Kate Mulvany and husband Hamish Michael walked into their local cafe in Melbourne around the time Foxtel drama The Twelve was airing on television. A woman who worked at the shop took one look at the couple, screwed up her face and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t handle seeing you both together.”
The woman in the cafe had clearly seen The Twelve and was having a hard time separating the actors from their art. And she’s not the only one for whom Kate’s character Kate Lawson and Hamish’s Jamie Merrick have made an impact.
“Someone took one of our wedding photos from Instagram and put it on Twitter and said, ‘Here’s an alternative ending to The Twelve: Kate Lawson runs away with Jamie Merrick,'” Hamish tells TV WEEK.
If you’ve seen The Twelve, you’ll know why that sounds so horrifying. In the drama, which has scooped the TV WEEK Logie For Most Outstanding Drama, Kate’s enigmatic character Kate Lawson is an artist on trial for the murder of her niece, while Hamish’s Jamie physically abuses his wife Georgina (Brooke Satchwell).
Jamie was unlikeable – and unfortunately, the actor was on the receiving end of some “spicy” messages from people unable to “separate the performer from the role”.
“A lot of people were saying I’m a piece of s–t,” Hamish says.
“Someone sent me a link to a book group’s Facebook page and there was an incredible thread where everyone was chiming in about how much they hated me. And that ‘normally, he plays really nice guys’.”
The Twelve, based on a Belgian series, De Twaalf, received a whopping nine Logie nominations this year, including nods for both Kate and Hamish (for Most Outstanding Actress and Most Outstanding Actor). Kate, known for her roles in Fighting Season, US drama Hunters and for her character being killed off in the first episode of RFDS, calls The Twelve “a dream job”.
“I knew it was something special, because I’d never seen these characters on screen before,” Kate, 46, explains. “Kate was complicated. I had no idea how to tackle her, which was what attracted me to the role. She scared the hell out of me. I thought, ‘How can we make her a perpetrator, a victim and a survivor all at once?'”
Hamish says what appealed to him was seeing what felt like “a cross-section of Australia put on screen”. The cast was led by Sam Neill as Kate’s lawyer, Brett Colby. Sam picked up both Most Popular and Most Outstanding Actor nominations for his performance.
“Sam was so warm and generous,” Kate says. “He would leave lollies on the chairs in the courtroom.”
Logie nominations also went to Marta Dusseldorp and Pallavi Sharda, while Brooke won the Logie For Most Outstanding Supporting Actress. Once Hamish found out Brooke would be playing his wife, they met up “to have a real conversation” about how they would represent the “most honest” version of the couple’s marriage (“which was quite ugly, really”) on screen.
Interestingly, Kate and Hamish never once shared a scene together in The Twelve. Indeed, there were times Hamish, isolated as he was from the courtroom drama, felt like he was in his own “pocket TV show”.
Between scenes, there were always plenty of hugs between Hamish and the young actors playing his character’s children. He says it helped “exfoliate” the darkness of Jamie.
Meanwhile, with her character’s cropped hair and bleached eyebrows, Kate must have had a harder time leaving her character behind. “You can’t take off your bleached eyebrows,” Kate says with a laugh. “I had to live with those for six or seven months.”
Although it wasn’t part of her character, in real life, Kate walks with a cane. This is because she has scoliosis that stems from her being born with renal cancer because of her father’s exposure to the toxic Agent Orange defoliant used by the US during the Vietnam War.
She says after she broke her back doing a stunt for a show, it forced her to “fully come out and acknowledge” her disability. “It was a long road of thinking I had to hide it,” she says. “Getting the cane meant I had to be open about it.”
Her hope is she can be a role model for others in pain to know it’s not something they need to hide. Kate also wants producers and casting agents to “cast disabled”. “We come at everything a different way,” she says. “So, you’re going to get a different take on a character.”
After the Logies, Kate and Hamish are off to New York. It’s where they eloped to in 2015. The couple sent out an email to friends who might also be in New York to help them share their biggest day.
In the end, 16 people (“a rag-tag bunch of Aussie actors”) joined them at City Hall, where they tied the knot. Wedding guests included Jacki Weaver and her husband Sean Taylor, Ben and Josh Lawson, Yael Stone, Dan Spielman, Alexander England and Damon Herriman.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re married in real life,” Kate says.
They will now.