THE LAST WORD... ‘ It came from thinking about John Howard house’ when he went back into his old
WITH SHAUN MICALLEF FROM THEEX-PM
“WE have a lovely group of former prime ministers now – Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott. We even have one former PM who is twice a PM (Rudd).
The temptation for me was to go to him (for inspiration) because he’s got grey hair and glasses like me. But my character, Andrew Dugdale, is not based on any one particular former prime minister. It is an attempt to combine a whole bunch of them, I suppose.
The show is about a biographer, Ellen (Lucy Honigman), saying to Dudgale, ‘Let’s look at your life’ so she can ghost write his memoirs but there’s nothing to look at. So he’s a bit reluctant to do it.
The idea for the show came in 2008 from thinking about John Howard when he went back into his old house (after losing the 2007 election). He didn’t move on from The Lodge to a like environment. He was perfectly happy to move back to his old house. He always used to say that he viewed himself as a public servant. There is something very humbling about that.
We don’t want to nominate which side (Liberal or Labor) Dugdale is on. Otherwise it becomes about politics and it’s not really about politics. It is about the political animal but it’s not about sides.
There is a line in the first episode which says ‘you compromise on strategy, you never compromise on principle’ but that isn’t always the case. Where do you draw the line?
That theme has obviously been explored before in shows like Yes Minister as well as Working Dog’s The Hollowmen and Utopia. But our show is also about family and parenthood – the things you give up (to be prime minister).
We have put Dugdale’s chief of staff Sonny (Nicholas Bell) and his driver Curtis (Francis Greenslade) into his home with wife Catherine (Nicki Wendt) and daughter Carol (Kate Jenkinson) because we thought that would make a great sitcom environment.
The reason The Ex-PM has taken a while to get made is because I hosted Talkin’ ’Bout Your Generation. I think it would have been a very different show if we had made it when we first had the idea.
The benefit of revisiting it after a large interval is that I’m able to be far more objective than if it was up in six months. I tend to be very protective of something (early on). Over time we made some changes and the end result is a sitcom with really interesting characters. They might not have been as interesting if we’d made it back in 2008.
It is a comedy but Andrew Dugdale has to be a believable proposition as a prime minister. He needed to have a good voice. If he had to give a speech he had to be confident. He couldn’t be an idiot in that regard.” THE EX-PM WEDNESDAY, 9.05PM, ABC