With his first foray into a grungy, indie series about to launch, writer performer Josh Mapleston is a little reluctant to admit that he got his start in soapies.
After all, Home and Away is the polar opposite of his new ABC2 series I ROCK, for which he serves as both scriptwriter and star.
As he explains to TV Tonight, Mapleston has been a freelance TV writer for ten years.
“Some of that time was photocopying endless script amendments for TV shows and then eventually storylining and writing for some of our slightly uncool but much loved TV serials,” he says.
“I’ve done quite a bit of script writing for Home and Away and storylined on a failed soapie serial, a university serial called HeadLand a few years ago and even spent sometime in New Zealand working on their most popular -because it’s the only one- soapie Shortland Street.”
But Mapleston remains grateful to the training discipline instilled by the turnover of soap scripts, and the opportunities afforded by Seven’s Drama Executive Bevan Lee.
“Bevan was instrumental in getting my first writing job on HeadLand. So in some way I guess he’s responsible for I ROCK, in a extremely indirect way,” he laughs.
“Shows like Home and Away are actually extremely good training grounds and are really the places where young writers get a chance to write scripts and get their start. It’s easy to make fun of shows like that, but not only are they really popular, they are also hard to write. That’s what makes them good training I think, in terms of being able to pump out a lot of story.”
With I ROCK he has developed a comedy-drama with friends David Fedirchuk and Rob Macdonald. The series revolves around pub band Boy Crazy Stacey and combines drama with scenes performing rock music.
“It’s about a young, talented band trying to take over the world one disaster at a time. The frontman Nash Taylor (Mapleston) decides it’s time to take things to the next level and the question is does he have the talent and the self awareness to be able to do that?” he says.
“That’s the question we try to answer over the course of the series. He’s determined to do whatever it takes to make sure people hear about his band but his plans aren’t always the most well thought out or successful.
“He wants fame but he wants recognition as a musician and he’s a talented guy but I think he also enjoys the lifestyle that goes with being a rock star.”
Mapleston struck upon the idea after spending time with ‘poverty stricken musicians’ in Sydney. He says the grassroots music scene has been crying out for stories that accurately depict the world of young up and coming musicians.
“Film and television about rock stars tends to be about the people who have already made it and I thought it was far more interesting to start with the grass roots scene. Being a big fan of comedies like The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm I had it in my head that it’d be fun to tell the story of a guy who is fairly socially inept and behaves badly.”
Significantly, the series is also the first drama project to be developed specifically for ABC2.
“The interesting thing was we didn’t actually know we were going to be an ABC2 show till sometime into the process. After pitching and discussing the show with the ABC, they eventually felt it would be good as one of the flagship shows,” says Mapleston.
“We’re really happy to be there because I think there’s a lot of exciting new stuff on the channel and it feels like a good home for I ROCK. It feels like less pressure for a first-time show being on a smaller channel, so we just hope that music lovers and wannabe rock stars find us.”
So far there are no immediate plans to screen it on ABC1, but the series will appear on iView.
As to the show’s audacious upper case title, Mapleston says, “It’s all about ego, I guess. If you start telling people ‘I ROCK‘, that’s a fairly grandiose statement. So I feel that capital letters are justified in this scenario.
“I also think I’m a bit sick of everyone being so cool and putting everything in lower case. I think that’s been done!” he laughs.
“Neither way is grammatically correct but I think we’re calling an end to the super cool lower case lettering!”
The 8 part series features several newcomers including Mark Pound, Ashley Fitzgerald, Jeremy Keast, Alison Bell, Pat Ommundson, and Kate Sherman plus an acting performance from You Am I’s Tim Rodgers.
With its inner-city pub scenes and reckless indie band characters, it will surely draw a line in the sand for Mapleston from his days churning out Home and Away.
“People always tell you to write what you know and so I figure I knew quite a bit more about the world of rock and roll than the world of living in beautiful coastal towns with orphaned children,” he says.
“So it was a natural progression, I guess.”
I ROCK airs 9pm Mondays on ABC2.