ABC Wakefield actor Rudi Dharmalingam recalls time in 'best country in the world'

The stunning backdrop of our world heritage listed Blue Mountains is featured in an eight-part ABC TV series.

The psychological drama Wakefield was filmed in and around the Mountains, including at Lincolns Rock in Wentworth Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in Blackheath.

Actor Rudi Dharmalingam (centre) in a scene from Wakefield. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.

Actor Rudi Dharmalingam (centre) in a scene from Wakefield. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.

Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse (The Dressmaker) and Kim Mordaunt (The Rocket), Wakefield is a gripping psychological mystery that brings to life fascinating characters - the staff and patients - who populate Ward C.

It features British actor Rudi Dharmalingam in the lead role as a nurse, delving into the secret world of the psychiatric hospital.

In an interview with the Gazette, Mr Dharmalingam said when he got the call-up from his agent for the role "it was one of the best moment of my life".

He said he was "immediately drawn into the world [writer] Kristen [Dunphy] had created".

"I'm always attracted to deeply layered and textured characters that require a detailed analysis of character. If the prospect of finding truth in a character that has a difficult journey then it's immediately a role I want to embody. There were lots of similarities with my own trajectory through life so it had a deep resonance within me.

"As an actor I love to be in a realm that challenges me and pushes me to extremes. Nik's journey is deeply complex and that is what fundamentally attracted me to the role."

Rudi Dharmalingam in the Blue Mountains

Rudi Dharmalingam in the Blue Mountains

He said his theatre background helped him prepare for the role.

"It required me to dedicate everything I had to fulfil the complexity of the character. I like to work to extremes and this gave me that opportunity."

Production started shooting in January 2020 and was due to finish in May. "But a certain virus scuppered our plans," he said.

He returned to the UK in March, they re-started in July and finished in September.

"So you could say for nine months I held onto the character of Nik."

The actor got a special dispensation from the Australian government to travel and work in Australia which he said he was "hugely grateful for" adding "the 14 day quarantine was tough, but it ultimately helped me gain a sense of solitude for the character which was needed for the later episodes".

Not only is his character complex, but he is also a talented tap dancer, something the actor had to learn much to the annoyance of his neighbours.

"The tap dancing was tough, I had no experience whatsoever of professional dancing let alone tap. I practiced for hours everyday for months, much to the annoyance of apartment residents living below me. Yes, they complained."

The show explores madness and Mr Dharmalingam agreed with his character who believes everyone is a bit mad.

"We are all mentally fragile. We are all unhinged. Yes absolutely."

Helping others while slowly losing his own sanity.

Helping others while slowly losing his own sanity.

Mr Dharmalingam, 39, first fell in love with Australia on a tour with The History Boys by Alan Bennett in 2004 and calls it "the best country in the world".

"The History Boys filled Sydney Theatre Company for five weeks. It was an incredible experience that I'll never forget. One weekend a bunch us hired a car and ventured up to the Blue Mountains. Australia and the Blue Mountains were very much part of the beginning of my career. It was nostalgic to be there again after so many years.

He said there was "nowhere I've been that comes close to the energy that radiates from Australia. I'd move there in a heartbeat. The people, the landscape, the wildlife, it's a real paradise. I've fallen in love the country in a big way. I live on the south coast of England and there's nothing about where I live that trumps Australia. You are all very lucky."

The show also features Mandy McElhinney (Bad Mothers, Squinters and the famous AAMI ad as Rhonda) and Geraldine Hakewill (Wanted, Miss Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries) as well as Dan Wyllie, Harriet Dyer, Ryan Corr, Felicity Ward, Harry Greenwood, Sam Simmons, Bessie Holland, Megan Smart, Pacharo Mzembe, Nadie Kammallaweera, Shapoor Batliwalla, Guy Simon, Miritana Hughes, Victoria Haralabidou, Wayne Blair, Heather Mitchell and Kim Gyngell.

He said the show will "make you laugh, It'll make you cry, It'll draw you into a world relatively unseen on screen. The need to solve the puzzle should keep you all there until the final moment."

Wakefield is currently available on ABC iview and on ABC from Sunday, April 18.