Question: Can you tell us about your character Vivian Maguire?
Sophie Hensser: Hailing from Tamworth, Vivian Maguire is anything but your typical hard working country girl. We meet her in the series toting a book of the karma sutra in a rather compromising position in the back of a car. She may only be 17 but in her eyes she is already a woman of the world. Viv is a dreamer, what I loved about her immediately was her desire to be in the thick of anything and everything that is new and exciting. Viv is spirited, smart, headstrong and incredibly cheeky. Despite her penchant for always doing the opposite of what she is told, Viv has a warm heart and is a loyal friend to the girls she meets at Stanton House. Although she feels that she is truly a young woman inspired by the sexual revolution of the late 60's; she is uneducated about contraception and has had no practical sexual education. When Viv is drugged by her parents and sent to Stanton House this is the biggest betrayal of her young life, and throughout the series she learns some valuable life lessons. Viv has always been a "glass half full" kind of girl, and Kings Cross is the place to be in 1969; however across the series we will see her come to realise that life is not always going to be easy, and she will have to face enormous challenges, physically and emotionally.
Question: Do you share any similarities with the character of Vivian Maguire?
Sophie Hensser: I think more so when I was seventeen, absolutely. Viv has a real knack for butting heads with authority figures, and I certainly was like that in school. I had a teacher who didn't possess the sunniest disposition, and when she was on the war path I was more often than not the one to "back chat", as she liked to call it. It was always a point of impressing my friends, or being the class clown, and I think that's a similar trait in Viv. Viv just wants to rally the girls together, to bond and to make the best out of an awful situation. She creates a family in this home away from home, and for me at school it was always about being hailed as a hero of the group I suppose. That's why I find Viv's relationship with Matron so interesting, it's not that Matron is an enemy or evil in any way; Viv is just too young and emotionally immature to understand that Matron is the only person looking out for their wellbeing. Maybe her actions are misguided, but she certainly believes that she is doing the best for the girls of Stanton House. Viv is smack bang in the middle of that rite of passage most of us went through in high school, where it was "down with authority" and seeing just how far we could push the limits. Viv and I are both very positive people, I think we share a love of discovery, and a love of having a tight nit circle of friends around you. But hopefully I've gained a bit more insight, and maturity in my years over her.
Question: What originally inspired you to audition for Love Child?
Sophie Hensser: My agent sent the audition scenes through for the Character of "Viv Maguire" in March 2013, it came with a character bio, a wonderfully intricate synopsis booklet of the entire feel and look for the show, and 2 audition scenes. I went into Mullinars casting to read the script and put down an audition, had a call back and was cast. At the time it was one of the most exciting scripts I had read, and the character jumped off the page at me. I remember sitting in the reading room before my audition, turning the pages thinking I have to play Viv. It's a feeling that can be quite rare, the one where you actually feel like to immediately bond with the character and you have the ability to bring them to life. I was inspired also by the fact that it was a unique, emotionally charged, female driven, Australian story. It was certainly a story I was unaware of in our history and the more research I did on the forced adoption practices of the period; the more personal accounts and stories I read from these women, I knew I wanted to be a part of bringing their stories to life. I felt it was something we haven't seen before on our screens, and I felt it was an important story that needed to be told.
Question: What was most difficult about acting in a show set in 1969?
Sophie Hensser: For me it was researching the social attitudes towards women at the time and ensuring that we were not only doing the story justice, but telling it in an authentic way. I wanted it to resonate with people who lived through that era, as my parents did. It really wasn't that long ago and it was always in my mind that people who lived through this would be watching and that they deserved a truthful reimagining of the period.
Question: Did you do any research, about the time, prior to the beginning filming on Love Child?
Sophie Hensser: Very much so, I was in the library prior to filming trying to find books which had accounts or information about forced adoption practices in Australia in the 1960's and it was alarming how little information I could find. However, online there is a wealth of information in the form of Journals chronicling thousands of firsthand accounts from women who had gone through this experience and lost children through the practice of forced adoption. Sarah Lambert our show creator also sent us a wealth of research that she had done prior to writing the series, to educate us on the time in which our story is based on.
I also like to collect as much music, art, photographs and articles on the 1960's as I can, I've always been a huge fan of Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick and was very much inspired by their influences on the period. My dad arrived from London to Sydney in 1971 and he had some amazing memories of Kings Cross which he shared with me. Thanks to my parents the soundtrack to my childhood was filled with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan; so I grew up very much inspired by their music and had that to draw on for this series. I find that creating a mood board, or scrapbook of these influences really help to build the world you are working in emotionally and imaginatively before you physically get to step into the incredible sets and costumes.
Question: Did you find that you were quite emotional, during some of the sensitive scenes featured in Love Child?
