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A new wave

Date: 22/04/2001
Words: 815
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Television
Page: 5
Even if Brooke Satchwell can't walk on water she may be the messiah the Water Rats crew wants, writes HANNAH EDWARDS.

Water Rats airs on Tuesdays, Channel 9, 9.30pm.

SKIMMING across Sydney Harbour towards Goat Island on a water taxi, it's easy to see the attraction of working on police drama Water Rats.

Careering around in speed boats on one of the world's best harbours doesn't sound like a bad gig.

But over the past few weeks, clouds have gathered on the horizon with Channel 9 moving Water Rats out of its long-held timeslot and lead actor Steve Bisley's announcement that he would quit the show at the end of this series.

If these developments are weighing on the shoulders of new recruit Brooke Satchwell, her sunny disposition belied the notion.

The former Neighbours starlet greeted everyone on the set by name with plenty of waves and smiles and breezily admitted to favouring Channel 7's medical drama All Saints over Water Rats back when the two shows ran head-to-head on Tuesdays at 8.30pm.

The 20-year-old shrugged and smiled apologetically. She remains surprisingly down to earth, even after three years of working on Neighbours and all the hype which comes with that.

After leaving the security and familiarity of the Channel 10 soap, Satchwell is aware of the new challenges she faces with Water Rats. "It was a challenge coming in as an outsider after I had been part of the core group on Neighbours," Satchwell said.

"Neighbours is escapism. People come home at the end of the day, switch it on, chill out and don't have to think too much. It's all a bit heightened because it is quite fun. But Water Rats deals with very different and realistic story lines. [As an actor] you have to be completely in the moment."

While Neighbours provided a training ground for her, she never intended to stay on the soap for more than three years.

"Because it [Neighbours] was the first professional job I had ever had, my entry into this industry was under the umbrella of a network," she explained. "It was quite safe and I learnt in a very controlled environment. I learnt a lot of the technical side of things from Neighbours like how to work with the cameras, how to switch scenes and learning about continuity.

"While Neighbours taught me the technical side of things, Water Rats has really extended the creative side. I have learnt a lot about how I approach scenes, how I interact with other actors and about trusting people."

And contrary to some media reports, the Melbourne native has not joined the soapie scrap heap since moving out of Ramsay Street.

"Literally the week after I finished Neighbours I was in Sydney doing [the play] The Caribbean Tempest. And just as Tempest was finishing up I did the audition for Water Rats," she said.

"I was ready to give up acting after I came out of that audition! I was supposed to cry during the audition, but I cried before it and after it - just not during it. I really thought I had made a mess of it, but as it turns out, obviously I hadn't."

Clearly she impressed the show's producers, who signed her up to play Sophie Ferguson, an 18-year-old from Coffs Harbour who decides to track down her biological parents, only to discover that her father is blokey copper-saurus Detective Jack Christey, played by Bisley. Her grandfather, Tom Christey, is played by film and television veteran Bill Hunter. All in all, not a bad pedigree.

Satchwell hopes her role will open up the softer side of Bisley's character, who often seems in danger of drowning in his own testosterone.

The actor and her character are a part of the subtle shift in the Water Rats format. The private lives of the characters will come to the fore. Hopefully that will mean fewer shouted conversations and harbour chases, which have become so repetitive they have lost their impact.

"Jack now has a daughter, so it needs to be explored. It will be interesting to see how he copes with having an 18-year-old in the house."

Sophie applies for an attachment (or traineeship) to the Water Police, with her presence guaranteeing plenty of dramas and adventures.

After two guest spots on the show Satchwell now has a five-month contract and will appear as a regular character from this week.

But she is careful to keep her long-term career options open and has been busy lately with auditions for theatre, film and television roles.

"In this industry you can't plan too much because everything changes in a millisecond. It's a business as well as a passion and you do have to pay the rent. I keep an eye open for what's next and [think it is a good idea to] always be prepared. You've got to make your own luck a little bit."

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