Timely emotional topic

It was more than a year ago that Hollywood actress and celebrity super mum Angelina Jolie penned a deeply personal piece for the New York Times in which she revealed she had undergone a double mastectomy, a decision she had made after discovering she carried the faulty BRCA1 gene and had an 87 per cent chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The shock news struck a chord with thousands of women across the globe, creating mass awareness of the disease that would later be known as the "Angelina effect".

With one in eight Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85, it is little wonder the topic hit a raw nerve with Australians, including Winners & Losers star Melissa Bergland.The bubbly actress' loveable character Jenny Gross even references Jolie's plight in next week's episode of the endearing Seven drama just moments after the Gross family discover Deidre has breast cancer.

Although it is a highly emotional topic, Bergland said it couldn't be more timely for the show given Trish's (Denise Scott) recent battle with breast cancer.

"I think the whole storyline existed to dredge it all back up for the whole family and to make them realise that it was a bit of a pattern and then to focus that spotlight more on Jenny and how it's going to affect them," she said.

"I think initially they were hoping that (Trish) developing breast cancer was kind of a one-off and they were very lucky but then the big C-bomb really rears its ugly head again."

But as Jenny soon discovers with sister Bridget (Sarah Grace), dealing with such grim news is harder for some than others.

"I think the two different reactions needed to exist," Bergland said. "Bridget is very much focused on all the negatives and Jenny is looking in a more positive way.

"It's important to note that there's no right or wrong way to react to things and that people need to process things in their own time and in their own way."

After seeking advice from her close-knit clan, Sophie (Melanie Vallejo), Frances (Virginia Gay) and Sam (Katherine Hicks), Jenny books in for a breast check-up.

But given her family history with mum Trish and now sister Deidre's breast cancer diagnosis, she is then prompted to consider undergoing genetic testing for the BRCA genes.

"It's really interesting because you can go from one day of everything being fine and then within a five-minute conversation, everything is flipped upside down and nothing is the same again," Bergland said.

"I think that's what the girls struggle to deal with; Bridget just wants to go along with her daily routine and forget it exists and Jenny kind of looks at it and thinks it's another hurdle to overcome."

Despite losing her dad to cancer at the age of 14, Bergland steered clear of drawing on personal experiences when revisiting the cancer story arc.

"It's the kind of thing where, when this kind of thing comes up in the script, I try not to delve too deeply into my own experiences because it tends to bring people down," she said.

"I think I've got to create a little barrier, just for self preservation. I've got to do my job and deal with what's happening to Jenny."

Mirroring the tight-knit friendship between Jenny, Sophie, Frances and Sam - Bec departed the series in this week's episode so actress Zoe Tuckwell-Smith could take time off to focus on motherhood - Bergland said she looked to her fellow leading ladies to help carry the emotional burden on set.

"In real life we're a very supportive cast," she said. "We know sometimes that people have the stories that provide comic relief, while others have to carry the load of whatever serious kind of issue is happening in that particular arc."

Beyond Winners & Losers, Bergland has her sights set on Hollywood.

Late last year, she edged closer to achieving that dream having signed with Los Angeles-based talent agency Untitled Entertainment, the same group that represents Simon Baker, Naomi Watts, Jared Leto and Penelope Cruz.

Better yet, within weeks of landing representation Bergland scored her first major feature film role in the indie rom-com, Relative Happiness, which will debut at Canadian film festivals later this year.

"It was amazing timing, I went over to the US for four months and in my first month I signed with the agency in LA and in my last week in LA they sent me the script for the film and then I got the gig," she said.

"Here's hoping it ends up on our screens, that'll be amazing."

Winners & Losers airs on Tuesday at 8.45pm on Seven/GWN7

The West Australian

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