Essie Davis lands Phryne Fisher role

The ABC has revealed the cast, writers and directors of its new 13-part period series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (previously known as The Phryne Fisher Murder Mystery).

Produced by Every Cloud Productions, it will feature Essie Davis (Cloudstreet, The Slap), Nathan Page (Underbelly, All Saints), Miriam Margoyles (Babe, Harry Potter) and Hugo Johnstone-Burt (Cloudstreet).

Based on the best selling Kerry Greenwood novels, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries will be produced by Every Cloud’s Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox. Deb Cox is also head writer for the series.

The star of the series is lady sleuth, Phryne (pronounced Fry-knee) Fisher, to be played by Essie Davis, who sashays through the back lanes and jazz clubs of late 1920’s Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl handled pistol and her dagger sharp wit. But behind the façade of elegance and charm are the scars of the past which drive Phryne to find justice for those who can’t help themselves and to pursue the truth of her own dark history.

“The 18 crime books in the Phryne Fisher Murder Mystery Series have sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide and we’ve discovered that they have a very, very loyal following,” Fiona Eagger said.

“Deb Cox and I think that Phryne’s tremendous appeal is that, although set in the 1920’s, she is a thoroughly modern woman. The 1920’s was such a fantastic age for women. Sadly, many men had died in the war or returned seriously damaged and that paved the way for women to move into less traditional roles. The number of female explorers, aviators, adventurers and writers increased dramatically during this period.

“Socially, there was a lot going on during the 20’s so Phryne gets very much involved in the issues of the day, while solving crimes, wearing beautiful frocks, sipping exotic cocktails and having delicious affairs with assorted gentlemen friends.”

Carole Sklan, Head of ABC TV Fiction said “Every Cloud Productions are bringing tremendous creative flair to the adaptation of the novels to the screen. This series is a fantastic opportunity to give a distinctive Australian voice to the popular murder mystery genre and period drama. Phryne Fisher is an unconventional, captivating heroine during a fascinating period of Australian social history.”

The start-up director for the series is Tony Tilse. Other directors are Clayton Jacobson, David Caesar, Kate Dennis, Daina Reid and Emma Freeman. The writers will be headed by Deb Cox, with Drew Proffitt and Chris Corbett as script editors. The other writers are Shelley Birse, Michael Miller, Liz Doran, Ysabelle Dean, Josephine Martino, Kelly Lefever and Elizabeth Coleman.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has been funded by ABC TV, Film Victoria, Screen Australia and international distributor, All3Media and will screen on ABC1 next year.

Production starts in Melbourne next month.


  1. Love the books – have them all – critical is casting of Phryne – not sure about Essie Davis – just hope she does her justice
    I am with all the other writers here – why not The Phryne Fisher Murder Mysteries
    Those that know the books will recognize it immediately – those that don’t will hopefully find it and be very happy with the series
    Most importantly Phryne has made it to the screen

  2. Read the entire series over 2010. Loved them all and the sassy sexy Phryne is suited to the ever lovely Essie Davis. Love the period and the characterization. Looking forward to the first one.

  3. Estelle Edwards

    I am hoping that they stay true to the books and the characters. When the BBC launched a tv series based on M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth mysteries, everything got changed around. The characters bore no resemblance to the regulars in the books.

  4. I love these books and although I am excited about a production I am also worried that it won’t live up to the Phryne that lives in all our hearts and minds.
    Meanwhile if they need extras I’m free. It would be nice to walk down a street in a 20’s dress without getting odd looks.

  5. _cheekyaussie

    I cannot believe that they have not mentioned Richard Bligh who will be playing Phryne’s butler

    I’ve seen Richard in lots of plays & TV shows……

    check him out

  6. i completely agree with kaz above!!! i was alarmed when i heard the casting because essie davis is far too old to play phryne and the girl they cast as dot is far too young! the relationship that should be between phryne and dot is going to completely miss the mark… disappointed in the casting to say the least… that and considering filming is starting extremely soon ABC certainly seems to be behind on location, costume and prop scouting… not very organised by the sounds of it…

  7. My main concern is that they are going to sanitize what kind of person Phryne is, I have been reading these books for nearly 15 years and feel like I could meet her on the street and know her as a friend – faults and all. If they start with book one Cocaine Blues, which has a lot of issues that I would think that the ABC may have issues with such as drugs, sex and sexuality and prostitution. Well the proof will be in the making – we can only wait an see.

  8. Isn’t Ms Davis at least 10 years too old to be playing Phryne Fisher? Not to mention that the whole plot summary is already off kilter to the books. I’m so not sure about this TV show. I do hope it’s not going to be as bad as it sounds.

  9. Wacko! I can hardly wait!

    I was alerted to the fact that the series was under production by a chance visit to a vintage caravan site. Someone was asking for contacts for old 20s cars as they were starting filming the following week.

    I hope they got them! A red sports car is the only one Phryne would take the wheels of… in her best kid gloves of course!

  10. Sounds great. Now if only we could have TV productions of the remaining Murray Whelan novels. And the Cliff Hardy and Les Norton novels…
    We need more contemporary Australian literature on screen.

  11. @Trix. Thanks for that. I do usually peruse the In Production / Funding Approval etc lists…it just seems I missed Phryne Fisher or overlooked the relevant production update. Slack, I know!

  12. I’m thrilled to read this. I’m a fan of the books, and would love to see them brought to life. I’m a fan of anything set in the 20’s really, but to have it set in Australia will be a nice change from English sleuthing shows.

  13. @Nona, Screen Australia has a monthly list of all upcoming productions in feature films and television programs. If you go to the website and click on Production then follow the links to check out the PDF. It’s a great way to keep abreast of what’s happening.

  14. Love shows set in this era… not know the books….looking forward to the TV series…..and off to the library to find the books….. 🙂

  15. This looks great. Only problem I have is that it airs next year so a long wait. At least ABC has some good drama in 2012 to look forward too.

  16. I think this series could be an absolute winner. Fantastic casting, and the creators, writers and directors are all top notch. Looking forward to seeing some episodes.

  17. This sounds fantastic – but it is the first I’ve heard of it (I usually keep vaguely abreast of what is planned for production, so I find it curious I wasn’t aware of it). I’m not very familiar with the books but this really sounds like it could work well if afforded an adequate level of care (and money). Go the ABC!

    David, do you know if the 13 eps are self-contained or whether there is a mini-series type throughline? Sounds like it could be a bit of an Aussie Miss Marple.

  18. Thanks David for news of this series. I love the books and look forward to the seeing them on screen just like Agatha Christie as adapted by the British. I really do hope it’s that good. I don’t see what’s wrong with The Phryne Fisher Murder Mystery however. Once people have seen the series they’ll know how to pronounce Phryne. It’s just like Hermione in the Harry Potter books. Does anyone have a problem with that name now? But I guess what matters is if they make the characters and world of the books come alive on screen. It’s the one Australian drama television production I hope succeeds. Not just here but overseas too. It should if they do it right. I hope it will be.

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