Chris & Jenna to shake up The Block

They're not the show's first multicultural couple, but this NSW couple are poised to 'pop' in The Block.

2014-07-24_2148Across its 11 year history, The Block has regularly come under the microscope for casting couples who are predominantly young, Anglo and hot.

This season Chinese-Indonesian cabinet-maker Chris and “half Maltese, a quarter Aussie and a quarter Aboriginal” video editor Jenna are about to shake it up.

“I want to put it out there – I’m Asian, and I want to break that stereotype, the Asians being dodgy and don’t know how to drive, and stuff like that,” Chris has said.

Promos see the couple from Campbelltown joking about how they differ, physically, from the 4 other ‘hot’ couples cast in The Block: Glasshouse. Yet they will likely become a talking point for their unashamed inexperience at renovation.

Executive Producer Justin Sturzaker tells TV Tonight, the show has had its share of diverse couples before.

“(The Glasshouse) may be a little bit more overt, particularly with Chris & Jenna you can see they are from another multicultural background. But we have in the past been multicultural but it’s just that the audience hasn’t picked up on it,” he explains.

“The twins were Eurasian, we’ve had Greeks and Italians in the past. But Chris and Jenna are really interesting because they’ve been great battlers, from Campbelltown. I think the audience will really warm to them.”

The first season in 2003 famously included Gav & Waz renovating in their underwear. It was a ground-breaking portrayal of a loving gay couple in a primetime reality show.

Joining Chris & Jenna this season are:
Michael and Carlene (both 31), from the Gold Coast, Qld married.
Maxine (24) and Karstan (26), from Newcastle, NSW, engaged.
Shannon (35) and Simon (28), born in Lichfield, TAS, raised in Coffs Harbour, NSW, brothers.
Darren (32) and Deanne (44), from Melbourne, VIC, married.

The Glasshouse site is a mammoth three-storey, 3540-square metre building on High Street, Prahran, which will be transformed into five split-level atrium apartments, with underground car parks, lock-up storage units and ground floor retail / commercial space.

The dated 1980s building is the biggest the show has ever tackled.

Sturzaker has been with the show since its first season, as it transformed from a twice-weekly series to a revived, stripped format that has shifted from Lifestyle to Reality genres. So successful for Nine, it now airs two seasons a year.

“It’s the day to day life, a Reality soap opera that people are buying into,” he says.

“So we find once we come off air the audiences are hankering for the next one in the same way that they would be if Home and Away left their screens.

“Both Nine and the audiences have seemed to embrace a shorter, more fun, summer series and a broader in-depth winter series.”

Alongside Gold Logie-winning host Scott Cam and Shelley Craft is ‘Blockinator’ foreman Keith Schleiger and judges Shaynna Blaze, Neale Whitaker and Darren Palmer. This year a new face will join their ranks.

“Because of the size and scale of this we have a Safety Officer fulltime to make sure all the OH&S components are there. Fortuitously he has a name which is Cam, so he’s ‘Safety Cam’ and the audience will see him a fair bit,” says Sturzaker.

The Glasshouse will include its very own Block ”Pop-Up Shop’ which will be sold later, but the couples won’t be responsible for renovating the larger ground-floor commercial spaces.

“They’re not part of the final space, they’re just concentrating on their own individual apartments.”

One area of regular criticism is in the show’s editing of footage. Last season’s Steve hit out at storylines that he felt misrepresented him, but he ultimately went on to win the show with his partner -with a whopping $736,000.

“It’s a common criticism by contestants who sign up for Reality shows across the board,” Sturzaker suggests. “MasterChef, My Kitchen Rules, The Block. It’s hard for them to understand that scenes have to be edited and decisions have to be made when you are collating 24 hours of footage into 40 minutes of content.

“There is also their own perspective: they don’t understand a lot of the time that the relationship they think they are having with other contestants aren’t always the same as the relationships their fellow contestants are having with them.

“So it’s the opinions that they didn’t hear that get them as upset as the tone of the voice-over that the producer has written.”

Sturzaker isn’t tipping any favourites for The Glasshouse but suggests it’s a very ‘poppy’ cast.

“Chris & Jenna will be really embraced by the audience because of their sense of humour. Obviously with a celebrity couple (ex AFL player Darren and Deanna) I think Melbourne will get behind that couple,” he says.

“I don’t have a favourite or a stand-out, but watch for the fireworks from Deanne. She has some great moments. She’s very forward and doesn’t hold back.”

The Block: Glasshouse airs 6:30pm Sunday and continues 7:30pm Monday – Thursday on Nine.

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