We are extremely excited about Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears, the feature film finally picking up the saga of Australia’s top 1920s lady detective. One of our primary concerns when we heard the film was in production was whether key members of the supporting cast would appear in the film. As soon as IMDB confirmed that in addition to the Hon. Phryne Fisher and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson we could also expect to see Dot, Collins, Aunt Prudence, Bert and Cec, we reached out to all of them to invite them to talk Miss Fisher and more.
The first to accept our invitation were Travis McMahon and Anthony J. Sharpe, A.K.A. Bert and Cec. They generously gave us a peek behind the scenes on the show and a heads-up about what to expect for them on the big screen.
Geek Girl Authority: How did you two become Bert & Cec?
Travis McMahon: I auditioned at ABC Melbourne, I had a flight booked to see my wife, Rachel, in the States not long after the audition. I called and said: “I have a feeling that went well, I might not be on that plane love, sorry.”
Anthony J. Sharpe: I was at a point where I was thinking of getting out of the business. I was running a web design business at the time, which was fairly hectic, and wasn’t really scoring many acting jobs. I remember this audition for (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) coming up, and I was super busy. I said to my wife: “I don’t think I am going to bother with this one. It will be just another audition, and I probably won’t get a look in.” Well, she gave me a big kick in the arse and told me to march myself down to the audition, and so I did. Ha.
GGA: Had you worked together before?
TM: I hadn’t worked with Sharpie previously, but we had plenty of time to get to know each other during the shoot – long days in the same caravan waiting for our next scene.
AJS: I hadn’t worked with Travis before Miss Fisher’s. I was very familiar with his work. He has been in the industry for a long time and is a very accomplished actor. So I was very excited to be working with him on this show.
GGA: Were you familiar with the Miss Fisher books when you auditioned?
TM: No, I wasn’t aware of the books at the time.
AJS: I had not heard of the books before auditioning. Once I got the role I called up my sister, who worked in a book shop, and asked if she had heard of the books. I was pronouncing it phonetically like “frine,” and she chuckled and corrected me: “fri-nee.” She was a big fan of the book series (like so many others that I have come to realize over time).
GGA: How do you feel about the differences between your characters in the books and on screen?
TM: I don’t know about the differences, but I was recently talking to Kerry Greenwood, the author, and she is currently writing some more… Go, Kerry!
AJS: I read a couple of the books to get a feel but wanted to create my own version of Cec. It’s been such a long time since reading that I think my memory has blurred the two together. I just wanted to present a real “Aussie bloke” who was one of the lads, but at the same time someone who was sensitive and caring.
GGA: Your dynamic on screen is believably one of non-blood brothers. How does it compare to your off-screen relationship?
AJS: Ha. That is great to hear. Travis and I have become great mates since commencing this show.
TM: We enjoy catching up for a few beers… sometimes too many!! We also make ourselves available to help each other with self-tests.
AJS: We both love a joke and stirring up a bit of fun on set. Both having spent quite a bit of our youth growing up in country Australia we, have a fair bit in common. As this was my first series regular, I still had a lot to learn and he was a bit of a mentor for me through this process.
GGA: Where are you and your characters most alike and most different?
TM: Bert’s grumpy – I’m not…
AJS: I am a big lover of animals and have always been fairly empathetic with people and circumstances. I loved this part of Cec’s character. I am also fiercely loyal to my friends which I think is one of Cec’s strong traits too. I loved the episode where Cec was caught between the loyalty between his fiancée and Bert (and their business together). It was just the worst position that Cec could find himself in.
I think where we differ is that I am a little more vocal than good old quiet Cec.
GGA: The show addresses some difficult social and historical issues. Has that affected you at all?
TM: Bert is definitely put out at the prospect of “losing his mate” in that storyline (Anthony referenced). When we learn a little more about Bert and Cec’s history in WWI, you cannot help but be deeply affected by the ultimate sacrifice made by so many.
AJS: I love that the books and the TV series touch on important subjects in many areas. To have such a strong female leading role is great, and to have such a strong woman depicted back in the early 1900’s is even better.
GGA: Is the taxi you drive on the show a bonafide 1920s car?
