This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2008-05-01 — sourcemeta

Author:Mike Duffy (Detroit Free Press)

“Ocean Girl” star works hard, makes a big splash

On “Ocean Girl,” young Marzena Godecki is literally in over her head.

She spends up to six hours a day filming underwater scenes for the internationally popular Australian children’s series, says creator-producer Jonathan Shiff of his 16-year-old star.

“We do have stunt doubles and body divers,” Shiff explained in a Los Angeles interview earlier this year. “But Marzena is down there with the sharks, with the turtles, with the stingrays, for six hours a day. And it’s a very courageous athletic achievement.”

As the title character of “Ocean Girl,” which returns for a new season at 7:30 tonight on the Disney Channel, Godecki portrays the mysteriously ethereal Neri. Neri is an exotic pilgrim from some other world who lives on a remote tropical island and communicates telepathically with her best water buddy, a 40-ton humpback whale she calls Charley.

“I’m kind of like a perfectionist,” said Godecki, who was born in Poland but moved to Australia at 3 with her family. She speaks with the signature Aussie accent. “I want to get everything right and I like getting everything right the first time,” she said. "And I’m one of those people who are willing to have a go.

“So if they say, ‘Can you do this?’, I say, ‘Sure, I’ll give it a go. And I guess that’s what they were looking for. They wanted someone who wasn’t scared of the water, wasn’t scared of trying new things and doing things that most people don’t get a chance to do, filming underwater.”

Trained in ballet and modern dance, Godecki was chosen over 500 other young performers to star in “Ocean Girl.” And this season, she’s feeling more comfortable.

“I found it a lot easier to do the swimming in the second series,” she said. “The double was mostly needed for things like jumping out of trees.”

A big-city girl, Godecki lives in Melbourne. She admires Jodie Foster and like Foster, who attended Yale, hopes to combine college with acting. When she’s not in high school or filming “Ocean Girl” four months out of the year, she enjoys channel surfing for “Seinfeld” and “Models Inc.”

On “Ocean Girl” this season, Godecki said, “you see Neri mature a lot more. She gets a bit more streetwise with the outside world.”

And now that “Ocean Girl” is seen all over Europe and in America, Godecki said she’s been receiving plenty of fan mail.

“Most of the questions I get asked are, ‘Can you really talk to the whale?’ And, ‘Do you actually swim with him?’” Alas, it’s all part of the magic of show business illusion.

“There’s a replica that we actually swim with,” Godecki said, “because you can’t get so close to humpback whales.”

Sounds like Neri isn’t the only one with some underwater street smarts.