Peter Helliar was pretty nervous in asking Lisa McCune for a new comedy project.
But the chemistry worked so well it that How to Stay Married is now in its third season.
“I was a bit intimidated about working with Lisa because I didn’t want to get blown off the screen,” he tells TV Tonight. “I was actually looking around for people with less acting experience, or someone who was a ‘newbie’ like me.
“In the end, we bit the bullet and went with Lisa. But I learned the better you put around you, the better you eventually become, so I’m really grateful we did choose Lisa.”
The two originally paired on Helliar’s romantic comedy It’s a Date for the ABC back in 2013. And whilst McCune may not be as well known for her comedy as dramatic roles and music theatre, Helliar had been given the inside word.
“Shaun Micallef had told me years earlier he’d worked with her and how funny she was. I didn’t know her particularly well, only through interviews on radio and TV. But knowing Shaun’s blessing, I was pretty confident in approaching her. Once you spend some time with her she’s amazing and hilarious.”
McCune, who had already gotten it on with Richard Roxburgh in Rake, was even happy to push the boundaries.
“What are we doing with Australia’s TV golden girl?”
“She’s really happy to go anywhere,” Helliar laughs. “At first we thought, ‘What are we doing with Australia’s TV golden girl?’ But now it’s ‘What is she doing to us?’
Both have a comedic sex scene in Episode Six.
“We didn’t really know how to shoot it. It’s a TV comedy so there’s no full frontal nudity but we had to try to think of a creative way to do it. We weren’t really sure when we were blocking it, until Lisa said, ‘How about if I do THIS?’
“She did an acrobatic move, which involves me copping a Lisa McCune heel to the nose. Yeah, that works!”
Also featuring this season are Adam Gilchrist in an acting turn, Judith Lucy, Phil Lloyd, Darren Gilshenan, Nikki Britton, Dilruk Jayasinha, Broden Kelly, Willow Ryan-Fuller, Vivien Turner and as President of the Parents and Friends Committee, Casey Donovan.
“Casey just absolutely smashes it”
“Casey just absolutely smashes it. She’s just such a powerhouse, making me laugh a lot during takes,” he continues.
“This character come across as quite cold but Casey finds really beautiful angles with her and it’s a really lovely arc. I can’t wait for people to see Casey Donovan.”
The season opens addressing the question of whether Emily Butler’s (Lisa McCune) book My Sh*t Husband has succeeded… including a possible movie adaptation by Reece Witherspoon.
“Things haven’t quite gone as Em had planned…” he teases.
“I’m really glad we didn’t do that”
“I was think the first eps might reflect the lockdown. But I’m really glad we didn’t do that. A lot of other productions have had the same discussions and are really relieved they didn’t lean into that. I think people want some escape from that.”
While there are subtle nods to the trials of 2020, the Princess Pictures / Pablo Productions series was also funded through two federal COVID assistance schemes.
“Australian TV is not made on the same budgets as our international colleagues,” Helliar observes. “We did receive some money from the fund so that was extremely helpful. It helped strengthen our protocols and made sure we had the right people and the right practices.
“I hadn’t been tested through the pandemic until we started shooting”
“Knowing that everything was in place and people were being tested once a week…. I hadn’t been tested through the pandemic until we started shooting. I’d gotten through the worst of it and then then all of a sudden, I was being tested every week.
“Princess, and Pablo, which is my production company, are pretty focused on doing co-productions -mainly It’s a Date, How to Stay Married and stand-up specials. They’re an amazing team to work with and they keep doing really interesting stuff.
“I love my relationship with those guys.”
How to Stay Married returns 8:40pm Tuesday on 10.