TEN deal was no Wonderland for Hugh Sheridan
Exclusive: Hugh Sheridan explains why he was nearly cast in Wonderland and the network deal that fizzled.
When he joined TEN in May 2012, Sheridan’s switch from Seven was touted as a major talent coup.
The Silver Logie winner had surprised everybody by seemingly leaving the roost of Packed to the Rafters to host I Will Survive. But Sheridan tells TV Tonight he never saw it that way.
“It never occurred to me like that because I’d never been on a network contract with Seven,” he says.
“At the time it just seemed like a job that came up and fitted into the gap.
“I talked to Seven about it. I called them first and said ‘This job has come up, what do you think?’
“They said ‘Yeah go and do it and then come back’ which is exactly what happened in the end.”
On social media the reaction to ‘Ben’ leaving Rafters was swift.
“I was in New York when it was announced and I remember waking up and getting online and all these emails had come through,” he says.
“It was mental. I was a bit of a media blow-up.
“Maybe TEN had used it to promote the show, but it was never a bad feeling, it was always about just going to do something different. And also I’ve been ambitious to try new things.”
Amongst the new things as part of a network deal, there had always been hope by TEN management to utilise Sheridan in other TEN vehicles.
“Hugh is an immensely talented young man and signing him to TEN and this project underlines our commitment to reinvestment in content and securing the best people for all our shows,” then CEO James Warburton said at the time.
Then Chief Programming Officer David Mott said, “This is one of a number of projects we can expect to see Hugh take part with on TEN.”
But while I Will Survive struggled in the ratings, why didn’t he appear in other TEN shows? Industry had expected him to front Wonderland, the new drama from former Rafters producer Jo Porter. It seemed like a match made in ratings heaven.
“They sort of… they just didn’t happen essentially,” he says coyly.
“Of course we had talked about it because it’s Jo Porter and Fremantle looking for more opportunities to do things. We talked about it very early on but it didn’t end up happening.
“There was part of me that was nervous about signing onto something like Wonderland that would probably attract a Rafters audience. From what I had seen of it –early on– it had similar tones to Rafters and I want to do different things and let Australia see me play other characters and hopefully they will like them as much as Ben.
“But if I was to go into a character that was similar people might think ‘One act wonder.’”
A FremantleMedia spokesperson said, “In the course of casting of any new series many actors are considered for roles. The minute that Michael Dorman tested it became instantly clear that we had found our Tom. Audience response and feedback have clearly validated our decision.”
TV Tonight understands Wonderland was also originally created as a shorter-run drama than the 22 episodes for which it was ultimately commissioned.
Sheridan was also announced as host of the 2013 AACTA Awards but a scheduling conflict with a Hollywood casting meant he had to withdraw, with Russell Crowe stepping in to host.
But while the TEN experience only amounted to one show, the future is more optimistic. He will appear next year in Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story of INXS, returning to Seven.
And he has another project which is yet to be announced.
“There’s another I am doing but I can’t say anything yet. It’s more music-involved. Not TV.”
TEN declined to comment for this story.