Mod­ern fam­ily

Is Ten’s drama Sis­ters the new Off­spring?

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page -

CHAN­NEL Ten is no doubt hop­ing new drama Sis­ters will re­place Off­spring in view­ers’ af­fec­tions.

But fans will need to open their hearts wide to em­brace this ex­ten­sive mod­ern fam­ily.

The se­ries comes from Off­spring cre­ator Imo­gen Banks, whose track record in­cludes Gal­lipoli, Party Tricks and The Beau­ti­ful Lie.

In Sis­ters, Ju­lia Bechly (Maria An­gelico) is an only child, nurs­ing her sick fa­ther (Barry Otto). On his deathbed, the fer­til­ity sci­en­tist ad­mits he used his sperm in hun­dreds of IVF preg­nan­cies. Sud­denly, Ju­lia has sib­lings – lots of them.

While the sup­port­ing cast in­cludes Aussie TV roy­alty – Otto, Magda Szuban­ski and Roy Billing – the three leads aren’t yet house­hold names.

Lucy Du­rack is the best known of the group for her the­atre work and small roles in Nine’s Doc­tor Doc­tor and the ABC’s up­com­ing com­edy The Let­down.

Du­rack, who plays “hot mess” Roxy, reck­ons Banks used “magic” to cast the core group of three sis­ters.

“She files away all th­ese dif­fer­ent peo­ple in her mind then puts them all to­gether in her caul­dron,” she says.

“Abra­cadabra, here’s a TV show.”

Banks is more prac­ti­cal, de­scrib­ing the cast­ing process as “like air traf­fic con­trol”. “You’ve got all th­ese dif­fer­ent idea planes in your brain and you’re try­ing to fig­ure out how they work in sync,” she says.

“Lucy Du­rack and I had been hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions – she’s very ac­tive in her ca­reer and she was look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties. I re­ally wanted to work with her.”

Next came An­gelico, who Banks saw in a web se­ries.

“I im­me­di­ately got that slight hys­te­ria, like, ‘ This girl needs to be on tele­vi­sion – she is a show’,” Banks says.

An­to­nia Preb­ble, well­known in New Zealand, was the third piece of the puz­zle.

“The beauty of hav­ing th­ese three very dif­fer­ent women is there’s room for peo­ple to feel dif­fer­ent things about each of them at dif­fer­ent times,” Banks says. “They might start lov­ing one then find them an­noy­ing.”

Ex­cited to be work­ing with in­dus­try veter­ans, the three leads all say they were most star-struck by Szuban­ski.

An­gelico, in par­tic­u­lar, got car­ried away when they met.

“I was ob­sessed with Big Girl’s Blouse when I was younger, I love see­ing women be­ing funny,” she says.

“I’m one of three girls and we would do our own skits from Big Girls’ Blouse … when I first met her on set I thought I’d be re­ally cool and I just started run­ning through skits … but Magda was awe­some and went with it. I hope she wasn’t think­ing I’m a nut­ter.”

While Off­spring’s sev­enth sea­son came to a sat­is­fy­ing con­clu­sion in Septem­ber, Banks will never say never on end­ing the show.

“That’s an open ques­tion,” she says. “It’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing to know where there’s life in it, and ap­petite.

“The fans are gen­er­ally there. It’s been a re­ally in­ter­est­ing process bring­ing it back [the se­ries was can­celled af­ter five sea­sons, then brought back by pop­u­lar de­mand] and it’s such a high-stakes process for every­body in­volved. It’s a big de­ci­sion to do it.

“You want to hon­our the show, you want to hon­our the premise, you want to hon­our the friend­ships. Every­body, all the peo­ple who’ve worked on it since the be­gin­ning who have a re­la­tion­ship with the show … it sort of be­comes its own thing.

“Once you’ve made a cou­ple of sea­sons of it, it doesn’t be­long to any­body.

“It be­comes its own uni­verse. And I work with the masters of that uni­verse.”

Fam­ily ties: An­to­nia Preb­ble, Maria An­gelico and Lucy Du­rack play the daugh­ters of Barry Otto in Sis­ters.

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