This week everybody’s talking about... PETER HELLIAR
For this funnyman, sharing the screen and a TV romance with Lisa McCune was a marriage made in heaven, writes Colin Vickery
WHEN Peter Helliar and Lisa McCune teamed up as Greg and Em for an episode of It’s a Date, no one could have predicted that it would be the start of a new comedy partnership.
Helliar had established his comedy chops with Collingwood footy club tragic Bryan Strauchan on top of Rove
and movie I Love You Too.
McCune was a revelation. Who knew that the actor best known as Sen-Constable Maggie Doyle in Blue Heelers
and Lt Kate McGregor in Sea Patrol could be so amusing?
On How To Stay Married,
Greg and Em have been married 14 years. They have two daughters, five-year-old Chloe (Vivien Turner) and teenager Sophie (Willow Ryan-Fuller).
The marriage is strong, if a little stale. But change is on the way when Em decides she would like to return to work and Greg suddenly loses his job.
Greg’s brother Brad (Phil Lloyd), and neighbours Terry (Darren Gilshenan) and Marlo (Nikki Britton) are also in the mix. Helliar, now best known as co-presenter on The Project and wife Bridget have three sons, Liam, Aidan and Oscar.
When did you realise that more could come of your
It’s a Date episode with Lisa McCune? The way we wrote It’s a Date was that we got the actors into the room before we started writing each episode. We had Lisa in for a few days and it was great to get to know her. I had interviewed her on radio and she had been on Rove but we hadn’t spent any time with each other. I got to see how her mind ticked and how she approached comedy and what she thought we could do, what she was prepared to do and the lengths she would go to. She was really giving.
I had always thought of Lisa as more of a dramatic actor.
We had a great time on set. I was pretty nervous being alongside her the first day but you would know she is very genuine and kind and puts everybody at ease. Then the reaction to the episode was great and won a couple of awards. It felt like ‘there’s something definitely here’. People haven’t known how funny Lisa is. She is fearless. She is our secret weapon.
Why did you choose to make
How To Stay
Married a traditional sitcom? Marital sitcoms have been done a lot but we couldn’t really think of any Australian ones. You look at Frontline, Mother and Son, and even Hey Dad and All Together Now were widowers. We thought ‘let’s give it a bash’.
How challenging was it?
It (creating a sitcom) is always something I’d wanted to do. It was finding the opportunity and It’s a Date was such a great stepping stone. There are some other characters in It’s a Date that I would also love to explore more. I made sure I surrounded myself with good people. I made sure I cast people (such as Lloyd, Gilshenan and Britton) who could bring stuff to their characters. So it felt like I was in pretty safe hands. You’re married and a dad. Did you draw inspiration from real life for the situations confronting Greg and Em?
A lot of it was my own life. It’s not an exact transfer. I tried to put in things that have been issues in our house like the amount of screen time for kids, the high pressure stakes of scoring kids’ basketball, having a vasectomy, or bumping into your wife’s first love.
How would you describe the state of Greg and Em’s marriage?
It is a comedy so we don’t try to put them too much on the edge. They love each other. They are pretty sound but there are things that niggle. We didn’t want to make it too dramatic or grim or about a marriage falling apart. It is two people who have decided they want to make this work.
Greg loses his job just as Em goes back to the workforce. What they realise is that they were probably playing out of position all those years with the man working and the woman being the stay-home mum. What they realise is that Greg is probably better at home and hands-on with the kids and Em is more ambitious. She had dreams that she put on hold and now is her opportunity. I talk about that with my wife a lot. I have been able to chase my dreams and my wife has been an amazing stay-athome mum. We have had those conversations of ‘what would you want to do’ if you launched back into the workforce?’
I’m sure The Project consumes your life. How important was it to be able to do How To Stay Married as well?
When I joined The Project
I was doing It’s a Date so it was a nice balance. I don’t think I would have taken The Project on if it was going to shut the door on doing these kind of things. I had it written into the contract that if I was to create a show I could go off and have some time to make it.
“PEOPLE HAVEN’T KNOWN HOW FUNNY LISA IS. SHE IS OUR SECRET WEAPON”
PETER HELLIAR AND LISA McCUNE STAR AS HUSBAND AND WIFE IN HOW TO STAY MARRIED WATCH HOW TO STAY MARRIED, Channel 10, Thursday, November 8, 8.30pm