found some of the rare footage of Carol to be incredibly moving,” she says.

The Claremont Murders is based on a real life crime.

(IMAGE: Supplied)

For the 44-year-old actress, it’s been almost 10 years since she’s taken on a TV acting role.

Best known as Sally Fletcher in Home And Away, a character she played for 20 years, Kate went on to star in Underbelly: A Tale Of Two Cities and Cops L.A.C. before taking on small parts in Mr & Mrs Murder and It’s A Date.

She said yes to The Claremont Murders because she wanted to work with director Peter Andrikidis and cinematographer Joe Pickering – and also Erik.

”I really had been waiting to be part of a project with the kind of ensemble cast that were coming together for The Claremont Murders, so that had a lot to do with it,” she explains.

”Add to that that it’s a sensitively written, considered script, and working alongside Erik ticked all the boxes.”

Carol, Don and daughter Amanda (Sophia Forrest) go to the police to report Sarah missing.

(IMAGE: Supplied)

For some of the years Kate was playing Sally, Erik was also at Channel Seven, playing Dr Mitch Stevens in hospital drama All Saints.

”Although I’ve never worked alongside Erik before, I somehow feel as though I have,” she says.

”I guess that has a lot to do with passing each other in the Channel Seven studio corridors for many years.”

As for Erik, he was excited at the idea of acting opposite Kate in The Claremont Murders.

”Given the Spiers’ story is the emotional heart of the show, I knew Kate had the ability to head into that territory,” he explains.

Kate scoring a kiss from daughter Mae.

(IMAGE: Instagram)

The 55-year-old says he was ”fully aware” of the emotional sensitivity of the role.

”One scene I knew I had to be in a heightened emotional state for is when my character is desperately searching for a grave a clairvoyant has told him about,” he says.

”Everything else was portraying a numbness as a mechanism for coping.”

He and Kate supported each other through the challenging shoot.

”We managed to lighten the moments between takes to manage the material and look after each other,” Erik explains.

Erik in a selfie with wife Caitlin.

(IMAGE: Instagram)

Kate says she felt comfortable with Erik from the moment they arrived on set.

”On my first filming day, he sat in the make-up chair beside me and it felt as if we had done so a thousand times before,” she remembers.

”He’s so warm and funny, as well as talented.

”I was told I would have a great experience sharing scenes with him and I did. I’d love to do it all over again one day.”

Although Kate is keen to do more acting, she has a few other things going on in her life that she needs to work around, including her new breakfast radio gig on Sydney’s Nova.

”I’m keen to put as much energy into that as I can,” she says.

”But without a doubt, I look forward to the next on-screen role that comes my way. Working on this project has reignited that feeling in many ways.

”But I can’t forget I also have my next children’s book to write and an eight-year-old daughter who needs me prompting her to finish homework every afternoon, so for now, the schedule is full!”

As for Erik, he’s ”very excited” about CAUGHT*, the series he recently shot with Sean Penn for Stan.

Apart from that, he’s been spending most of his time at home in South Australia with his actress wife Caitlin McDougall and their children.

“I’m looking at developing a couple of new shows, as well as enjoying the family,” he says.

The Claremont Murders premieres at 8:30pm on Easter Monday on Channel 7 and 7plus.

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