Gearing up for a week of comedy on Three.
Sarah Nealon catches up with the cast of Mean Mums, one of five local comedies screening over four days for Three’s Comedy
Pilot Week. Public comment on Three’s Facebook page will help determine which shows will be given the green light for a series.
Excitement, apprehension and nervousness are to be expected when a child starts school.
From remembering where the toilets are to becoming accustomed to classroom etiquette, there is a lot to take in when you are five years old in a new environment.
It is also a big deal for parents for a variety of reasons. For some, it is a challenge interacting with mothers and fathers they either don’t know or have little in common with.
This is the basis for the comedy Mean Mums when new entrant Ryan (Eddie Waspe) walks through the school gates with his mother Jess, played by former Neighbours actor Morgana O’Reilly.
Made by South Pacific Pictures, whose productions include Shortland Street and Westside, the pilot show also stars Anna Jullienne (Shortland Street, 800 Words) and Aroha Rawson (Mahana, Cover Band).
Mean Mums was created by Amanda Alison who has written for shows such as Wellington Paranormal, The Cul De Sac, Sunny Skies and The Moe Show.
It was filmed at a West Auckland primary school and looks at how Jess handles the playground politics.
“What I really love about Jess is that she’s kind of everything – she’s not just one thing or another,” says O’Reilly, 33. “One of her attributes, which I just love, is that she doesn’t think before she speaks.
“Usually it means it’s a faux pax or something like that so she’s really genuine and she can also be really irrational and competitive. And she’s a bit of a hot mess but, at heart, she’s a good one.”
O’Reilly isn’t a school mum in real life but she has a three-year-old daughter, Luna, and is pregnant with baby number two. In Mean Mums, her on-screen son Ryan is her real-life nephew, Eddie Waspe.
“It was so great,” she says. “It’s a big deal for a kid to be focused for six hours. It’s a school day that they have to do obviously on set.
“It meant I could be a good support person for him right there. Also it meant that we could play around because he did all these wonderful little improvised moments.”
O’Reilly, who is the daughter of renowned dancer and choreographer Mary Jane O’Reilly, lives in Melbourne with her director husband Peter Salmon and Luna. The actress flits between Australia and New Zealand, depending on where the work is.
“I did a little play earlier in the year and at the moment I’m directing a play for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. I have a lot of voice work that I do along the way,” she says.
“I stalk everybody constantly in New Zealand as the voice of The Warehouse.”
She is also appearing in Wentworth’s seventh season which isn’t expected to screen until next year.
Anna Jullienne, who will be back on our screens soon in 800 Words, is also busy with theatre work this year and had just returned from a play rehearsal when she spoke with TV Guide. In Mean Mums, Jullienne plays Heather, who is unimpressed by O’Reilly’s character Jess. “She is a high-aiming perfectionist who puts everything into motherhood that’s for sure,” says Jullienne, who has two sons, aged two and four. “She takes it very seriously and she can be tough on herself and tough on others.” Just don’t expect Heather to be anything like Katie, the artist and kind-hearted mother she plays in 800 Words. “It’s good to have a variety of characters and sometimes it’s quite liberating to just be a bit mean to someone in your pretend life,” she says. School mum Heather was inspired by real-life playground interactions and observations. “When the writer was speaking on it – and she has school-aged children (like) a lot of the other women around the table – they were like, ‘Yes, I know a mother like that’,” says Jullienne. “Heather is a really strong character and you wouldn’t necessarily think that you would bang into a mother like that but everyone had a Heather in their experience which I found kind of quite interesting.”
“Sometimes it’s quite liberating to just be a bit mean to someone in your pretend life.”
– Anna Jullienne
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Aroha Rawson, Morgana O’Reilly and Anna Jullienne in Mean Mums
Morgana O’Reilly with her nephew Eddie Waspe