Actor Peta Sergeant always thought Rose Porteous was a bit of “looney tune” but now she has nothing but compassion and empathy for the one-time housekeeper.
Sergeant plays Porteous, who married ageing iron ore mining magnate Lang Hancock and then had to fight his daughter for her inheritance, in the mini-series House Of Hancock.
The protracted legal battle between the Filipina-born Porteous (nee Lacson), who was 37 years younger than Hancock, and Lang’s daughter Gina Rinehart figures prominently in the Nine Network series which premieres on Sunday.
The public feud was filled with murder accusations, drug charges, court cases and sexual harassment claims that was all played out in the media.
Hancock is played by Sam Neill and Mandy McElhinney plays the litigious Rinehart who took legal action against Porteous. Porteous married a close friend a few months after the death of the WA mining magnate.
Robert Coleby plays Gina’s husband Frank Rinehart and Lang Hancock’s second wife Hope is played by Anne Louise Lambert. Sergeant’s perception of Porteous was largely framed around what she had read, heard and seen (on TV) while growing up.
Porteous’s lifestyle and controversy was also a topic of conversation for Sergeant’s Malaysian mother Soo who were deeply interested in the plight of an Asian housekeeper who became mega rich.
In preparing for the role, Sergeant watched TV interviews of Porteous, met one of her lawyers and read Robert Wainwright’s unauthorised biography Rose: The Story Of Rose Hancock Porteous.
“When I got the role I thought she is definitely a looney tune and now that has completely changed,” Sergeant said.
“She was a pretty bold person and non-one is saying she is not out there, but there is no doubt to me the bias and contempt coming from the side of the interviewer.
“I watch them now and am shocked how bias they are .. they were mocking her.
“All of that sort of stuff added up to me seeing things differently.” Sergeant said it won’t just be the viewers who will be divided about Porteous and Hancock’s relationship, the cast were too.
“Sam Neill and I would have little spats about who was in control,” Sergeant said.
“Sam would say `look at her, she’s controlling him’ and I was like, `he’s controlling her’. AAP
* House Of Hancock premieres on Sunday, February 8 on the Nine Network.