Controversial TV1 series Killing Time is finally coming to Australian television.
Originally earmarked to screen in September last year, the series was famously delayed because of proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
The hard-hitting 10-part drama tells the story of fallen, former criminal lawyer Andrew Fraser who, at one stage, seemed untouchable as he represented the famous and ‘notorious’ – including feared criminal Dennis Allen and fallen businessman Alan Bond. Fraser made a fortune out of the Melbourne underworld and eventually joined them when cocaine started to take over his life. He was jailed for five years in 2001 on drug offences.
However only the first six episodes of TV1's biggest local production will initially screen from early November to avoid potentially impacting court proceedings involving both Fraser and serial killer Peter Dupas.
(Dupas was found guilty – for the second time – last November of having murdered Mersina Halvagis, however he is currently still appealing. Fraser testified against Dupas, his ex-cellmate.)
Killing Time producer John Wild says the creators were unaware it would go before the courts again when they were filming the FremantleMedia series between April and July last year.
He admits that while it is frustrating that only six will initially screen, it’s good to get the $10 million series finally in front of local audiences.
“There’s a huge expectation about this show and I think we’ve got to service that expectation and get it out,” says Wild, whose credits include Good Guys, Bad Guys and Stingers.
“It’s not so bad to pull up at that point because the last four are a discreet area of his life…”.
The beginnings of Killing Time, which was shown in its entirety in New Zealand earlier this year, took place in 2009 when Fraser approached FremantleMedia. With his recently-completed memoirs Killing Time: Court in the Middle under his arm and the massive success of Nine series Underbelly still fresh in audiences' minds, the timing was right to attempt such a project.
From the initial discussions, it was a very quick turnaround from development to delivery. Wild says this was because of Fraser’s involvement, and the calibre of the writers on board the project – such as Ian David (Blue Murder), Mac Gudgeon (Ground Zero) and Katherine Thomson (Satisfaction).
“Although it was a true-life drama, it was from the inside in a sense, because Fraser was one to do business at their houses any time – at day or night – and he formed very strong bonds with those people,” Wild says.
“So it was quite unique and Andrew was prepared to be very transparent about all of this.”
Wild spent great amounts of time with the controversial figure and his family during the project’s timeline.
“I think he’s a very courageous man to have done this; I think it is quite cathartic and rehabilitative for him to approach this,” he says.
“He certainly was a high-profile lawyer during that…period of the ‘80s in Australia where there seemed to be no limits to what you may achieve or how much money you could make or how much cocaine you could consume and he was right in the thick of it.”
The disgraced lawyer was played by respected Sydney actor David Wenham, who is fresh from being seen in Australian/UK co-production Oranges and Sunshine.
Wenham, best known for 300 and Lord of the Rings, told IF earlier this year that the story was “utterly compelling”.
“I think it’s a really wonderful piece of television,” he said.
“He’s lived an extraordinary life and from a viewer’s perspective I think you sit and watch with your bottom jaw down on the carpet, it’s quite incredible.
“It’s crime-genre but the wonderful thing is it’s not your normal stuff we’ve seen on telly over the past few years – this is from a completely different perspective.”
Wild was impressed with Wenham’s approach and talent.
“I think it’s one of David Wenham’s best performances – he threw himself into this so professionally.
“He had to walk a line from rather a fresh-faced lawyer to a drug-addled prison inmate – that’s a huge journey for an actor and I think he’s pulled it off.”
The series, which also stars Richard Cawthorne and Colin Friels, was shot on film by Martin McGrath ACS (Muriel's Wedding, Packed To The Rafters).
“We wanted to try and give it a distinct ‘80s style – not that film is associated with the ‘80s – but we were able to use some good in-camera photography using film and it’s turned out really good,” Wild says.
Finance was provided by Film Victoria, TV1 and FremantleMedia. The latter's commercial arm, FremantleMedia Enterprises, holds the exclusive worldwide distribution, licensing and home entertainment rights.
Killing Time, episodes 1-6, can be seen from Wednesday, November 2, at 8.30pm, on TV1.