With a career spanning more than 30 years, director Kate Woods is one of Australia's most prolific directors. Now, she's helming Foxtel's Fighting Season, one of her first major local productions since 2000's Looking For Alibrandi.
The six-part drama series stars Jay Ryan, Ewen Leslie and Kate Mulvany, and follows a group of Aussie soldiers returning home from Afghanistan as they grapple with a controversial mission and the secrets they've kept about it.
E! News spoke to Woods about the series (premiering Sunday, October 28 on Fox Showcase), her new project with Alibrandi author Melina Marchetta and what it was like directing Meghan Markle on Suits.
What drew you to working on a show about returning Australian soldiers?
I think it's an important subject that shows a little-known side of the soldiers' journey. In Australia, I don't think we've really tackled the experience of Australians in Iraq and Afghanistan or the after effects. It's much less dealt with. I was very drawn to what it's like to be on the receiving end—the families of those men and women that have gone through this. And I just thought it was a really well-told story.
What kind of research did you do into veterans and their struggles?
Goalpost Pictures and Blake Ayshford and the producers had done an enormous amount of research to develop the show properly with great authenticity, so all those things were in place for me. I feel like I had really great information and great access to people that had been through this kind of thing. We had our actors go to boot camp, so they had, at least for a moment, an understanding of what that world is like. We had them meet with real soldiers and had real soldiers on the show.
You've done a lot of work in the States in the last decade. What made you want to return to an Australian production and shoot in Sydney now?
It was a no-brainer for me to come and do it. I jumped at the chance to go home and be part of this production. One of the things I love about working in Australia is that we don't have the massive resources they have in L.A., so the footprint is smaller. There's a real family thing that happens, particularly in a long shoot like this. I felt like I made really good friends, and I got to work with people I hadn't seen in 15 years. It was a really wonderful experience.
Fighting Season stars Neighbours and Top of the Lake's Jay Ryan as Sgt Sean Collins. What did he bring to the role?
Jay is an amazing actor. The depth of his emotion in the character and how he portrayed that inner experience was amazing to watch. I just adored working with him. Anybody that plays a lead character has a responsibility to the other actors, so he and Ewen and Katie, who are very experienced actors, were really wonderful with the less experienced actors. Some of the younger guys hadn't done quite so much, but they brought an incredible energy and raw talent to their work. Jay and Ewen were great at making them feel like part of the family.
You've worked on so many US shows, including Bones, Castle, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—and a 2011 episode of Suits. Were there signs even back then that Meghan Markle was destined for a royal life?
She was a very regal woman, that's for sure. I did a little with Meghan, all I remember is what a charming woman she was. She was a lovely actress and very open and friendly. She was a bit special. I can't say I had the crystal ball, but it certainly doesn't surprise me. I'm thrilled for her, and I'm thrilled for the world. I think it's lovely that the royal family is getting a little more diverse. That's wonderful.
What's next for you?
I'm working with Melina Marchetta on the movie version of another one of her books called On the Jellicoe Road. I know she's actually developing Saving Francesca, which is kind of like a sequel to Looking For Alibrandi. I'm really enjoying working on a script with her. It's really hard to get film projects out because this is a tricky one because it's not cheap.
I am doing another film in Australia next year with The Dollhouse, which is Rose Byrne's production company. It's called Seriously Red and about a misfit red-haired girl who doesn't really know where she's going, but finds her voice by becoming a Dolly Parton impersonator. Hopefully all the pieces fall into place and we're excited that it might happen in 2019.