There’s a recurring line in the upcoming Tasmanian-based comedy, Rosehaven, created by and starring Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola: “Couldn’t hack it on the mainland?”
For Tassie-born McGregor, it sums up that moment when one returns home to the island state to be judged by the locals.
“I think it’s fairly common in Tassie, at least it was in my friendship group,” says McGregor, “when people moved to the mainland then end up moving back to Tasmania.
“It’s usually said in jest. But I remember a few friends keeping it a secret at first that they’d returned to Tassie so they didn’t have to explain why they had ‘failed overseas.’ Overseas included the mainland!
“It was usually because they discovered they liked Tassie’s lifestyle better, but that wouldn’t stop a few replies of ‘Couldn’t hack it?’ coming their way.”
In Rosehaven McGregor plays Daniel, who returns to his hometown to help his mother with her real estate business, but to his surprise, his best friend Emma (Celia Pacquola) turns up on his doorstep, on the run from her marriage.
“We both knew we wanted a show talking rubbish but we didn’t know where to set it,” McGregor continues. “My parents work in real estate and Celia’s live in a small town. So we combined that.”
“It started from us wanting to be in close proximity talking rubbish, which had different iterations that didn’t work,”adds Pacquola.
“But Real Estate was a fun place to play in a small town because it puts you immediately into the homes people.
“You can get close to people really quickly.”
“I thought there would be a point where you get a big cheque from a TV company”
The two Utopia stars first met doing stand-up but found they had a similar sense of humour. But it took a number of years to develop an idea into a working comedy series, backed by ABC, Screen Tasmania and Screen Australia.
“It was 3 years on and off and about a year of more intense stuff. I thought there would be a point where you get a big cheque from a TV company and you pop champagne and say ‘We’ve got a show!’ But it never really happened like that,” McGregor explains.
“We’re still waiting now (for that moment). Maybe when it’s on air!” Pacquola suggests.
“In the early days we were very naïve. I think Luke’s funny, and he thinks I’m funny so we’d go ‘Scene One: …..Ohhhhh.” We wanted to get straight to writing the jokes.
“But we had to figure out who our characters were and their world and arc.”
“The fun stuff of writing the jokes was the last bit. But once we had the skeleton in place it was so much easier,” states McGregor.
Each would write an episode draft then consult with the other for changes, with Michael Lucas (Offspring) as Script Editor.
“During the writing process did we did Live reads to audiences which was invaluable to remember that there were jokes in there. Because we were getting bogged down in a room with the two of us,” Pacquola recalls.
“Then we had a big table read with the whole cast, reading the whole series.”
“By a year later it’s really hard to still find the same thing funny. So to have a laugh connected to it reminded me something was funny and not to change it,” says McGregor.
“They had a town meeting to discuss how they felt about ABC coming to town”
Rosehaven’s ensemble includes Kris McQuade, Noela Foxcroft, Katie Robertson, David Quirk, Kim Knuckey and Sam Cotton. With 80% Tasmanian actors, and Tassie attachments learning from the crew, McGregor is hoping it will give a further boost to the state’s production prospects.
“We tried to go as local as we could, but it was handy having them there so we could be more flexible. Between us and The Kettering Incident hopefully Tassie’s getting a nice base so more productions can come and film.”
However the locals in the timber town of Geeveston, which features as the main backdrop to the series, were cautious about filming.
“They had a town meeting to discuss how they felt about ABC coming to town,” Pacquola recalls.
“They were happy by the end but there were some people worried about how it would affect them and how (Geeveston) would be shown,” McGregor explains.
Filming also took place in New Norfolk in the Derwent Valley, New Norfolk real estate
“They had to stop cars going past for sound reasons, but for someone who lives in new Norfolk it just looks like a guy stopping you with no roadworks happening,” McGregor laughs.
“At one point there weren’t enough people on the street to film. We actually needed more people!”
Rosehaven premieres 9pm Wednesday October 12 on ABC.