The spy who biffed me
Melissa George is Sam Hunter, centre, in episode one of espionage thriller Hunted.

Move over Bourne and Bond, there's a lethal new spy in town, her name is Sam Hunter and she's played by Perth's own Melissa George.

The spying game is familiar territory for George from her stint opposite Jennifer Garner on Alias. But this time around she has star billing and is front and centre for the fight scenes in Hunted, the new British and American co-produced series starting this weekend on SBS One.

"Bond, Bourne and Batman all were taught these fight techniques and it was just an honour to really be under the eye of the trainers who would teach me, the first female on film to do keysi," explained a chatty but weary- sounding George by phone from Sydney earlier this month.

The interview happened just days before George hit headlines for her apparent unhappiness with the Australian media constantly referring to her stint on Home and Away two decades ago.

"It uses all forms of martial arts. That's obviously the physical training.

"The mental training is quite immense to play a part like that for an amount of months; a lot of gearing yourself up to be in that headspace for that long.

"You don't quite know who she is for a very long time."

The eight-part series from Frank Spotnitz, a writer and producer of The X Files and Strike Back, opens with Sam, an operative for a private British firm, shot in the stomach and left for dead at the end of a mission in Tangier.

Somehow Sam survives and retreats to an isolated cottage to rebuild her physical and mental health, surprising everyone, including her former lover and handler when she finally returns to work.

"What happened to her in Morocco was just awful and she is almost 100 per cent certain it is someone she works for," George said.

"I love that she disappears for a year to go get strong and come back and get revenge. What I love about the show is it's not glossy, it's very real."

The fight and torture scenes are disturbing and rate with anything Jack Bauer encountered in 24.

"24, Taken, The Bourne Supremacy - all those are very bloody and real, that's what we tried to achieve," George said.

"Literally, if I couldn't do the fight scene, we wouldn't shoot it. We tried really hard to bring something very true to the viewer."

George said she hadn't felt the need to stay in training for the physically demanding role ahead of a second season; last week the BBC declined but HBO will go it alone with a second season for its Cinemax channel.

"I am sure I should stay fit but I haven't worked since May, I have been in Paris with my boyfriend," she said of her French boyfriend, Jean-David Blanc.

"I have not worked and literally could not imagine working after playing Sam Hunter. Just for a little break. Obviously, things are coming in and if I read it I am inspired. But I have been inspired about life again, my own life, and it has been a long time since that happened.

"I should be getting back into action but at the same time I am recovering, I have spent most of the year recovering.

"The Slap was like, whoa, it was so invigorating to be home and to not have to put on an accent, and be with my fellow Australian actors and production people and directors.

"It was very draining; Rosie was not an easy role. But it was such a release for me to come home and do something I am proud of."

Something that did inspire George, however, was the chance to play Joel Edgerton's wife in his new film Felony, which she is due to resume filming for in Sydney next month. "It is a story of honesty, about a cop, Joel, and an accident that happens," she said.

"Matt Saville directed me in The Slap and he called me while I was in Perth a couple of weeks ago for my sister's wedding and said 'Please come and do this film'.

"I loved working with Matt, we did some very, very intense scenes and I loved being under his direction, so I know I am in good hands.

"I am relaxed on this one because I know I am going to be directed by someone I have worked with before."

'Literally, if I couldn't do the fight scene, we wouldn't shoot it. We tried really hard to bring something very true to the viewer.'

The West Australian

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