Won­der Down Un­der


The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

TEN’S new 22-part en­sem­ble com­edy-drama, Won­der­land, might be a big gam­ble for the strug­gling net­work, but it’s one that’ll pay off ac­cord­ing to star Jessica Tovey.

‘‘Ev­ery­one on this show be­lieves in this show,’’ the for­mer Home And Away and Pa­per Gi­ants ac­tor ex­plains with gen­uine pas­sion.

‘‘We laughed when we read it, we laughed at the read-through, we laughed the whole time on set and we were still laugh­ing last night when we watched it, five months later. That’s very rare you have peo­ple feel­ing that way and it’s ex­cit­ing. And it’s gen­uine.’’

We’re sit­ting on a couch in one of the Won­der­land apart­ments (ac­tu­ally a re­al­is­tic look­ing rab­bit war­ren of sets in Eveleigh, Syd­ney) and ev­ery­one else on the pro­duc­tion from pro­ducer Andy Walker to stars Brooke Satch­well and Emma Lung feels ex­actly the same way. If they can trans­fer their easy ca­ma­raderie on to the screen, Ten’s de­ci­sion to back 22 hours of ex­pen­sive lo­cal drama, be­fore the first episode has even found an au­di­ence, will be vin­di­cated.

The early signs look promis­ing and the ap­peal, like that of sit­com Friends, will lie in view­ers want­ing to count this group of char­ac­ters as their own mates.

‘‘Af­ter last night (the first cast screen­ing) some ac­tu­ally said that, be­cause there is this quirky kind of el­e­ment of a Friends- style sit­com,’’ says Tovey. ‘‘And I think we would all happily wel­come com­par­i­son to the most suc­cess­ful TV show (ever)!’’ Blend­ing Walker’s com­edy back­ground ( A Moody

Christ­mas, The Li­brar­i­ans) with ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Jo Porter’s drama know-how ( Packed To The Rafters, Went­worth), Won­der­land is about the in­ter­sect­ing lives of four young cou­ples liv­ing in an apart­ment com­plex on Syd­ney’s eastern beaches.

The ini­tial set-up sees the wed­ding of Gen Y PR princess Dani (Tovey) to fi­nan­cial ad­viser Steve (Tim Ross) ru­ined by the fall­out from bach­e­lor Tom’s (Michael Dor­man) lat­est spec­tac­u­lar breakup with an­other fe­male from the block. The friends force Tom to agree not to sleep with any­one else from

Won­der­land on pain of los­ing his beloved 1964 Fal­con. Which is of course the mo­ment Tom’s per­fect woman, Mi­randa (Anna Bam­ford), moves in.

Tovey’s on-screen hus­band, Ross, says the cast were thrown in the deep end film­ing the open­ing wed­ding episode. ‘‘Most of us didn’t know each other from a bar of soap,’’ he says. ‘‘I’d never met Jess, so we had a few nights out, get­ting to know each other over a few drinks and we bonded very quickly. You’ve got to show that his­tory and chem­istry be­tween the two of you from the first episode.’’

And now he says, they’ll be ‘‘mates for life’’. ‘‘It blows my mind how well we all get on,’’ he says. ‘‘We’re like a real fam­ily with­out the drama. I bounce out of bed each day and can’t wait to get to work and have a laugh. I didn’t ex­pect that.’’

Tovey’s char­ac­ter Dani is a mod­ern Gen Y girl she ex­plains: ‘‘Maybe a lit­tle too Gen Y and she tends to act a lit­tle en­ti­tled.’’

So what were pro­duc­ers try­ing to tell Tovey when they wouldn’t let her au­di­tion for any other part?

‘‘They went, ‘No, no, no, you’re def­i­nitely Dani’,’’ she laughs. ‘‘In my mind I think Dani and I are very dif­fer­ent, but I find the more that I play her, the more we are alike than I prob­a­bly re­alised.

‘‘She’s warm and funny and smart, and she’s not afraid to speak her mind. Which is maybe the part I’m slowly real­is­ing I’m iden­ti­fy­ing with more and more.’’

Tovey is best known for her two-time Lo­gie-nom­i­nated role as Belle Tay­lor on Home And Away, but she’s forged a var­ied ca­reer since, that has in­cluded a nom­i­na­tion for an IF Award for Pa­per Gi­ants: The Birth Of Cleo, and mak­ing ap­pear­ances in

Un­der­belly: The Golden Mile, Res­cue Spe­cial Ops and Mr And Mrs Mur­der. She also filmed three movies last year in­clud­ing real-life camel odyssey story

Tracks; the French film about mothers sleep­ing with each oth­ers’ teenage sons, Adore with Naomi Watts; and hor­ror movie Lemon Tree Pas­sage.

‘‘I feel very for­tu­nate I was never boxed into some idea where you can only do one thing,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s al­lowed me to mix with some amaz­ing peo­ple and be in­volved with some amaz­ing projects.’’

Tovey re­veals there was an­other big at­trac­tion to tak­ing on an open-ended se­ries role in Won­der­land.

‘‘Last year I spent all up only four months in Syd­ney and I was con­stantly mov­ing around for work. So when I heard about this I thought, ‘How lovely to just be able to be in Syd­ney, with peo­ple who I re­ally re­spect and ad­mire’," she says. And she hopes it never ends. ‘‘I think we’d all happily stay on as long as the Aus­tralian pub­lic will have us,’’ Tovey says.

WED­DING DRAMA: Michael Dor­man, Jess Tovey and Tim Ross set the stage.

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