It’s been more than 10 years since Jess and Rachael last saw each other – although they can’t agree where they were. Rachael reckons it was here in Sydney, while Jess feels it was over in Los Angeles.
“What I do know is it was before I had kids, and my eldest is 12 now. So, yeah, it’s been a hot minute,” mum-of-two Jess, 44, tells us.
The pair are equally as shocked that this January marks 15 years since McLeod’s ended. Both actresses had long left the show by then, but Rachael, 43, did return for the finale alongside Sonia Todd, who played her mum Meg.
“I had completely forgotten I was in the last episode until last night,” admits Rachael. “It was such a whirlwind thing. I had less than a few days notice. I flew from LA to Sydney to Adelaide and started shooting the next day.
“I have a distinct memory of walking into wardrobe and the girls saying, ‘Welcome back – here’s the pregnant belly you’re going to be wearing.’ And I remember thinking, ‘did I miss that in the script?’ Then I flicked through it and realised Jodi was coming back pregnant!”
Jess didn’t come back for the finale, nor did she ever return to Drover’s Run after departing in the third season. Jess, who's late father Marshall appeared on the show as Harry Ryan, was the first main cast member to leave. Her exit came a few episodes before Claire (played by Lisa Chappell) was killed off.
“The world was my oyster, I was young and I didn’t want to get pigeon-holed,” Jess says of why she quit. “I thought if I stay too long that will happen. And in a weird way it did, because it’s the role I’m remembered for.”
Jess tells us one question fans often ask her is why didn’t Becky come back for Claire’s funeral, given their mentor/mentee relationship.
“I was never asked [to],” Jess confirms. “I don’t know what the politics behind it were. I know Lisa and I had both decided to leave. I think the production didn’t want that to be the outcome, that two characters were leaving, particularly Claire.
"So I think they just went, ‘She’s wrapped up; she’s done.’ I thought it was sad because everyone knows Becky would have been there, hands down. She and Claire had a very special friendship. There was a lot of respect.”
Never truly able to leave McLeod’s behind them thanks to the die-hard fandom that still surrounds the show all these years, Jess and Rachael have some thoughts about where their characters might be today.
“I think Becky has got a couple of kids, she’s still with Jake and has been very successful,” says Jess. “She finally got her stable life and feels worthy.”
As for Rachael, she says what she “really liked” about Jodi settling down with Matt (Jonny Pasvolsky) was that it “was the last kind of life I expected her to have”.
Jodi and Matt were written out of the show in a plot that saw them faking their deaths and entering witness protection. While the finale explained that they were no longer in hiding, Rachael now admits, “I almost wish that Jodi’s life remained a mystery".
"In my heart I think her life did not stop by getting married and having a kid," she says. "I hope she got shuffled around in witness protection and had to give birth on the run. That would just suit Jodi to a tee!”
For our full McLeod's Daughters anniversary interview and photo shoot, pick up the current issue of New Idea, on sale now!