Jackie Woodburne on The Fire

We had a chat with Jackie Woodburne to find out what it was like filming The Fire at Erinsborough High.

This isn’t the first time Susan’s been stuck in a fire, how does this time compare?

Years ago Karl and Susan were trapped in a bushfire, they’d gone out for a day trip but the fire had swept in very suddenly and there was no way out. They had to take refuge in a ditch they’d dug and the fire literally swept across the top of them! I think there’s a difference between being caught out in the bush and being trapped inside a small space with a fire around you. They’re both terrifying obviously, but they have a different type of dynamic particularly when there are other people trapped as well.

This time around Susan finds herself in a life or death situation with Amber. She’s going through what she’s learnt in fire drills but I don’t think anybody would be prepared for a fire like this until they’re in the middle of it. On the day it was very intense - we shot a lot of scenes in a row, there were a lot of stunt and special effects people there, a lot of fire, flames and smoke. It was very easy to find that place as an actor to feel what Susan would be feeling. This is unlike anything she has ever experienced before.

How do you think she remains calm during such a crisis?

Her driving motivation is to get Amber to safety. Amber has gone into labour; Susan knows there are going to be complications at the birth so she’s very motivated to get her out of the building. This overrides her own panic but she is obviously very frightened and in a situation that could lead to the death of her, Amber and the baby. They make the decision to leave, its fight or flight – they both stay in the room and definitely die or they go through the flames and possibly have a chance. So they’re both at the peak of fear anticipating that escape. In a situation like this Susan has very strong maternal urges and I imagine she’d be thinking of her own daughter and grand children. She is driven to get Amber outside at any price.

School Fire

Have you ever come across any disasters like this in real life?

I was up in the North East of Victoria around the Black Saturday bush fires when the whole of the North East was on fire. I did voluntary cooking for the fire men so I was able to see some of the effects of a bush fire, not just on the bush, but on people’s lives – certainly from a removed safe position. It gave me a sense of how catastrophic something like that is.

Is Paul and Susan’s relationship beyond repair?

I enjoy the relationship that Paul and Susan have; they have a mutual respect for each other. They’re very very different and Susan can see him for the scammer he is but she’s also seen the vulnerable side of him. I think that side of him is the one she connects to. She always gives him a get out of jail pass so I think their relationship will always go on like that no matter what he does. Unless he did something specifically to one of her loved ones that might be enough for her to go “never again”!

If Susan had to retire, what would she be looking forward to doing?

I don’t know that Susan would do retirement, well not yet! She certainly wasn’t ready to be an empty nester so I don’t think she’s ready to go down the path of more golf and nature walks. She enjoys her work far too much, staying busy, active and doing things. I think she would probably be a volunteer at the school, I don’t think she’d be able to let it go!

Susan’s been through quite the ordeal with Amber are there any chances of Susan going into midwifery?

That may not be such a silly question! She became a journalist without a great deal preparation or training! I imagine the fact that she’s had a few kids would probably, in her mind, equip her to be a midwife – so who knows, maybe!

School Fire

What was it like filming the fire scenes?

Those kinds of stories are what keeps us all going, it’s like being on a film set, everyone’s focused and the story’s very intense and dramatic. There was a great vibe on set and the energy was up. As there was just the two of us (Jenna and myself) we could talk over the arch of the story and figure out, moment by moment, where we wanted to be in the story telling. What I love about a story like this is that it involves all the characters, all the stories interlock and interweave and everyone affects everyone else. It’s a real community, Ramsay St, Erinsborough story and I always think they’re the best!