There’s a new chapter in store for the Ladies in Black

Jessica De Gouw takes InReview behind the scenes of the ABC’s new Adelaide-filmed drama series Ladies in Black as the women from Goodes Department Store fling open their doors to the ’60s.

Jun 17, 2024, updated Jun 17, 2024
Jessica De Gouw loved introducing the 'Ladies in Black' cast to her version of Adelaide. Photo: Ben King / Bunya Entertainment

Jessica De Gouw loved introducing the 'Ladies in Black' cast to her version of Adelaide. Photo: Ben King / Bunya Entertainment

It’s often likened to school camps when a group of actors head off on location for months of filming – but Jessica De Gouw admits she never quite imagined she’d be camping alongside massive stars such as Debi Mazour and Miranda Otto.

While it wasn’t quite a case of midnight feasts and sneaking out when cast and crew decamped to Adelaide for the four-month shoot for ABC’s upcoming drama Ladies in Black, there were Sunday barbecues and the actors did help each other with tapes for auditions.

“Look, it felt much more like family affair,” De Gouw tells InReview. “I mean, I’m sure that the younger kids were out hitting the clubs, but for me it was more lunches together and the occasional beer after work.”

De Gouw adored working with Mazour, well-known for her roles in the likes of Goodfellas, Batman Forever and Entourage, and reuniting with AACTA award-winning Otto. The trio headlined a talented ensemble including former Adelaidean Kate Box, Azizi Donnelly, Carlos Sanson Jr, Peter O’Brien, Todd McKenney, and 2022 NIDA graduate Clare Hughes.

Miranda Otto, Jessica De Gouw and Debi Mazar are the Ladies in Black. Photo: Bunya Entertainment

Perth-born and raised De Gouw, who has filmed in SA previously (including the SBS series The Hunting) and has family here, loved introducing the cast to her version of Adelaide.

Following on from the 2018 film directed by Bruce Beresford and the popular 1993 novel by Madeleine St John, this adaptation of Ladies in Black sees the women from Goodes Department Store fling open their doors to the ’60s. The six-part series takes place in 1961, with the women on the precipice of great change.

De Gouw is Fay. She was a kept woman for a businessman and, when he disappeared, became a sales assistant at Goodes. After a whirlwind romance, Fay married Hungarian man Rudi Janosi.

“We had little classes on shop girl etiquette like how to fold and how to package…”

The 36-year-old actor is chatting down the line from her Sydney base, where she’s having precious downtime with hairstylist girlfriend Sophie Roberts. The couple relish the opportunity to be in the same country, with De Gouw’s hectic work schedule taking her all over the globe.

She says she loved developing the “wonderful contradiction of a character who is very empowered and capable in Goode’s, but struggling with the expectations of being a wife in 1961”. De Gouw confesses she was astonished when it dawned on her that the world Fay inhabited was not – in fact – that far removed from her own.

“Really, it’s only our mother’s generation – it seems so far, and yet so near all at the same time,” she muses, adding that while many of the challenges women faced then have been eliminated, there’s still a way to go.

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“You’re frustrated at what the women went through while watching it through our contemporary lens and then you go, ‘Oh, but women are still marching’,’ she says.

“Yes, we have a lot more freedoms, but is it enough to have a lot more freedoms? Should we be content and go, ‘Wow, we’ve come a long way’.”

The cast and crew spent months filming in and around Adelaide. The Freemason’s Hall on North Terrce serves as the front for Goodes Department Store, and the cast are perpetually strolling in gorgeous clothes of the era along East Terrace.

The interior of Goodes was created by Michael Rumpf and his team at the Adelaide Film Studios. It’s the largest set ever built at the studios.

“Honestly, it’s one of the most beautiful sets that I’ve been on,” De Gouw enthuses. “It was just so beautifully constructed – there was this almost constant movement to it.

“It’s pretty special – the detail of the set and also the detail that we went into. We had little classes on shop girl etiquette like how to fold and how to package and how to work the cash register.”

De Gouw laughs at the suggestion these skills could be a handy back-up plan should acting roles dry up.

“I can beautifully wrap dresses now – I can’t count at the cash register to save myself, but I can package,” she says, laughing again.

Given it’s been a busy few years for the actor – from working with Outlander star Sam Heughan in The Couple Next Door, and Sam Neill and Christoph Waltz in The Portable Door, to filming alongside Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg, Halle Berry and JK Simmons for the upcoming Netflix feature The Union – it’s unlikely De Gouw will be a real-life shopgirl any time soon.

Ladies In Black premiered on June 16 on ABC, with all episodes available to stream on iView.

Miranda Otto as Virginia and Jessica de Gouw as Fay in Ladies in Black. Photo: Ben King / Bunya Entertainment

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original articleInReview is an open access, non-profit arts and culture journalism project. Readers can support our work with a donation. Subscribe to InReview’s free weekly newsletter here.

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