Seven presenter Daniels writes series with Rocky backdrop
THERE's a clichéd saying that you can take the girl out of the bush but you can't take the bush out of the girl.
That saying holds true for Rockhampton-born journalist, writer and TV presenter Anna Daniels, but it's about the only thing that comes within a bull's roar of being clichéd about her.
Growing up in Australia's beef capital has given Daniels a great love for regional Australia, but it also allowed her to spend her formative years in an environment that bred confidence and a willingness to explore new frontiers.
"I'm one of five kids, so I was never shy," the 34-year-old tells Weekend with a laugh.
"From a very young age I always loved performing and making people laugh, and I was on stage in eisteddfods from about seven years old.
"I realised I had a talent for public speaking and I had a bit of a funny bone, but I also realised I felt most alive when I was connecting with people through humour."
Daniels, who has previously produced and presented on Ten's The Project and now presents Queensland Weekender on Seven, is still clearly passionate about the regions and bringing them into the lounge rooms of metropolitan viewers.
"I love connecting with the characters and stories of regional Australia and showing urban audiences what it's really like in country areas," she says.
"And I like using humour to do that. It's a great leveller."
It's perhaps of little surprise, then, that Daniels' latest project - an 11-part series chronicling the trials and triumphs of two down-in-the-dumps thirtysomething women, published exclusively in Weekend - is a fun story with regional Australia as its backdrop.
Fionnula and Frankie's Christmas Countdown is a light-hearted look at two friends who are determined to get their lives back on track by Christmas, and who set each other challenges - overseen by Frankie's charmingly protective mother - to help them get there.
It's set in her home town of Rocky, but it could be anywhere; the themes are universal.
"(The series came about) just through me having conversations with different friends of mine, and some common themes kept coming up," she says.
"I think there are so many similarities among people in their early thirties - their joys, disappointments, concerns."
While Daniels is single for the moment, she's "not on the manhunt these girls are on" and openly admits there are pieces of the people she knows in real life entertwined into the two likeable protagonists of her series.
"Fionnula and Frankie are amalgams of people I know, and while the column isn't autobiographical, the golden rule is that you write about what you know about," she says.
"I've certainly drawn on experiences of mine and my friends. I think (the issues) will resonate with people."
The series is sure to hit a chord with anyone who's ever found themselves single or directionless, no matter what stage of their life they're at, and is delivered with Daniels' trademark wit and warmth.
It's an approach that has served her well throughout her broadcast producing and presenting career.
In an industry full of dolled-up, cookie-cutter presenters, the girl from Rockhampton stands out with her razor-sharp wit, her open smile and gusto, and the rural twang she's never quite lost.
Daniels is a proud supporter of local produce, community markets and, naturally, Rockhampton's most famous export - beef.
"I'm certainly not a vegetarian - Dad wouldn't speak to me if I was," she says with a laugh, adding while he is a retired pharmacist, he also used to run cattle.
These days based in Brisbane, where she can often be found walking around Mt Coot-tha or scoping out new ideas for Queensland Weekender, the beef city will always be home and will always have the pull of family.
"I automatically feel at ease there, and will always be drawn back," Daniels says.
Rocky's also part of the reason she got her breakthrough into presenting on The Project.
While a producer on the show, Daniels had started filming a short comic video on a visit home about the benefits of living in smaller places, when the 2011 floods hit and she realised the timing was good to air it when the city was desperate to tell the world it was back on its feet and open for business.
The fun piece was broadcast on the show, which, she says, all of a sudden "made my bosses see me as a presenter".
"It was really my breakthrough," she says.
"Rocky just keeps on giving."
It is also the setting for her first fictional novel, a romantic comedy that is sitting with a publisher at the moment.
Constantly looking ahead and yearning to create, Daniels admits she's still learning the patience necessary to wait until the variety of prospective projects she's juggling at any one time come to fruition.
And despite achieving many of the things that seven-year-old girl on the eisteddfod stage could only have dreamed of, she's not someone accustomed to resting on her laurels.
"Sometimes I do take stock and think, wow. This is a pretty good gig I've got," she says.
"In a lot of respects I feel like I have achieved a lot of my dreams, but I'm the kind of person who's always looking to create the next thing."