Sons and Daughters: Shocks, scandals & on-set secrets

Australia’s biggest soap sensations share memories from the hit series
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As Australia’s answer to the US hit Dynasty, Sons and Daughters encapsulated everything there was to love about the 1980s.

Fierce, feisty and oh-so fabulous, for six seasons the show’s famed ensemble cast brought to life outrageous and suspenseful plotlines about two intertwined families, the Palmers and Hamiltons, who clashed about everything from power to money and, of course, love.

Watch: Rowena Wallace opens up about hitting rock bottom after fame

But week after week, it was Rowena Wallace’s portrayal of super-b—h Patricia ‘Pat the Rat’ Hamilton that had the country hooked! From her sassy one-liners to villainous antics, the iconic character earned Rowena a slew of TV Week Logies, including a Gold.

Alongside her was Tom Richards, who starred as handsome Palmer family patriarch, David. Patricia and David’s illicit teenage dalliance in the ’60s kickstarted Sons and Daughters’ complicated web of secrets, as they give birth to twins in the pilot episode.

In true soap fashion, the couple’s twins – son John and daughter Angela – are separated at birth, only to fall in love when they meet as adults, none the wiser.

Rowena Wallace
Rowena Wallace’s portrayal of super-b—h Patricia ‘Pat the Rat’ Hamilton had the country hooked (Credit: Phillip Castleton)

“It was that sort of twisted storytelling that people just adored,” Rowena tells New Idea in an exclusive chat to celebrate 40 years since Sons and Daughters premiered on January 18, 1982. “The writing was brave for the time, no other show was really going there.”

Despite some eyebrow- raising plots, Tom says he never once doubted the writers on the show.

“No matter how wild things were getting in the writing, I was never worried. What could go wrong? We had a great team of writers,” he says, also praising Sons and Daughters creator, Reg Watson.

While Tom had full faith, Rowena admits she never hesitated to push back on the writers and confessess he often “tweaked scripts”.

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Tom Richards, starred as handsome Palmer family patriarch, David (Credit: Phillip Castleton)

“I was quite naughty,” Rowena cackles. “I was always making amendments to my lines … It was cheeky and I’m sure the writers didn’t like it, but I was always coming from a place of adoration for my role and the series.”

While Pat the Rat was cold and cruel, Rowena believes “she was a bad human being, but was, in fact, a human being”.

“It was my job to figure out why she had become this person, and figure out the life that led her to become a b—h.”

Both Rowena and Tom insist they never expected the soap to still boast a cult-like following. Recalling the fanfare, Tom fondly remembers being sent on overseas promo trips.

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Rowena and Tom’s on-screen romance was embroiled in drama

“Fans in England and Belgium learnt a lot about the way of life in Australia,” he says of the show, which was filmed across Melbourne and Sydney. Tom reveals he is even Facebook friends with a lot of international fans.

So close was the show’s cast, Rowena reveals they often celebrated ‘Tinnie Night’ the day after filming.

“We would share beer and cool off, it was a testament to how close we all really were – we were a real family,” she says.

“Every Wednesday night we would host a Prick of the Week Award,” Tom adds. “Everyone always tried to win … it was very disappointing if you didn’t.”

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While Pat the Rat was cold and cruel, Rowena believes “she was a bad human being, but was, in fact, a human being”

When Rowena left the series in 1985, so beloved was her character that clever writers worked hard to keep Patricia on the series.

In perhaps the most outlandish of plotlines, Pat flees Australia for Rio de Janeiro, only to be beaten up and require drastic facial surgery. She returned to Australia, but with actress Belinda Giblin now playing Pat and a new alias, Alison Carr.

“Alison was wonderful, but I never watched those episodes,” Rowena admits.
Most precious, was perhaps a parting gift given to Rowena.

“I still wear it to this day. It’s a beautiful bracelet with a little rat charm,” she says. “Every now and then it will snag onto something, and I can’t help but laugh and think, ‘There goes that pesky Pat the Rat!’”

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

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