(L-R) Michelle Vergara Moore, Miranda Otto and Aina Dumlao.
Filipino-born US star Aina Dumlao, Miranda Otto and Michelle Vergara Moore are playing the leads in The Unusual Suspects, Aquarius Films’ four-part heist comedy for SBS which is now shooting in Sydney.
Scripted by Jessica Redenbach (Spirited), Roger Monk (Nowhere Boys) and Vonne Patiag, with Margarett Cortez as script consultant, the tale of female friendship and empowerment is set in Sydney’s ritzy Eastern Suburbs.
When a $10 million necklace is taken in an elaborate heist from the home of self-made Filipino businesswoman Roxanne Waters, women from vastly different walks of life come together to ensure justice is served.
The directors are Emmy Award-winning Natalie Bailey (Retrograde, Run, Avenue 5, The Thick of It) and Melvin Montalban in his TV debut.
The Melbourne-born Vergara Moore, whose parents are Filipino, plays Roxanne, with her real-life partner Toby Leonard Moore as Roxanne’s husband Jordan.
Both appeared in Condor, the thriller series adapted from Three Days of the Condor starring Max Irons as CIA analyst Joe Turner, which airs in the US on AT&T’s Audience Network.
This year Michelle guest-starred in High Maintenance, the long-running HBO comedy-drama which follows a cannabis dealer as he visits clients in New York City.
Otto stars as socialite Sara Beasley, whose life is crumbling fast, with Dumlao, whose credits include Xia Magnus’ horror thriller Sanzaru and TV’s Ballers and MacGyver, as her long-suffering nanny Evie De La Rosa, a godmother of sorts for other Filipino domestic workers.
The supporting cast includes Matt Day as Sara’s husband Garth, Peter O’Brien, Lena Cruz, Susana Downes, Ari Boyland, Heather Mitchell, James Lugton, Renee Lim, Susie Porter, Sandy Gore, Megan Smart and Andrea Demetriades.
Casting director Kirsty McGregor discovered a bunch of new faces to play the children including twins Blake Santos and Avery Santos, brother and sister Emma and Liam Cleland and Miguel Castro.
Aquarius Films’ Angie Fielder, who is producing with Polly Staniford, with Patiag as associate producer and Naomi Just as co-producer, said the COVIDSafe protocols increased the budget by 10-20 per cent, which was covered by investors Screen Australia and Screen NSW. About Premium Content handles international distribution and Cutting Edge is supporting the production.
Fielder tells IF: “This is a great opportunity to explore important issues surrounding the migrant experience, wrapped in a very funny and entertaining heist caper.”
Fortuitously the producers insured the production before the pandemic was excluded by insurers worldwide.
Dumlao said: “Having the opportunity to work with Filipinos both in-front-of and behind-the-camera – all while collaborating alongside a powerhouse cast and amazing filmmakers – is nothing short of pure joy for me.
“The fact that The Unusual Suspects is also telling the story of my own family’s struggles, in addition to countless other overseas workers, just humbles me. It’s refreshing to see so many well-drawn female roles with depth and complexity in the one production.”
Vergara Moore said: “My inspirational parents José and Rustica immigrated from Pulilan, Philippines to Australia in 1975 with the dream of a wonderful new life for them and their 10 children.
“Today, more than 290,000 Filipino-born people also call Australia home. I hope I can do them, my parents and other Filipino immigrants proud with this empowering and captivating fire-cracker of a series.
“In my lifetime, I never imagined that a series depicting such an important part of the Filipino-Australian immigrant experience would be portrayed…and to be a part of it.”
Otto said: “I’m excited to return to Sydney to join Aina and Michelle in this outrageously funny series with fierce female friendships at its core. I’m honoured to be working with Aina, Michelle, Vonne Patiag, Melvin Montalban and the other Filipino creatives to tell a truly original and incredibly diverse narrative.”