|Local favourite soon to end ... Michala Banas rides into the sunset as Kate Manfredi in McLeod’s Daughters.|
There's a nice irony that as the final season of McLeod's Daughters goes to air from this week, one of the best-loved and longest-lasting characters on the drama isn't even a McLeod.
Kate Manfredi, played by Michala Banas, joined the series in mid-2004 as the former school friend of Jodi Fountain McLeod who dropped in for a job as a farmhand and decided to stay.
In the best tradition of Australian television drama, Kate's had an interesting ride since, outlasting Jodi, moving to (and back from) a nearby farm, being wooed by and wooing a handful of locals and winning the title of Young Farmer of the Year.
And like Kate, Banas said while none of it was what she expected when she first arrived, it's been great fun and something she wouldn't have missed.
"Most of the stuff I did as Kate were things I never thought I'd have the guts to do, to be honest," Banas said.
"And that was part of the reason that I decided to take the job in the first place. I'm a city girl and frankly I'm quite a chicken in a lot of ways so riding horses, driving tractors, shearing sheep and working with the cattle, sheep and alpacas actually scared me.
"But I think the biggest lesson I learned in doing McLeod's Daughters was to give things a try even if they did scare you because I was always so proud when I did. I mean I couldn't reach the clutch on the tractor I can't even drive a manual car! but there I was driving a tractor with two gearsticks.
"I'm really glad I did it and I think it's really helped me a lot."
All of which, Banas admits, makes it difficult to say goodbye as the series comes to an end.
"I had made the decision to leave the series before it was announced this would be the last season and it was very tough, very tough to say goodbye,'" Banas said. "Even though it was time for me to move on after 3˝ years, there were tears on my last day for sure because we'd become so close."
As hard as it is to farewell life at Drovers Run, McLeod's has given Banas a firm foundation to chase roles she would once have shied away from. "I've decided I want to look at what really excites me and is going to be challenging in the way McLeod's was," Banas said.
"And maybe move away from the `nice girl'. I want to do something that makes me think `OK, this is different, this is cool', something that people won't expect.
"That's what I dream of."
McLeod's Daughters Wednesday, 8.30pm, Nine.
Scott Ellis is the editor of The Sun-Herald Television Magazine.
Source: The Sun-Herald