Underbelly: “We pose the question… is she telling the truth?”

Little is known about Melissa Caddick after her disappearance in 2020, which Nine describes as a story opportunity.

From a script point of view, Underbelly: Vanishing Act is faced with a dilemma, but one that Nine’s Head of Drama Ryan sees as a storytelling opportunity.

Based on the real-life mystery that surrounds the bizarre disappearance of Melissa Caddick, it is a case that NSW Police have as an open finding: theories include suicide, murder or even faking her death.

“(Writers) Matt Ford and Michael Miller didn’t want to just tell a story that was a box ticking bio-pic. In fact, in a show like this, it can’t be a strict bio-pic because we don’t really know what happened. After she went missing, we actually don’t know what happened to her,” he tells TV Tonight.

“From a storytelling point of view, that is really interesting opportunity.”

“There’s a whole lot of things that we know about Melissa Caddick. But after the point that she went missing, we really don’t know much at all. From a storytelling point of view, that is really interesting opportunity.”

For the record, Caddick was an Australian financial advisor who disappeared in 2020 the day after ASIC agents and AFP raided her home in Dover Heights on the suspicion that she had stolen millions from investors, including her own friends and family. 3 months later human remains discovered south of Tathra were confirmed to be Caddick’s through DNA testing.

Now it gets the Underbelly treatment led by former Wentworth star, Kate Atkinson.

“She’s a brilliant actress, first and foremost. It’s not a show where she needs to have a great physical likeness to the real person, but as it turns out, Kate’s of a similar age to Melissa Caddick. So, that sort of helps with the verisimilitude of the whole piece. But mostly, she’s just an outstanding actress who holds the screen.

“Kate Atkinson… is outstanding and in almost every scene.”

“It’s a really complex role. The interesting thing about the script is that there’s a certain amount we know about the real story of Melissa Caddick, and there’s a lot we don’t know. So the script and the show are able to go to places that are unexpected. That’s very demanding on an actress, to be convincing and capable. But Kate pulls it off. She’s outstanding and in almost every scene.”

Why the Underbelly brand for this story -previously associated with gangsters?

“It is a slight pivot for the Underbelly brand and that’s okay,” Ryan continues. “Underbelly is about criminals living the high life, as much as it is about gangsters. It’s about gangster bling, the proceeds of crime and the lifestyle that comes with crime.

“There are true crime dramas or inspired by real events but we don’t want to make a docu-drama that just rehashes facts with actors. We want to tell a story that somehow shines a light on character motivations, or is greater than the sum of its parts.

“..trust, deception, about how somebody could create a second life for themselves”

“This was a story that raised all sorts of issues about things like trust, deception, about how somebody could create a second life for themselves are an alternative way of relating to people.

“That was bigger than just the story of one individual crime or one individual person. They are stories about what it is for a human to relate to other humans, and raise questions about how so much of how we operate in the world is based on an assumption of other people’s good faith.

“We assume that people we’re dealing with have similar world views or similar values to ourselves, or if they have different values, then they’re articulated. But when that trust breaks down it’s terribly distressing for people. This was something that played out in real life and something that enabled us, in the drama, to dramatise something about human emotional connections that are bigger, more universal than just the crime.”

The two part drama also includes Colin Friels (Water Rats, BlackJack, Mystery Road) “you’ll have to stay tuned to see the nature of his role,” Maya Stange (Love Child, A Place to Call Home, Wolf Creek) Frankie J. Holden (A Place to Call Home, Underbelly), Anne Tenney (The Castle, A Country Practice, Always Greener) and Sophie Bloom (Love Child, Amazing Grace, Reef Break).

“We’ve got some lesser-known faces and names who really pop”

But Ryan is also excited about new ensemble cast members making their mark.

“We’ve got some lesser-known faces and names who really pop, Jerome Velinsky plays Melissa Caddick’s husband. He’s terrific. He’s done some guest roles on some other Nine shows, but he’s not a face that will be familiar to the audience.

“Ursula Mills plays the ASIC investigator. It’s her first TV role. She’s done a lot with the Sydney Theatre Company -fantastic talent. And Dylan Hare who plays Nash is terrific. So it’s a really fresh, new ensemble.”

The series by Screentime will paint a picture of a daughter, wife, mother and friend who kept Sydney and the nation guessing  after embezzling over $40 million leaving police and her victims to piece together the mystery of who Melissa Caddick really was.

“Kate Atkinson does a voiceover as Melissa in this show, which is also an Underbelly sort of trope, so we pose the question right from the very start: is she telling the truth, or is she lying?” Ryan asks.

“And therefore, is she alive or is she dead?

“Right from the start, you will be taken into the confidence of a confidence trickster.”

Underbelly: Vanishing Act 8:40pm Sunday, 9pm Monday on Nine.

16 Responses

  1. They seem quite happy about how such recent death of a young girl being unexplained gives them storyline opportunities. Distasteful surely – if they want to write a fictional story write a fictional story rather than trading on such recent tragic circumstances.

  2. Just a point of correction David, Melissa wasn’t a licensed Financial Adviser/ Planner, she impersonating being one. Here’s a link to a statement from the Financial Planning Association clarifying this fact –

  3. Not normally my cuppa tea but any thing with Kate Atkinson is worth watching. I hope she finally gets some industry love via AACTA or Logies.

  4. I know you don’t always get previews to new shows but I thought this would have been one they would have released ,do you know why there’s no preview David.

  5. So it’s an ‘opportunity’ because so few of the facts are established and nobody can call them on their bulls*** when they brazenly falsify things for the sake of ‘drama’?

    If you’re gonna make stuff up, just make stuff up. Don’t use real names.

  6. i feel like somehow this is going to lead to legal issues for Nine at some point in time, maybe years down the track even. The fact is we do not know what has happened to Melissa but if authorities ever find out then this show could be prejudicial in any legal proceedings if its found she was murdered. Seems like Nine never learn from their mistakes!

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