Roz Hammond and Bridie McKim in ‘The Heights’ (Photo: Ben King).
Roz Hammond rates her role in The Heights, the ABC drama serial from Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions, as the best she’s ever had.
That’s a big call for the WAAPA graduate who broke through as Cheryl, one of the “bitchy” bridesmaids in Paul J. Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding in 1994.
Perhaps best known as a founding member of the cast in Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell, she has featured in a raft of comedies including Please Like Me, The Librarians, It’s a Date and Upper Middle Bogan. She has shown her dramatic chops in Jack Irish, Offspring and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
Co-created by Warren Clarke and Que Minh Luu and set in the fictional inner-city neighbourhood of Arcadia Heights, The Heights explores the relationships between a public housing tower’s residents and those who live in the adjoining, rapidly gentrifying community.
Hammond plays ER doctor Claudia, a single mother who lives with her teenage daughter Sabine (newcomer Bridie McKim), whose cerebral palsy is treated as incidental to her needs and desires.
In the first double-episode which premieres at 8.30 pm on February 22, Claudia is called on to treat an abandoned baby who is brought to the hospital by ex-cop Pav (Marcus Graham). Pav is separated from his wife, lawyer Leonie (Shari Sebbens), and their kids Mich (Calen Tassone) and Kit (Siria Kickett).
Rich in diversity, the characters include university student Sully (Koa Nuen), who is drawn to Iranian refugee Ash Jafari (Phoenix Raei), Sully’s mother Iris (Carina Hoang), publican Hazel (Fiona Press) and her estranged son Ryan (Mitchel Bourke), maintenance man Mark (Dan Paris) and his family and Indigenous elder Uncle Max (Kelton Pell) .
“It’s probably the role I am proudest of in my whole career,” says Hammond. “It’s a great slice of life which we have not seen in Australian television. Claudia and Sabine have a really complex and beautiful mother and daughter relationship that plays out fairly strongly through the series.”
McKim, who has mild cerebral palsy, filmed the show during her final year at NIDA. Hammond could not have been more impressed, observing: “She knocked it out of the park. I felt so lucky to have so much interaction with her. We were invested in our characters’ story.“
Hammond did not find the 17-week shoot arduous, helped by the fact that four cameras were used, and she relished working with the directors James Bogle, Renee Webster, Darlene Johnson and Andrew Prowse.
Paying tribute to Prowse, who died from a sudden heart attack in December, she says: “He is truly one of the greatest directors I’ve ever worked with. He loved the job and said publicly it had given him his passion for directing back.
“We had two weeks of rehearsals with James and Andrew in the room, so the tone was established very early. With four cameras you don’t have to hit marks; you just play the truth of the scene and the cameras will find you.”
The ABC has options on the cast for a second series, which would delight Hammond, who is currently filming a semi-regular role in Hoodlum Entertainment/10’s drama Five Bedrooms. She plays Edwina, the head of a law firm where Kat Stewart’s character works. (They worked together in Offspring).
Reflecting on her career, she says: “I am the luckiest girl; I am very grateful. I have worked every year on the telly since I became an actor.”