There’s a common misconception when it comes to acting in Australia. To make it big, you have to leave the country.
But for the lead stars in Stan’s new original eight-part series, The Commons, this couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact, they’re proud to make home-grown television.
Lead actor David Lyons (Llyod Green) has had a very successful career overseas, with roles in ER, Eat Pray Love, Revolution and Seven Seconds, however, whenever something comes up in Australia, he’s quick to jump on a plane back home.
When The Latch sat down with Lyons – along with co-star Ryan Corr (Shay Levine) and the show’s creator Shelley Birse – he admitted that there was always the question of “how we are placed in relation to America”.
“What the show’s created, what Jeff’s [director Jeffrey Walker] created and what Stan are doing is going completely toe to toe [with the US], so that there is no gap in quality,” he said.
“There might be a gap in several hundreds of millions of dollars of money that is infused in the industry but there’s no reason that this show won’t screen overseas and do incredibly well and wow audiences, because our stories are human stories.”
Lyons believes that Australian stories resonate, because they are “world stories”.
“I think what Shelley [Birse] has done has kind of proven again that just because we have a different accent, doesn’t mean we have a different emotional core, or a need to tell a story, or that essence of humanity.
“This is a show that would find a home on any platform, in any level, at a very high level and it’s you know, it’s a privilege to be a part of.
“When we tell our own stories and we tell them with conviction and heart, they travel. When we try and replicate what they (US) do overseas, they just go dead. Terrible. They go stagnant and it’s a horrible faded photocopy of an original good ending.”
As for his own career, Lyons never intended to be away from home for as long as he has.
“I never wanted to leave Australia,” he admitted.
“I guess it’s a search for a story and essentially a character. I’ve been lucky in some instances to be able to move through a career where I can start to your reach out and explore other options.”
Birse, who not only served as executive producer but creator and writer, said it was vital at the beginning of the show to keep it Australian.
“When Sony first bought into the development process, and there was a little bit – I think I originally said an ‘unnamed city’ and they were just so adamant.
“Like, if this is to be an American show, we would hire American writers. We actually want that voice. We want the integrity of the voice to come from home. To be so actively encouraged to keep it specifically and our story with an international resonance, I think that’s it. We’re in a new place.”
For Corr, who has enjoyed huge success in Australia, most recently in the hugely popular Stan original, Bloom – working on this series elevated not only him as an actor, but made him proud to be a part of the Australian television industry.
“It all comes down to people putting their best work forward into the edge, you know what I mean? And not quite knowing where we’re going to land and be excited about the process of it – and that doesn’t happen on every set,” he revealed.
“You often really get along with people but to be fully engaged with what you’re making, and feel that from the creative team, from the office down, and then to be supported by something that’s been so vastly researched, and have actors you’re working opposite that make you better. It’s very rare that all those threads come together.”
The Commons is set in the very near future, playing out at the crossroads of climate change and biotechnology. The series puts a very human face on what’s coming down the road and the heroism that lines inside us when our backs are against the wall.
And for Birse, who wore several hats during the series, believes that this could very well be a scenario which will play out sooner than we think.
“I think we’re definitely painting a portrait of what started off as looking like it was much further down the road, but the way the world is kind of cooking, it’s feeling more like next week,” she admitted.
Birse and her team of researchers made a conscious decision at the beginning of the writing process to ensure that she wasn’t just getting “scary apocalyptic visions or science gone mad or AI taking over the world”.
“I found a whole bunch of community projects, alternate media sources, resilience building stuff and I’ll just go, wow, these are the top 50 people changing the world,” she said.
“After the big patch of research I had done at the beginning, what kept coming up from all these people who are genuinely neck deep in those jobs predicting futures and looking at climate science, the story we’re failing to tell and it’s much harder to engage with this.
“We’re not telling stories about what can be done and we’re not telling the stories about what happens when we go that’s the real fear and what can do is do stories about resilience and remembering our humanity and as much as there are people who might barricade themselves away and become fearful, there are other parts of the community who are going – ‘I’m going to step up’.
And Corr agreed: “That’s such a breath of fresh air and such a lack of nihilism,” he said.
“In a world where we’re telling lots of those negative stories, when I get to the end of The Commons, I’m kind of just punching the air, because I think humans rock and when their backs are against the wall and they rock more than when they’re not,” Birse added.
Stan Original Series The Commons premieres Christmas Day 2019 – with all episodes streaming.
WATCH: The Commons – Official Trailer.