ABC pulled miniseries funding over casting disagreement
Exclusive: The ABC has pulled investment for a six part miniseries because it didn't want a US actress to play an Australian character, but it will air on UKTV.
Exclusive: The ABC has confirmed it pulled investment funding for a six part miniseries over disagreement about casting decisions.
A year ago the broadcaster announced Top of the Lake, an anticipated new miniseries directed by Jane Campion (The Piano, Portrait of a Lady) would be one of its 2011 projects.
But yesterday Pay TV channel UK TV announced it would premiere the drama in 2013, as part of a co-production with BBC Two and Sundance Channel in the United States.
The ensemble cast will feature Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Holly Hunter (The Piano, Saving Grace), Peter Mullan (War Horse, Trainspotting) and David Wenham (Killing Time, Answered by Fire, The Lord of the Rings).
Produced by Emile Sherman and Iain Canning (The King’s Speech, Shame) and Philippa Campbell (Black Sheep) the New Zealand mystery follows Detective Robin Griffin’s obsessive search for a pregnant 12-year-old last seen standing chest deep in a frozen lake.
Yesterday an ABC spokesperson told TV Tonight, “ABC TV did withdraw its investment because we were not prepared to have an American actress play the lead role – who is an Australian police officer.”
The lead role of Robin Griffin is to be played by US-born actress Elisabeth Moss, best known as Mad Men‘s Peggy Olsen.
A UK TV channel spokesperson advised that producers See Saw wanted to cast the best person for the role.
“The character was actually born in New Zealand, goes to Australia in her teens and then returns to NZ as an adult,” they said.
The project has also received funding from Screen Australia and Screen NSW. Those funding decisions also indicated TV3 was involved in its development but the series will now air in NZ on UK TV.
The backdown by the public broadcaster comes at a time when a debate is raging over government plans to lift the limits for foreign actors to work in Australia.
Actors Equity has argued against the changes that would allow Australian producers to import more performers on projects subsidised by Australian taxpayers and guaranteed by local content regulation.
The series, written by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, will commence filming in February 2012 in Queenstown, New Zealand, and is set to screen in 2013. As a major investment by UK TV it will help meet part of its local drama requirements as a Pay TV drama channel.
Says Deirdre Brennan, Director of TV for BBC Worldwide Australia: “Top of the Lake is a unique creative collaboration, a truly international project that showcases a remarkable production team, cast and location. It is an honour to play a part in bringing this landmark drama series exclusively to UKTV audiences in Australia and New Zealand.”