Profile: ‘Secret City’ director Emma Freeman

Studies claim cat people are more introverted, intelligent and pragmatic than dog people. Watching director Emma Freeman pause the conversation to tenderly pat one of the four cats that roam her East Melbourne terrace, it’s clear those studies are onto something.

“We’re crazy cat ladies,” Freeman laughs as Olive Cotton, the most fragile of their clowder, snuggles into her lap. Olive’s coat is patchy: she’s unwell and receiving dialysis. “We have to put an intravenous in every night,” Freeman explains, quick to add that “we” is actually her long-term partner Alice Chaston, the less queasy of the pair – Freeman can’t stomach it. Pouncing on the opportunity to laud her significant other, Freeman tells me Chaston’s acting career is a star on the rise. “Alice is in Secret City,” she beams with pride.

Based on books The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code by Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis, Secret City is the latest original local series for Foxtel’s Showcase. Chaston plays Sabine Hobbs, a student whose story has captured the nation. A self-immolation protester, Sabine is scarred, scared and incarcerated in a Beijing women’s prison. Her actions place Australia in the middle of increasing tension between the United States and China. But Sabine is only the first student implicated in some dense political intrigue that escalates during six episodes, with tarnished journalist Harriet Dunkley, played superbly by Anna Torv, providing the investigative catalyst of the series. Shot in and around Parliament House over nine weeks, Secret City has it all: agency cover-ups, references to Edward Snowden, corrupt national leaders, washed-up corpses and overworked press gallery staff.

The political thriller features some big names, including Jacki Weaver, Alan Dale and Alex Dimitriades, and while Chaston’s face is the first we see on screen, Freeman’s unique style is stamped all over the show….

Continue reading at The Saturday Paper


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