Wonder Down Under
NEW AUSSIE SERIES WONDERLAND HOPES TO ROPE IN VIEWERS WITH COMEDY AND DRAMA
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.