It’s a long journey from the set of Home and Away to north Africa and the latest spy thriller from the makers of Spooks, but Melissa George looks born to kick up rough.
In the first ten minutes of the new high-octane BBC1 drama Hunted, her character dispatches brawny villain after brawny villain through a variety of violent means. Then, after a chase through the dusty streets of Tangiers, she sets another on fire. It’s relentless, but stylishly so.
While she may remind you of Spooks’ own Ros Myers, George’s character, Sam Hunter, is something of a new breed of heroine for British television.
“I guess you could say she’s an alpha female,” says George. “She’s a woman out for revenge. But she’s not crazy: she’s a highly-intelligent operative who uses all of her skills, physical and otherwise, to do what she needs to. There are echoes of Jason Bourne, Nikita and Taken [the 2008 film starring Liam Neeson as a retired CIA agent], and even Kill Bill.”
With its lavish budgets - rumoured to be almost 2million an episode - and a high-end, cinematic quality, those comparisons aren’t misplaced. A co-production between Spooks’ Kudos and HBO’s Cinemax channel, the eight-part series features locations from Morocco to Scotland, and has enough whizz-bang effects to rival any glossy US drama. To add to its international pedigree, let’s not forget that George is Australian, perhaps best known to British audiences as Home and Away’s Angel Parrish.
“When I did the audition for Home and Away, I was 15 and crying real tears in there and something obviously clicked,” recalls the 36-year-old actress fondly. “I owe a lot to that show.”
It is, of course, a long way from the sands of Summer Bay to playing the lead in eight hours of such a high-profile drama, and George has doggedly put in the time and the hard work. Leaving Australia for America, she landed small roles in Friends, Lie to Me, and Grey’s Anatomy, was a series regular in spy drama Alias (in which she also did her share of fisticuffs) and earned a Golden Globe nomination as troubled Laura in In Treatment, opposite Gabriel Byrne.
While George’s TV excursions are more varied, her film roles - in the mountain-climbing thriller A Lonely Place to Die and the horror 30 Days of Night - show a natural progression that leads to Sam Hunter. Put simply, George does “alpha-female” impeccably.