Kitty Flanagan owes it all to the ‘Whip-Around.’
Being invited to summarise Sydney events in a weekly segment on The Project reignited her popularity in Australia and led to new work opportunities.
“The Project put me on the map,” she tells TV Tonight. “I left Australia for 8 years because I wanted to be a stand-up. So I had to go to the UK just because there were more gigs, because I needed to work every night to get good.
“I’d done Full Frontal but no-one really knew me from that. When I came back The Project gave me a TV profile. Suddenly it meant I could go on tour and do an hour show. You can’t tour without that kind of recognisability, I don’t think. It’s very rare.”
In recent years she’s been at home on ABC, acting in Utopia and appearing as a regular on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering.
Now she has her own sitcom, Fisk, in which she is co-writer, co-director and stars as corporate contract lawyer Helen Tudor-Fisk. The series is produced by Porchlight Films.
“I don’t know what probate is”
“When they came to me and said, ‘We’re thinking of setting something in the world of probate,’ I actually said, ‘I don’t know what probate is,” she admits.
“When they explained to me that it was wills and inheritance I thought ‘there is your weekly storyline.’
“I think people like workplace comedies because most people spend a giant chunk of their life there. So everyone recognises the relationships that happen between bosses and co-workers.
“Everybody has a story about wills & inheritance”
“Everybody has a story about wills & inheritance: being left out of a will, going to court to fight to get it back. It’s such a rich vein, and every storyline within the series has been taken from an anecdote or headline. It’s all real life, with some adjustment.”
Helen Tudor-Fisk is a contracts lawyer who is not good with people. When her personal and professional lives implode spectacularly in Sydney, Helen runs home to Melbourne and takes a job at a shabby suburban law firm Gruber & Gruber.
“Helen’s trying to piece her life back together. She’s lost her job, she’s got divorced, and she’s done, what a lot of people do…. they run home to Melbourne. That tends to be my M.O. when things go wrong,” Flanagan explains.
“She’s kind of starting again in middle age”
“She’s kind of like starting again in middle age. It’s not really what you expect to be doing. She’s scrambling to catch up rather than coasting.”
Office colleagues are played by Julia Zemiro, Marty Sheargold and Aaron Chen but the series also features John Gaden, Glenn Butcher, Debra Lawrance and George Henare with guests including Colette Mann, Alison Whyte, Glenn Robbins, Marg Downey, Denise Scott, Ed Kavalee and Sam Pang.
Filming in North Melbourne took place during strict lockdown.
“You’ll notice a lot of times people only come to the door because we weren’t allowed to have another person in the room. We had to change things a lot. Once you’ve got two cameras and a sound person, there might not be room for any actors!” she continues.
“It looked like we were filming a show about the pandemic, but we didn’t want to date it”
“Anytime we filmed outside, people walking past had masks on. It looked like we were filming a show about the pandemic, but we didn’t want to date it. We had to be creative about how we shot outside, so there are scenes without too many people in it.”
Flanagan co-wrote the series with her sister and writing partner Penny Flanagan and while she is loathe to watch herself on screen, Kitty knows there’s a lot riding on her shoulders with Fisk. No pressure.
As her time on The Project taught her well, mainstream television is like a stand-up gig en-masse. It can lead to opportunities for years to come and viewers will love your work for years.
“People still say to me, ‘Love watching you on The Project.’ Which is interesting because I haven’t been on for a long time!”
Fisk premieres 9pm Wednesday on ABC.