“Erica’s arse! Zoom in so the guys in the booth can have a look,” breakfast television host, Eric, tells the camera in Season Two of The Wrong Girl. “Isn’t that a thing of beauty? It’s a peach. It’s a ripe peach.”
It was the moment that saw Craig McLachlan‘s character embroiled in sexual harassment scandal on the axed Channel 10 sitcom, accused by his former colleague (played by Madeleine West) of sexual harassment, of objectifying her body for his own perverse entertainment.
Today, a very similar story is playing out for the 1990 Gold Logie winner, only this time it’s not from the pages of television script.
The 52-year-old actor finds himself on the receiving end of disturbing sexual misconduct allegations, after Fairfax journalist Kate McClymont published claims of sexual assault, bullying and harassment made by three of his former co-stars.
The women – Christie Whelan Browne, Angela Scundi, and model/actress Erika Heynatz – all worked alongside McLachlan in the 2014 Australian stage production of the Rocky Horror Show, in which the Logie-winning McLachlan played lead male role, Dr Frank-N-Furter.
According to McClymont, both Scundi and Heynatz have given detailed statements to police alleging “a number of actresses in the show were subjected to McLachlan touching their genitals, groping their breasts, exposing himself and pressing his penis against them”.
McLachlan has fiercely denied all the allegations made in McClymont’s story, and told Fairfax the “baseless” claims “seem to be simple inventions, perhaps made for financial reasons, perhaps to gain notoriety”.
LISTEN: Tracey Spicer on why the #metoo movement has kick-started a new way of thinking worldwide.
For fans of The Wrong Girl, the story will be eerily familiar. McLachlan’s character on the series, Eric Albrectson, is portrayed as egotistical, deeply sexist, a man who – in commenting on his co-star’s arse – sees her not as an equal but “another piece of meat”.
While McLachlan himself described Eric as “almost the most hated man on Australian television” in an interview with Stuff, he also insisted “there’s nothing nasty in the guy and that was really important. I didn’t want Eric to be a prick”.
The show has not been renewed by Channel 10, leaving McLachlan free to focus on Channel 7’s re-boot of The Dr Blake Mysteries. The Ballarat-based drama was picked up by the network in October 2017 after five years on the ABC. Whether the claims about its star will affect the proposed 2018 air date remains to be seen.
In a statement issued to Mamamia, Seven said it was aware of the allegations and is taking them seriously.
“Concerning the upcoming series of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, this is produced by December Media and is in early pre-production funded by Seven and other parties. Seven has sought an urgent update from the producers.”
McLachlan, who rose to fame in the 1980s via a starring role on Neighbours, is the second television personality to be placed under the spotlight as part of a wide-scale joint Fairfax/ABC investigation into sexual harassment in the Australian entertainment industry. In November, the outlets published allegations of sexual assault and harassment against celebrity gardener Don Burke.
To read full details of the allegations, read Kate McClymont’s story, ‘He’s calculated and manipulative, a predator’: Craig McLachlan accused of indecent assault’.