With the arrival of 2007 came a welcome resurgence in Aussie TV drama of Lisa’s. This charge was led by an ambitious $15 million miniseries, whose 10-strong cast was headed by Lisa and her former ‘Cabaret’ co-star, Ian Stenlake (‘Stingers’). Named ‘Sea Patrol’, the 13-episode action series is based around the workings of the Royal Australian Navy’s Patrol Boat service, whose predominate duty is protecting the North East coast of Australia.
From the creators of ‘Blue Heelers’ and ‘Water Rats’, the series premiered on the Nine Network on 5th July 2007 and was watched by 2 million people, making it the biggest premiere audience for an Aussie drama since ‘Always Greener’ in 2001. ‘Sea Patrol’ Series 1 averaged a very healthy 1.54 million viewers, despite several tepid reviews and harsh criticism from some quarters.
Lisa played second-in-charge, Lieutenant Kate ‘XO’ McGregor in the Naval series, a somewhat enigmatic character whose past involved an affair with the man who is now her Commanding Officer. The ultra-professional Kate is cool, beautiful, reserved and aims for a perfect 10 in everything she does. But “she is a woman of secrets, a woman on the run from her own past, a woman who has reinvented herself and never wants to go back to where she came from”.
Filming of ‘Sea Patrol’ began in October 2006 and lasted 5 months. After shooting wrapped for the first season, Lisa joined the cast for the Sydney Theatre Company’s presentation of the Melbourne Theatre Company’s hilarious musical, ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’. She earned overwhelmingly positive reviews for her portrayal of Olive, a gifted but intensely lonely 12-year old spelling whiz.
Series 2 of ‘Sea Patrol’ began filming in Far North Queensland in late September 2007 and wrapped in early February 2008. In March, Lisa joined Ian Stenlake on stage in Melbourne, along with two of her ‘Spelling Bee’ cast mates (Marina Prior and Magda Szubanski) to perform in the highly anticipated Donmare Warehouse-originated revival of ‘Guys and Dolls’, in which she ‘nailed all aspects of her singing, dancing and acting roles’. Lisa’s ‘nuanced performance was stunning’ as the missionary Sarah Brown and was said to ‘raise the dramatic stakes’ of the show and demonstrate ‘a new maturity in her acting, a subtlety to match her scintillating physicality’. She reprised the role in Sydney from March to May 2009.
‘Sea Patrol II: The Coup’ premiered on 30th March 2008 to more positive reviews than SPI and actually managed to increase its audience throughout the season, ending the year with an average of 1.37 million viewers (a little behind other new Aussie dramas ‘Packed to the Rafters’, ‘Underbelly’ and ‘City Homicide’, but ahead of established dramas such as ‘All Saints’). This series focused on political unrest on a fictional South Pacific Island named Samaru. Besides an updated Hammersley ship, the only main cast change was the arrival of newcomer Kirsty Lee Allan who replaced Josh Lawson as the Hammersley’s Chef.
The third series of ‘Sea Patrol’, subtitled “Red Gold” premiered on 18th May 2009 and, according to most critics, reflects a ‘coming of age’ for the show. The third series dealt with the protection of a rare type of tropical coral which, because of its value, was nicknamed ‘red gold’. This the first season to showcase the new RAN uniforms including two-piece ‘Disruptive Pattern Navy Uniforms’ to replace the grey coveralls during operational activities. The opening episodes of SP3 saw the death of ET (David Lyons) and the introduction of trouble-maker 2Dads (Nikolai Nikolaeff).
The fourth series of ‘Sea Patrol’ premiered on 15th April 2010, returning to its original Thursday night timeslot. SP4 had no subtitle and does not feature a miniseries throughline; rather, it comprises 16 self-contained episodes. Shooting began in Cairns on 18th September 2009 before moving to the Gold Coast on 17th November. This series is noted for the absence of Jeremy Lindsay Taylor (Buffer), Saskia Burmeister (Nav) and Jay Ryan (Spider) who made the decision not to return after their 3-year contracts expired. Series 4, however, saw the introduction of Tammy Macintosh as Commander Maxine ‘Knocker’ White (replacing Steve Bisley) and Lisa reunited with two former stage and screen lovers, John Waters and Martin Sacks, in guest roles. Conrad Coleby (Dutchy) and Danielle Horvat (Bird) also joined the regular cast.
During 2010 Lisa appeared on screen in a guest role in the critically-acclaimed Richard Roxburgh legal mini series ‘Rake’ for the ABC, as well as on stage in ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ for the MTC.
On 25th October 2010, Channel 9 stunned the ‘Sea Patrol’ fan base and announced that Series 5 would be the final season because, while still rating well, the expiration of the producer’s tax rebate after 65 episodes made SP too expensive to continue producing. SP5 started filming in Mission Beach on 29th September 2010, wrapped on the Gold Coast on 9th February 2011 and premiered on screens on 26th April 2011. Subtitled “Damage Control”, it comprised 13 episodes and saw the return of Ditch Davey as SAS Captain Jim Roth and Tammy Mackintosh as Commander White. The final and 68th episode of this unique series screened on 12 July 2011.
Less than two weeks after finishing ‘Sea Patrol’, Lisa was back before the cameras in Sydney playing Margaret Kennedy in a telemovie about the infamous Gilham family murders of 1993. Lisa celebrated her 40th birthday during filming of ‘Blood Brothers’ and the Peter Andrikidis-directed telemovie screened on Channel 9 in May 2011. Lisa McCune was sparkling with other celebrities.
2011 also saw the release of a cookbook that Lisa wrote with her friend Di Thomas, called ‘Hopscotch and Honeyjoys’.