AJS: All of the cars in MFMM were all true vintage cars. Phryne’s car was a Hispano-Suiza, which is actually quite a rare car. I know that they had a very hard time trying to get a hold of one for the show.
We drove many cars, however our first truck is still my favourite. I know I am going to get corrected here, but I think it may have been a model T Ford?? Anyways we had to go and have lessons to be able to drive this prior to starting filming. This was the day I first met Travis. The truck’s controls were so different than today’s cars, and at first driving it was totally counter-intuitive (like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time). I remember that the accelerator was on the steering column and looked like a blinker control– it was way too easy to forget to back it off as you came up to a corner. We had to do a few chase scenes down these tiny alleyways, which was great fun. (I am sure that the owners were beside themselves watching us tear around in their respective cars.)
TM: I’ve never heard anyone who can grind the gears in that old rig like Cec can!
GGA: When did you become aware of the show’s international audience?
AJS: It wasn’t until Travis and I headed over to Las Vegas for the Miss Fisher Con that is run by The Adventuresses’ Club of the Americas (a fantastic bunch who we have stayed in contact with ever since). We were overwhelmed by the reception that we received and had such a wonderful time over there. It was really touching to see how the love of a show and its characters has brought people together from all over the world.
GGA: The movie was financed, in part, by crowdfunding. What did that feel like, having people vote with their dollars?
TM: I hadn’t experienced a crowd sourced project before. It’s great to feel the passion of the people as they help get a project over the line.
AJS: I was amazed by how quickly targets were met and then smashed, and it really showed what a large and supportive fanbase that MFMM has. It was great to know that people connected with and cared so much about the show to want to help get a film off the ground.
GGA: Are you able to disclose anything about Bert & Cec in the film?
TM: Don’t blink.
GGA: Do you see more adventures as Bert & Cec in your future?
TM: I always get a good feeling when I put Bert’s hat on – I ‘d be very open to some more adventures.
AJS: Ha… I will never say never. If the opportunity arises, I will certainly be happy to throw the cap and the dust coat back on and jump in the taxi, ready to go.
GGA: Would you be interested in a spin-off series focused on Bert and Cec?
TM: Yes and Yes.
AJS: At the premiere of Crypt of Tears, Kerry Greenwood did mention to me that Cec and Bert would make a good spin off series… So maybe we should run a second crowdsourced campaign to fund a pilot episode? Ha!
It would certainly be a great way to explore the underworld of that universe a lot more. Cec and Bert lived and worked in the underbelly of Melbourne during that time and they definitely crossed paths with many colourful characters who would make for interesting viewing.
GGA: What else should we look for from you?
TM: I am in two films due for release this year– How Do You Know Chris? and Rams. I also recently worked on two television projects called Informer 3838 and Harrow.
AJS: I have a few projects coming out in 2020. I had a great time recently working on Black Water Abyss (directed by Andrew Traucki). It’s about a group of friends who go cave diving. An unexpected storm floods the cave and they are trapped, which is terrifying enough until they find out that the cave is home to a 15 foot crocodile. It was a tough but extremely fun shoot.
I have been back and forth with some projects in America recently, so have some other projects coming out over there as well– The Orchard (directed by Michael Caissie), Robert The Bruce (directed by Richard Gray) and a couple of guest episodes on an upcoming series in LA.
I formed a production company with some very talented friends in 2019, called Set Apart. We have a large slate of projects both in the scripted and non-scripted areas that we are very excited about.
I am also working both in front of and behind the cameras on an upcoming production, Prey (working title), starring Titus Welliver from Bosch, which is set to film in 2020 in Fiji. A thriller feature film that will be a big undertaking, but hopefully will be great fun.
GGA: Any last words about Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears?
AJS: Hope you all enjoy the film!
Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears premiered January 4 at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and will be released in Australia in February and the US in March. Keep up with news on the film here!
Want to follow Anthony J. Sharpe on Instagram? He’s @anthony.j.sharpe.official.
Want to follow Travis McMahon on Instagram? He doesn’t have one! Register your complaints about that in the comment section…
This article was originally published 1/25/20
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