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Mark Coles Smith to star in Mystery Road: Origin

ABC is heading back into the world of Detective Jay Swan, this time set in 1999.

EXCLUSIVE: ABC has commissioned a third season of hit indigenous crime Mystery Road, this time as a prequel with a new leading man.

Proud Nyikina man Mark Coles Smith (Halifax: Retribution, Les Norton, Last Cab to Darwin) will star as police constable Jay Swan in Mystery Road: Origin, to be filmed by Bunya Productions in Western Australia.

Set in 1999 the story centres around a charismatic young officer who arrives at his new station fresh from the city. Jay might be the new copper, but he’s not new to this town. His estranged father Jack lives here, as does the woman who will change his life forever, Mary.

The prequel will explore how a tragic death, an epic love, and the brutal reality of life as a police officer straddling two worlds, form the indelible mould out of which will emerge, Detective Jay Swan.

“It’s one of those shows where we’re breaking new indigenous talent”

Sally Riley, ABC Head of Drama, Entertainment and Indigenous told TV Tonight,Mystery Road is one of our key shows at the ABC, our audiences love it. They love the world that we take them into and this one will be no different. We’ve got a fantastic young director, Dylan River (Robbie Hood) directing it and DOP Tyson Perkins will be shooting it.

“So once again, it’s one of those shows where we’re breaking new indigenous talent. We’ll have a beautiful young cast, and I’m really excited about it.”

The series is written by Mystery Road veterans Blake Ayshford, Steven McGregor, Kodie Bedford and Timothy Lee while Producer Penny Smallacombe also joining the team.

Riley says the origin story around Jay Swan, originally played by Aaron Pedersen, was proposed by Bunya principals David Jowsey & Greer Simpkin.

“We know that there’s a lot under the surface of Jay Swan. This gives us an opportunity to look into his past and what made him the detective that he is today. It’s about what formed him, what made him be this person? It’s been a fascinating journey for the writers. Mark is such a great actor and he looks a bit like Aaron, and he’s one of those guys that the ladies swoon over,” she continued.

“The tone and the world will be the same, but there’s a lightness to him”

“The tone and the world will be the same, but there’s a lightness to him, which I think audiences will love. Of course there’s car chases and he’s a great marksman. But there’ll be a lightness to him, and you’ll get to see a more open and accessible Jay, but still with a really firm moral core and the origins of his fight against the system.”

Greer Simpkin, Producer, Bunya Productions said: “Audiences have long been intrigued with the enigmatic detective Jay Swan. Now we peel back the layers of Jay Swan, to discover what made him the man and the outback detective we know and love. Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road franchise has come full circle.”

Screen Australia’s CEO Graeme Mason said, “Mystery Road is an incredibly powerful drama that continues to resonate with Australian and international audiences alike, and we are thrilled it’s returning to break new ground, exploring the early defining chapters of Jay Swan’s story. With award-winning Bunya Productions once again at the helm and Dylan River in the director’s chair, following in the footsteps of Warwick Thornton, Wayne Blair and Rachel Perkins from the previous two seasons, Mystery Road continues to be a masterclass of filmmaking, showcasing remarkable parts of Australia not often seen on screen.”

Rikki Lea Bestall, CEO of Screenwest said, “We are thrilled to have this incredible series return to Western Australia, with the support of our State Government and the Western Australian Screen Fund. The spectacular landscapes of Western Australia have helped the popular show establish its ‘outback noir’ genre. The locations within the Goldfields, particularly Kalgoorlie will give the prequel series perfect juxtapositions of breathtakingly beautiful and gritty regional locations.”

Head of Screen NSW, Grainne Brunsdon said “Screen NSW is proud to invest in the ABC’s third series of the award-winning Outback Noir thriller Mystery Road, produced by Sydney’s Bunya Productions. We are particularly delighted to support this rich First Nations’ story created and told by First Nations storytellers We are extremely excited to see the new road the team is taking with a younger Jay Swan and I am confident the third series will attract wide audiences at home and overseas.”

Louise Pederson, CEO of all3 media international said: “We are proud that All3Media International has played a part in the international success if this iconic “Outback Noir” series – and that audiences around the globe love the character, Jay Swan. We are really excited to be able to introduce the charismatic actor Mark Coles Smith as young Jay to those viewers, and we know they will love the chance to gain a deeper insight into Jay’s back story and what makes him tick, all of course, wrapped up in a thrilling crime story.”

Filming will take place in Western Australia and the series will screen in 2022.

Mystery Road: Origin is produced by Bunya Productions for the ABC, with major production investment from Screen Australia’s First Nations Department in association with Screenwest and the Western Australian Screen Fund supported through the State Government of WA’s  Royalties for Regions program. Financed with support from Screen NSW, with all3media International handling international sales.

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