St George actress Mabel Li stars in new SBS period drama New Gold Mountain

When St George's Mabel Li visited the Ballarat Gold Mine area as a tourist in her childhood, she never could have expected she'd be back there to work in the years ahead.

But that's just what the actress did, and she can soon be seen in the new SBS period drama New Gold Mountain.

The series, which premieres on Wednesday, October 13, is set primarily in the Chinese camp at the goldfields and follows a collection of characters as a murder mystery unfolds within the machinations of the site.

Former St George Girls High School student Li plays Lei, whose powerful father sent her to oversee the work produced by the 'brotherhood' in the camp run by headman Shing (Yoson An, Mulan).

"It's a really juicy role," Li told the Leader.

"When I first read the script, I was really struck. She's flawed and she's very strategic and political cunning.

"There's also this other side to her that's really quite vulnerable."

Li said it was exciting to play a character who had more power than many of her contemporaries of the era but whose freedom and safety was far from concrete.

She said Lei had "a lot of fun doing her job" - something the actress experienced on set in Ballarat as well.

"I thought they did such an amazing job with the set that I got lost in it," Li said.

"It was great to film in the bush. I think it's a really big blessing when you can film on location.

"I felt really immersed in it."

Working with costars like An and Alyssa Sutherland (Vikings) was "amazing", Li said, and they all got to know each other really well in "our own little COVID bubble".

New Gold Mountain was filmed about a year ago, and Li can't wait for people to be able to sink their teeth into it finally.

"I feel really excited for everyone to see it and what the team has done with it," she said.

"Get ready for some gripping mystery, some heart, brotherhood.

"This show has three really distinct women - obviously Lei, but also Alyssa Sutherland's character Belle and Hattie, who's played by the amazing Leonie Whyman.

"I definitely haven't seen something like this before. I don't feel like the show tries to simplify the politics or the intersectionalities at play in that particular time for the audience - it doesn't shy away from how flawed or messy that time was.

"Those things echo to this day and we're still, Australia is still, coming to terms with its history.

"It's really important and I'm glad we get to revisit our history with a new gaze."

New Gold Mountain premieres 9.30pm, Wednesday, October 13 on SBS and SBS On Demand and is subtitled in Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean.