Dee Smart plays Detective Senior Constable Alex St Clare in the Aussie telly cop-drama Water Rats. The 33-year-old actor has replaced Catherine McClements (Detective Rachel "Goldie" Goldstein) as the leading lady in the show. Goldie, a favourite character in the Rats pack, was stabbed to death in last season's finale.

Did you feel daunted by replacing McClements as the new female lead?

Nah. I think everyone else was scared. I think they were all a bit nervous, they really wanted to make the right decision. They were all really scared of losing Catherine and I don't blame them. She's really one of my favourite actresses - all time.

I wasn't scared at all. I mean, I'm Dee, I'm not Catherine. I'm completely different and to me it was different role, it wasn't taking somebody's place.

But the producers ... they put me through hell, the grind of the auditions was outrageous. I've never done so many auditions for one role. It went over months and they ummed and aahed. By the end of it I thought, "They're completely stupid."


But they weren't too stupid in the end ...

No, they finally got it right. They finally trusted me. And I don't feel like I've had to fill in a gap. It's just been a natural progression for me.

What do you make of Alex St Clare as a character?

I'm growing with her, she's growing with me. I'm not going to put her in a box and say that's Alex St Clare. I'm letting her develop as I go along.

I guess I'm like her in the energy I have. She's very energetic and, you know, I love my job and she loves her job so I guess that's a similarity.

We both rely on our instincts. As a detective she really relies on her instincts. I think when she goes with her instincts, that's when she's at her best.

Did you have to acquire any new skills to play a cop?

One of the auditions was purely guns and action stuff. I had to do a bit of training - how to roll and fire a gun and that sort of carry-on. An ex-Army mate of mine took me through my paces for the audition.

But as far as playing a detective goes I think, as an actor, she's just a human being going through all these different situations. I read a lot of criminal psychology books. That sort of gave me an insight of where I wanted to be with her, that she believes that there is no evil, there's always reasons how and why.

It's an action-packed show. Do you have a stunt double?

Sure do. Some of the stunts are insane. There's no way I'd ever be brave enough to even fake that.

But you know I come home with quite a few bruises - on my backside mostly. I've copped some beauty bruises. But that's all good fun, you know. That's part of if. I've been in the water in the middle of the winter, that was a bit cold.


Are you from Sydney?

I'm from Adelaide. I've got nine brothers and sisters - big, big country family in South Australia. Then I left and studied dance at the Victorian College of the Arts. Then I decided I wanted to do some acting, so I moved to Sydney and studied for three years. Home and Away was my first job [Smart played a character called Lucinda.]

I've waited 10 years to get back into television. I was offered long-term roles in shows. I've just waited for something as good as this to come along. Now I'm just ecstatic. So it took a while, but there you go. That about sums it up, I reckon.