Melbourne on TV: The Secret Life of Us

It launched the acting careers of Deborah Mailman, Abi Tucker and Joel Edgerton, and made Melbourne as vital a character as any other

TV Show: The Secret Life of Us
Date: 2001 – 2005
Locations: St Kilda

Writers Christopher Lee (Rush, Police Rescue, Big Sky) and Judi McCrossin (Tangle, The Surgeon, Beaconsfield) paired up for fledgling project ‘Seven Lives’ with Sex in the City and the UK’s This Life in mind. The resulting series – and its use of changing narratives – wound up changing the face of Australian drama

The SLOU friends were so real they were like an extension of the viewer’s own social circle. Were you guilty of plundering real life conversations with your own friends, and are there any specific examples that resulted in an indignant “Oi”?

Chris: The four of us [including producers Amanda Higgs and John Edwards] spent a lot of time together discussing our lives when we were the age of the characters – our social lives, our sex lives, our private thoughts. We’d put things in ‘The Vault’ – “this is not to leave this room” – then tell hair-raising stories of what we’d got up to. But somehow most of those stories ended up getting out of the vault and into the show.

Judi: Although I stole from all my friends’ lives, they always revelled in their personal problems being depicted onscreen. Whenever I met a new bunch of people about the age of the SLOU people I would always quickly turn the conversation to love and relationships. People are usually pretty keen to blab personal details about themselves. What was strange, was that people would say things to me like, “Oh, I met the real Will the other day, you know – the guy you based the Will character on,” and I'd think, “I don't know who that is!” I heard of three different guys who apparently believed they were the “real” Will.

You shouldn’t pick children, but did you secretly have a favourite character?

Chris: Yeah you shouldn’t pick your children, but I found myself enjoying writing Evan, because at his age I was as confused as he was, as curious about what the hell was going on in my life, and, just like him, I was writing a book [Bush Week] about me and my friends. (When it was published one of my friends said, “I didn’t notice you were watching.”) So I felt I knew him intimately enough to write his views of his friends but also his philosophies on life in the voice-overs.

Judi: Alex was part of me and Claudia was my friend, so that made it easy for me to write that character, but I think I fell a bit in love with Will. I loved how Joel played him. So Alex and Will would have to be my favourites.

Were there any plot lines that had cast and crew divided?

Judi: Sometimes the girls in the writing room would want to give the male characters complicated reasons for doing things. The boys would always argue that men weren't that tricky to read. Chris pointed out to me once that I should stop having men deliberating over having sex with someone. He said if single men are offered sex they take it, there's no deliberation.

MAKE THE SECRET LIFE OF US PILGRIMAGE:

This was one of the first shows to name actual locations in Melbourne, rather than depict fictional places. “Channel Ten had the idea that Melbourne people would watch Melbourne shows and that [audience] was critical in us getting a second series,” says series creator and producer John Edwards, “so we Sydney people applied our point of view to Melbourne landscapes. We fell in love with St Kilda and it proved invaluable for us. We used local bars and restaurants, although the main food bar was a set in a studio (it had formally been the submarine set from On the Beach). The apartment was in Acland Street opposite the Anglican church, but we used a couple of different rooftops, as rooftop gardens were always romantic locations to us, one of which was on the Esplanade. The original was the roof of the RSL club. The characters played soccer in Catani Gardens in almost episode, and the Tolarno Hotel was both a location and where cast and crew stayed.”

First published on 6 Mar 2012.

By Jenny Valentish   |  
 

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