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Today Tonight (1998) : Tasma Walton with Alex Tarney

Caroline: It's survived at the top of television viewing for most of its 200 episodes.   The series Blue Heelers has also been the breeding ground for some of the country's best actors, and the latest, Tasma Walton, is at the centre of a dramatic real-life storyline that's forced her to lose all her hair.   Alex Tarney with the young actor, now being taken very seriously.

( Cut to interview )

Alex: So Tasma, can you reveal your new hairdo to us?

Tasma: Yes I can, you see it's been done, I've been wearing a hat though.   (Takes off her hat) The hair.

Alex: Wow.   (Both laugh a bit)

Tasma: Yeah isn't it different.

Caroline (voice-over): Tasma Walton, who plays Dash McKinley in Blue Heelers, has sacrificed her vanity and shaved off her hair.

Alex: So what's it been like living with that?

Tasma: Umm, I've slowly gotten used to it, it was a bit, it was actually a little hard at first.   Felt very vulnerable.   But umm, the worse thing is the cold.

Alex:  Yeah it could be cold with the weather.

Tasma: Exactly.   It'd be great in Summer, but it's awfully cold in Winter.

C (VO): Her radical new look is due to a storyline in Blue Heelers, when her character Dash falls victim to Hodgkin's Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer.

( Cut to BH clip from 'Deed Not the Breed' )

Tom: Well what did they say?  Are you all right?
Dash: No.  They think I've got cancer.  

( Cut to different clip from the same episode )

Maggie: So if things don't go your way this time, you fight it.  You take the chance that my mother never got, and you fight.  And you beat the bastard.
Dash: (whispers)  I'll try.

( Cut back to interview )

Tasma: We've umm ... actually got someone who works on the show that's been through exactly the same situation as Dash.  She works in the story department ... so, that's been incredibly beneficial because they've got someone who has gone through the experience.   Umm, she, I think she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's when she was 20, 21, so very much the same age as Dash.  She's a great role model to follow, with Emma Honey.

( Cut to interviewing Emma Honey )

C (VO): Emma Honey was working as Blue Heelers' script editor when she discovered she had Hodgkin's Disease.   She's now recovered and says many of her experiences are reflected in the script.

Emma: That was actually one of the worse things about when I found out, umm, I'd had my job at Blue Heelers for about 3 months, I'd just got a full-time job there, it's what I'd always really wanted to do, and I was thinking, you know, life's pretty good at the moment ... and then I discovered that I had cancer, and I thought, well, there goes my work career, because you know, chemo and working don't really go that well together.  But I was incredibly lucky, Blue Heelers worked around me as much as they possibly could.   I was allowed to sort of, um, take days off, and get my chemo on Friday so I could take weekends to recover and that kind of thing so, I was very lucky that it was kind of ... very awful experience.

( Cut back to interviewing Tasma )

Alex: Do you ever wonder what people out there watching Blue Heelers that might actually have the disease, think of your performance or think of the way you portray them?

Tasma: Oh yeah.   Yeah absolutely.  It's frightening, because you, um, you don't want it to be in any way patronising or unreal.   You want it to be as true as possible.   Umm, but the fact is I've never had the disease, and so as an actor, as imaginative as possible, you gotta take the leap into playing the character that has it.   So there's always that margin of error, you know, there's always that possibility you have it wrong.

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