Geraldine Hakewill may not be a household name in the U.S., but she is in her native Australia. Hakewill stars as the titular character in Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, a spinoff of the international hit series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. The Acorn TV original series is deep in its second season and Hakewill sat down with Parade.com to talk about private investigator Peregrine Fisher, the mysteries she solves and her character’s gentleman caller, Detective James Steed (Joel Jackson).
Were you a fan of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries or had you read any of the books prior to auditioning for Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries?
I was a fan of the original series and I had read some of the Kerry Greenwood novels. When I was just finishing drama school, I auditioned for one of the supporting roles in one of the episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and I didn’t get it. I was very disappointed because I loved period dramas and murder mysteries, and this was the perfect combination of the two. I thought that would have been my only chance—but a few years later, I got the audition for this. I probably wouldn’t have gotten this role if I would have already been in the original one, so it was a blessing in disguise.
What gets you into the ’60s mood and do you do anything special when preparing to portray Peregrine?
Before we started season 1, I watched a lot of documentaries and films from that time to understand the world of Melbourne in the 1960s and also understand the energy from that era. I love screwball comedies, Hitchcock films, TV shows like The Avengers and Get Smart. They all really informed how we tried to play these roles and the kinds of relationships we were creating. I love ‘60s music, so we often had that playing in the makeup box when getting ready. I find that the makeup and hair make a massive difference for me. That’s how I get into the character every morning. It takes me at least an hour and a half to get my hair and makeup done. Stepping out of the makeup box and into costume and then stepping onto set, it’s like a suit of armor that I wear that gives me the confidence to be as confident as Peregrine.
What’s your favorite part about playing Peregrine?
I think my favorite thing about playing Peregrine is how brave she makes me feel as a person. She does so many things I wouldn’t be brave enough to do and it’s given me more confidence in my real life. She also makes mistakes sometimes, and it’s nice to play somebody who’s well rounded and isn’t just perfect. She gets things wrong, but she always gets it right in the end and that’s really satisfying too—to play someone who’s smarter than anybody else in the room. I love to be able to solve everything—that’s really satisfying too.
What do you like most about the character of Peregrine? And of Detective Steed?
I love how different they are from each other. He’s very conservative and traditional and black and white in his thinking. Peregrine is multicolored and quirky and completely out of the box. I love that they’re so different yet they managed to find this compatibility and they’re attracted to each other because they’re both very smart and kind and essentially want the same things. They want to solve murder cases and they both get a big kick out of helping people and piecing these puzzles together. I love the tension between them, but I love that they really do care about each other too.
Tell me one thing fans might not know about your co-star Joel Jackson?
Joel has a really beautiful singing voice and plays guitar. He plays a lot of instruments actually. He’s very musical. We sing on-set a lot. We make up a lot of stupid songs to keep ourselves awake and entertained. He’s also a massive film nerd. He comes on set to see things though he’s not in the scene. He loves to look at camera equipment. He’s the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met.
Both you and Joel sing. Will we get to see a duet between Peregrine and James?
[Laughs.] Not quite a duet! There is a little bit of singing toward the end of this season, but hopefully in the future. We had been planning to play a gig together just before we auditioned for this show, so who knows? One day we might, it would be lovely to include in a show.
If you could be any other character on Ms. Fisher Mod, who would it be and why?
Definitely, Birdie. I think she’s the coolest character in the show. She gets to ride motor bikes, and she always wears leather. No one can play her except for Catherine McClements. She’s my favorite.
What was your favorite episode from the first season of Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries?
The set-up episode because I loved creating the world and the department store was such a great place to explore. I loved meeting James and Peregrine for the first time and seeing them meet each other. I really loved the world of the third episode, which took place in a top secret science facility. I thought that really fun. I loved the aesthetic of that. I loved how far out and wacky it was.
What is your favorite episode from the new season of Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries?
I love episode 6. We solved a murder in a pigeon racing club, and again, I loved the aesthetic of it. I loved having pigeons around. I thought that was such a cool part of the episode, and I learned so much about pigeons. There’s also an undercurrent in that episode of spy stuff, so that was really fun too. It felt a bit darker and I think more Hitchcock-y than some of the other episodes. Catherine McClements and I had beautiful scenes toward the end of that episode, which I loved doing with her.
Hopefully there will be a season 3. What would you like to see happen/what kind of mysteries would you like to see?
Good question! Hopefully there will be a season 3. I’ve been thinking a bit about how Sherlock has Moriarty, who is his sort of anonymous nemesis, and I thought it would be cool for Peregrine to have some anonymous person who’s making it more difficult for her to solve crimes or who’s sending her along this kind of treasure hunt over the course of the season. There are lot of storylines that could pop up. Peregrine doesn’t know who her daddy is, so that can be an interesting reveal. I would love to get to learn more about the Adventuresses and have them be part of some of the investigations. Cath (McClements) and I were talking about how we’d want to solve something in a cult. We’ll have a murder happen that somebody thinks has occurred but nobody else saw it, so it’s a murder that didn’t happen, which I think Agatha Christie did a few times. I always really enjoyed those. There are so many directions it can go. I’m always really intrigued by the writing team and the worlds in each episode. They manage to find this intriguing ‘60s flavor.
You’re in a new series, Wakefield. Hopefully, U.S. viewers will get to see it at some point, can you tell us more about the show?
It’s a really amazing eight-part series set in a psychiatric facility. It follows the staff, the patients and the patients’ families and focuses on one of the nurses, Nik (Rudi Dharmalingam), who is a really gifted nurse, but he is going through his own mental breakdown. He has a song that’s stuck in his head that triggers memories from when he was younger. Things start coming back to him, so he’s trying to hold himself together and also helping the people he works with. I play a psychiatrist who used to be engaged to Nick, but now we work together. There’s tension between us and still a lot of love as well. It’s really a beautiful show with a unique tone. There’s singing and dancing as it goes into people’s dreams and hallucinations. I think it’s a really exceptional portrayal of what mental illness feels like for patients, family members and also staff, and I think it’s an important piece in the conversation in terms of de-stigmatizing mental health. It also makes the point that it’s a fine line between sanity and madness and everybody is dealing with something, even if you are a psychiatrist in control of the facility. Hopefully, it contributes to a greater understanding of people who are going through difficulties and hopefully makes us more empathetic as a society.
You’re a singer. What’s your go-to song to sing in the shower?
Whatever I have been listening to that day. I often make something up too. That’s when I have my best creative moments—in the shower.
What was the last show you binge-watched?
Mare of Easttown.
Name an actor you admire.
Name a favorite dish you like to cook.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten?
Fresh seafood is always the best thing—like really fresh straight from the ocean. That’s my favorite.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?
Ohh…I think I tried some lamb’s brains once when I was younger and it was pretty revolting. Something awful.
It’s summertime! What cocktail do you order?
Maybe an Aperol spritz.
Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries is available to stream on Acorn TV. New episodes from season 2 drop weekly on Mondays.