It’s possibly the most traumatic scene in the history of Australian TV drama. Claire McLeod is trapped in her car on the edge of a cliff. She tells her sister Tess to save baby Charlotte in the back seat. After Tess gets the baby out, Claire plunges to her death.
Baby Charlotte in McLeod’s Daughters was played first by twins Sarah and Alisha Hart and later by triplets Kaitlyn, Tahlia and Brooke Stacey-Clark. The triplets turned 18 last month, while the twins will have their 18th birthday in January. Yep, it’s been that long.
So what was it like for those five babies starring in the hit show filmed on a farm north of Adelaide?
Annette Hart, the mum of Sarah and Alisha, was a big fan of McLeod’s from the beginning. She remembers watching the season two finale, when Claire (Lisa Chappell) fell off her horse while pregnant.
"That was where it got left, and we didn’t know what was going to happen," Hart tells Mamamia. "We were like, ‘Oh my goodness, is the baby going to be okay?’"
It wasn’t long before she found out. Hart gave birth to twin girls five weeks premature, and while they were still in hospital, she got a call asking her if she would be interested in having her twins play Claire’s baby. At first, she thought it was someone "having a lend".
"We were like, ‘Who is this?’ But no, it was all good."
Sarah and Alisha started in the role just three days after the date they were due to be born. On set, the family were given Meg’s (Sonia Todd) cottage to hang out in while waiting for their scenes. Hart says the twins were tiny babies, but "very settled".
"If they wanted a sleeping baby, there was usually someone asleep," she remembers.
As for Claire’s death scene, Hart admits she was a bit concerned when she heard it was going to involve Charlotte in a car on the edge of a cliff. But she soon found out her babies wouldn’t be anywhere near the cliff. The shots of Charlotte in the back of the car were filmed separately from the rest, in the middle of a paddock.
"They weren’t around any of the real drama of it," Hart explains. "So they weren’t aware at all. They were quite nonchalant about the whole thing."
When the twins were five months old, their time on McLeod’s came to an end. Hart was expecting it. Sarah’s hair was getting darker, while Alisha’s was staying light.
"We knew that they were looking a little bit different, so we completely understood. We were really lucky to have had the opportunity that we had."