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Nicole da Silva: TV is the new film

Doctor Doctor and Wentworth actor Nicole da Silva says the industry has changed, audiences are smarter, and our stories are all the better for it.

Nicole da Silva on the set of Doctor Doctor / John Platt

Actor Nicole da Silva says the Australian television landscape is dramatically different to what it was a decade ago – but in many ways it’s a good thing.

She says gone are the days where 22-episode serials were commonplace and where “audiences could pop in any point and not have to have known what happened the episode before.”

Now, the seasons are shorter, but the stories they’re telling are much longer. And to da Silva, there’s huge advantage there.

Nicole da Silva in <em>Wentworth</em> Nicole da Silva in Wentworth

“You take the audience on a broader journey. They live with you and they breathe with you over this full arc. And it also means audiences are much more sophisticated now because they're remembering the tiniest thing that happened in episode two and it pays off in episode 10,” she says.

Audiences have become smarter and “they're craving that kind of storytelling” as they binge on six to 12-episode series.

“Television is not just fodder in the background while you cook or while you have a chat with your family,” she says.

“I think TV in a lot of ways is the new film because that's where people are going for epic storytelling where (once) you would go to film for that.”

And from an actor’s perspective, da Silva says it’s wonderful to be able to take on a character that develops and morphs over several seasons.

da Silva is best known to audiences as inmate Franky Doyle on six seasons of Foxtel’s Wentworth, tactical response officer Stella on cop serial Rush and most recently as Charlie on Nine Network’s family drama Doctor Doctor.

“I was typecast early on as the tough girl, the bad girl, and I was happy to play that for a little while because I thought ‘great if you want to box me in that's fine. I'll live within that box for a little while and then I'll smash it open, cause that's the fun of creativity’,” she says.

“I've been lucky enough to have opportunities to do that. And Doctor Doctor has been the biggest opportunity in that sense. Charlie is so different to Stella on Rush and Franky on Wentworth. It's been a real joy to explore and create her.”

It’s also meant working with Rodger Corser again – her Rush co-star – but in an entirely different capacity.

“Our characters on Rush were so platonic. It was all work,” she says.

But in Doctor Doctor, Corser plays Charlie’s hedonistic ex-boyfriend Hugh Knight. An acclaimed heart surgeon, he’s sent to work in his old country hometown as punishment for a string of personal dramas. Their shared history is even more complicated because Charlie is now married to Hugh’s brother, Matt. 

“It's nice then to come to Doctor Doctor where there is a frisson between the characters, and how you translate that from a friendship in real life to characters on screen,” da Silva says.

Doctor Doctor has been renewed for a third season by Nine Network and has also sold to Germany, USA and Canada as The Heart Guy.

“Audiences now are global,” she says, adding that Doctor Doctor appeals because “It’s a very relatable world and showcases the Australian countryside and Australian characters really beautifully.”

But it’s not the only Australian television series turning heads overseas. Wentworth has had huge success internationally, selling the finished program to more than 140 territories, as well as format sales to Germany and the Netherlands. And Foxtel’s Picnic at Hanging Rock sold to Amazon before the series had even been completed.

“Australian work stands out because what we make is high quality and quite often we're doing it for half the budget, in half the time,” da Silva says.

“We're good storytellers and we have great technicians here, so our work stands up really well against all the really flash international series.”

Missed Doctor Doctor season 2 on TV? Never fear. It’s still on catch-up service 9Now. And it’s available on DVD from 6 December 2017. Wentworth series 1-5 are available on Foxtel.