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Red Hot Water Rats!

By Shane Sutton
Dec 30, 1995

New Nine Network series set to start in a blaze of glory

WATER RATS, the Nine Nine Network's new action series, gets off to a real blast in its first episode.

For one of the first scenes in the movie-length premiere episode, to be seen in February, an especially [sic] rigged ferry was set alight and then blown up. The flames lit the afternoon sky in Sydney.

Working on and around Sydney Harbour can be arduous, cast and crew have found. Filming the series on water, with weather and sea conditions completely unpredictable, plays havoc with the tight filming schedule.

Waiting is all part of the job on the support boats that float out of shot near the action and carry cast members, crew and extras.

"This is a whole new experience for everyone," says former Fire star and now Water Rats cast member Aaron Jeffery.

Water Rats, produced by Hall McElroy–Southern Star, creators of Blue Heelers, follows the working life and adventures of Sydney's water police.

While Aaron's character, police diver Senior-Constable Terry Watson, spends a large part of his time below the surface, three of his co-stars—New Zealander Jay Laga'aia, former A Country Practice star Sophie Heathcote and Brett Partridge—work mostly on speed boats.

Together, their characters make up a boat crew, around whom most of the series revolves.

From these behind-the-scenes pictures, it's hard to believe that some cast members had difficulty adjusting to working on the water.

Born-and-bred Bondi Beach boy Brett was brought up around boats and surfing, so his new place of work is a hassle-free experience.

For Jay, however, the experience has had its moments of anxiety.

"I love looking at the sea, but actually having to get into it is where the problem lies," Jay says.

"I get motion sickness. But I've been able to control it." A few weeks into filming, Sophie has yet to find her sea legs.

"I've had a few hairy days and I've gone a bit green a few times, but I'll get there," Sophie says.

Unlike most television series that are made on videotape, Water Rats is shot on film making it an expensive project, but the series has already been pre-sold to 11 television markets around the world, including France and Germany, with considerable interest from several other countries.

"It has got all the elements that I think will make a good series," says Brett.

"I mean, as well as the action and the drama, you really get to see the best of Sydney, from the best angle."

Executive Producer Hal McElroy believes Water Rats is an original concept that puts a new spin on the tries-and-true formula of the police drama series.

"I'm very confident that we have a very unusual looking show," McElroy says.

"Something unlike anyone has seen before.

"I'm confident that not only will everyone in Sydney want to see it, but all of Australia will too.

"The time is also right for a series such as this internationally.

"With Sydney to host the 2000 Olympics, there is a worldwide interest (in this city).

"If we do this series with Sydney and its beautiful harbour as the backdrop—and do it well—then I think we're on to a sure winner."