Playing For Keeps' Stars Talk TEN's Addictive & Empowering New Drama

Published: 20 September 2018

playing for keeps, article, 2018

Playing For Keeps offers an all-access pass into the unseen world of AFL, as seen through the eyes of five different but equally strong women. Madeleine West and Olympia Valance explain why the show that “has everything” is simply too good to miss.

playing for keeps, article, 2018

What attracted you to the show, and your role after reading the script?

Madeleine: I was attracted to the show originally because it’s entering into a world we never really see. In Australia we tend to do dramas about relatable things like hospitals, cops and our neighbours. But to do an aspirational show that presents the glossy, perfect world of the people we see on social media, TV and at games and then cracks it open, and shows what it’s really like to live under that level of public scrutiny, is fascinating.

Olympia: I thought it was written incredibly. It had everything a great drama should have – it was funny, dramatic and sexy. And I just loved Tahlia’s character. She was so complex and I knew this was going to be a really challenging and fun role for me to play – it was a no brainer!

playing for keeps, article, 2018

The chemistry between you all is fantastic. Was there much bonding beforehand/behind the scenes?

Madeleine: We met two weeks before we started filming and right from the get go we all got each other. We’re all really serious about our craft, and very focused on creating this world which is so disparate from our own.

Olympia: Yes, there was a lot of bonding. We spent hours in pre-production with the cast in all different groups, so one-on-one, the five leading women together, with our partners and our first director. We were discussing how we interpreted our characters, their different layers, backgrounds, what made them who they are and how we were best going to portray them. It was a really beautiful experience.

playing for keeps, article, 2018

Were you an AFL fan beforehand? What kind of research went into preparing for the role?

Madeleine: Yes, I’m a 4th generation die-hard Collingwood supporter! You have no choice but to follow Collingwood in my family (although my children barrack for Essendon).

It’s one of those sports that you don’t necessarily need to know the ins and outs of. It’s an atmospheric thing. An emotional thing. A loyalty thing. And there’s something beautiful about that.

Olympia: I’m from Melbourne so we grew up around the footy. I’m not a huge fanatic but I definitely have watched the football more since being on this show, and I have a lot of respect for everyone involved.

playing for keeps, article, 2018

Style plays a big part in the show. How would you describe your character’s style, and also yours?

Madeleine: Kath is chic and polished. [She wears] lots of pastels and soft, uber expensive fabrics from silk to cashmere. Over the series her palette changes, and her clothes become a metaphor for who she is. For me as a mother of six, it’s all about a LOT of Lycra, denim and t-shirts - clothes that I get down on my knees and clean the floor, pick the kids up, get a bit dirty and jump into the car at the last minute.

Olympia: Tahlia’s wardrobe is pretty phenomenal! She’s incredibly fashion forward and it was so much fun to be able to dress up in these fabulous outfits, and I guess we’re quite similar in that we both like to take risks.

playing for keeps, article, 2018

Are there any qualities you would say you share with your character?

Madeleine: I share with Kath a determination to be the best version of myself I can be, and to be present and supportive of my family.

Kath doesn’t have it all together, and I certainly know how that feels. As you approach your middle years you suddenly have a bit of a crisis and start to ask ‘Is this me? Is this my life? Is this the life that I want for myself?’. I think these pertinent questions send a really beautiful message to women and men - it doesn’t matter how old you are or how far you’ve come, there’s nothing wrong with changing course.

Olympia: Too many! We see Tahlia at the beginning of the series as this stereotype, but there is so much more of her and it was really fun to tear her apart and see that she’s not just this ‘pretty face’. These women aren’t just a ‘pretty face’; they’re beautifully flawed, successful and powerful in their own right.

Playing For Keeps airs 8.45 Wednesdays on TEN and tenplay