CELEBRITY

McLeod’s Daughters 20th anniversary: ‘Our memories of Drovers Run!’

McLeod’s Daughters stars Michala Banas and Jessica Napier share set secrets
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As the cameras rolled, Simmone Jade Mackinnon rode into view, her white and purple bridal gown dazzling in the outback sun as her bridesmaids trotted behind her on horseback.

The scene was set for one of the most romantic moments on McLeod’s Daughters, the beloved Aussie series that first aired 20 years ago this month.

Watch: How McLeod’s Daughters paved the way in Australian TV for female leads

On-screen, the long-awaited marriage of Stevie Hall and Alex Ryan didn’t go without a hitch. The groom, played by Aaron Jeffery, ended up in jail, while Stevie (Simmone) raced to his rescue on her trusty steed. But behind the scenes, events were even more dramatic.

“Simmone had a big accident,” Michala Banas, who played loveable control freak, Kate Manfredi, from 2004 to 2008, tells New Idea exclusively.

“Of course there were other mishaps over the years – utes rolling backwards, the odd spill, various things – but this one was really terrifying.

“A gust of wind blew Simmone’s bridal veil out behind her, which spooked her horse into bolting, which was awful. But then her dress got caught in the stirrups, she was dragged out of the saddle and hit the ground pretty hard, poor thing. She was quite badly grazed and bruised, but she was lucky because it could have been a lot worse.”

McLeods Daughters
Michala recalls the behind-the-scenes drama from filming this scene.

The spills and thrills of working on McLeod’s, and doing many of their own stunts, forged unbreakable friendships among the cast and crew. They worked in all weather conditions, wrangling stubborn animals, sometimes up to 14 hours a day.

Lasting for eight epic seasons from August 2001 to January 2009, McLeod’s sold internationally to more than 200 countries and garnered 41 Logie nominations.

Audiences couldn’t get enough of the strong women working on Drovers Run, a rural property in South Australia. Between 2004 to 2008, it was among our top-rating dramas and the death of Claire McLeod (played by Lisa Chappell) is considered one of the most shocking moments in Aussie TV history.

The appeal endures for international fans as well as homegrown ones. Pre-pandemic, Dal Long was running three to four McLeod’s Country tours every week, featuring more than 200 filming locations and lunch at the Gungellan Hotel.

McLeods Daughters
The appeal of the show endures for international fans as well as homegrown ones.

“Our visitors are mainly from Germany and the Netherlands, where the show is huge. Ninty-nine per cent of them tell me McLeod’s is the only reason they came to Australia,” Dal tells New Idea. “They want to see the landscape for themselves and they turn up in their jeans, boots, checked shirts and Akubras, ready to play the part. It’s quite a hoot!”

Jessica Napier, who played station hand Becky Howard in the first three seasons, tells New Idea the show has endured because: “People really connect with the landscape and characters, the fact that it was women doing it for themselves. It was a great escape for viewers.”

Michala agrees, telling us: “They were really relatable, down-to-earth, quintessentially Australian characters, and it was a new thing to see women up there running a property like Drovers Run.

“We did idealise country life, although off camera it wasn’t quite so romantic. I’m only 1.57m and all the guys in the cast were really tall. Aaron is about 1.98m, Brett Tucker stands 1.88m and Myles Pollard is 1.96m.

“So when Kate finally kisses Dave for the first time, I was standing on a box and Brett was in a hole they’d dug for him, poor bugger. There were a whole series of boxes in my life on McLeod’s, for all those really poignant moments!”

McLeods daughters
According to McLeod’s creator Posie Graeme-Evans, who is currently developing a feature film spin-off: “It’s definitely the show that will never lie down and die. People are just passionate about it.”

To this day, Michala and other cast members are regularly recognised wherever they go.

“It’s become a cult, absolutely,” the actress grins. “And what’s interesting is that 20 years later, because McLeod’s is streaming, there’s a whole new generation of viewers. I get 10-year-olds coming up to talk to me about the show, who weren’t even born when it premiered!”

According to McLeod’s creator Posie Graeme-Evans, who is currently developing a feature film spin-off: “It’s definitely the show that will never lie down and die. People are just passionate about it.”

Read more in this week’s New Idea, on sale now!

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