Sophie Hensser: Very much so, because we were dealing with a very high stakes, sensitive subject matter it was often quite emotional on set. I remember during episode one, Gracie Gilbert was first up to do her birth scene as "Annie", and her baby is taken away from her using the clean break method. We were all on set for the following scene and we came on to see how she was doing, and she was just exhausted and had done such a phenomenal job; and they had these new born babies on set, we all just simultaneously burst into tears, it was incredibly overwhelming I guess. It immediately put things into perspective and I felt like, right, we have an important job to do here.
Also, It's often quite challenging as an actor to get to an emotional place in a scene when you have a hundred crew members, lights, technical equipment and time constraints to work around; yet with this team we were working with it was never a problem. You often hear actors saying that the during the on -set experience you become a family and that was very true for us. We had such an incredibly talented crew, directors, producers and creative's - not to mention the wonderful cast, to work with. We bonded so tightly in such a short period of time and that honestly allows for you to perform sensitive scenes with more ease because you feel supported and safe.
Question: What did you learn about Australia that you didn't previously know from Love Child?
Sophie Hensser: Until my first audition for Love Child I was completely unaware of what is now a very topical issue in Australian History. I couldn't believe that from 1950's - 1970's that hundreds of thousands of underage or unmarried women, due to familial, social or religious beliefs, came to be in these homes for unwed mothers across Australia. They were sent there to stay throughout their pregnancy, and eventually give their babies up for adoption to what was seen as a more "acceptable" family, married couples who couldn't conceive, or had not had children of their own. These women often were not offered any other option by their families or were unaware of the Government or welfare support that was available to them. The lack of sexual education available to women was astonishing. Not long after I was cast, then Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard made a formal apology to the families of all of those who had been affected by having their babies separated from them from the 1950's-1970's. I was amazed and overwhelmed at how incredible it was that we were going to be telling a story based on this period of history, and that the Australian public were just becoming more aware of this issue.
"Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering," Julia Gillard
Question: What do you hope Australians have taken from Love Child?
Sophie Hensser: I hope that they have enjoyed seeing a strong, female driven drama brought to their screens, and continue to enjoy uniquely Australian stories. It has been an incredible privilege to be a part of Season one of Love Child, and that is strongly accredited to the response we have had from the Australian public. I hope that the women who have approached us to tell us how this reflects something that happened to them, or the families who have said that they have been affected by something similar, find something comforting in having a story like this told.
Question: What's next for you?
Sophie Hensser: Next up is Season 2 of Love Child and I couldn't be more excited to go back to work with some of my favourite people, and back to playing one of my favourite characters, Viv. I can't wait to see where the journey of the characters in Love Child goes.
Cast: Jessica Marais, Jonathan LaPaglia, Mandy McElhinney, Ryan Corr, Gracie Gilbert, Ella Scott Lynch, Miranda Tapsell, Sophie Hensser, Harriet Dyer
Genre: TV Drama
Running Time: 8 episodes, 356 minutes
The highly anticipated new Aussie TV drama Love Child premiered to a national audience of 2.165 million, averaging 1.926 million. Starring Australian favorites Jessica Marais (Packed to the Rafters), Jonathan LaPaglia (The Slap), Mandy McElhinney (Howzat: Kerry Packer's War) and Ryan Corr (Packed to the Rafters), the birth of this new series also performed well on a metro level with an audience of 1.36 million.
The eight-part drama series is set in Kings Cross in 1969 – the time and place Australia came of age and a new generation broke all the rules. It's the Summer of Love. Australians are glued to the telecast of the moon landing and American sailors clash on the streets with anti-Vietnam war protestors.
Joan Miller (Jessica Marais), a modern, spirited midwife, returns to Australia from London to work at Kings Cross General Hospital, a home for young unwed pregnant women. While geographically close, culturally, the world inside the gates of Kings Cross General Hospital couldn't be further removed from the exhilarating, hedonistic haven of fashion, culture, clubs and bars that is Kings Cross, especially for the girls of Stanton House.
On the brink of a new generation, Love Child sees an eclectic, diverse group of young Australians take on the world with an inspired, progressive and infectiously courageous sense of hope that the love of family and friends will prevail against adversity.
Rounding out the stellar cast is Ella Scott Lynch (Underbelly: Badness), Sophie Hensser (Tricky Business), Miranda Tapsell (Redfern Now), Gracie Gilbert (Underbelly: Squizzy) and Harriet Dyer (Packed to the Rafters), whose characters highlight the intensity of the positions young women were faced with.
Filmed entirely on location in Sydney, this powerful and uplifting story at the very centre of the cultural and sexual revolution also hosts all the exuberant music, fashion and attitude of the late 1960s.
Bonus Cast Interviews:
Jessica Marais as Joan Miller
Jonathan LaPaglia as Dr. Patrick McNaughton
Mandy Elhinney as Matron Frances Bolton
Miranda Tapsell as Martha Tenant