BTS on the ‘The Heights’. L-R: Actor Marcus Graham, director James Bogle, co-creator Warren Clarke and actor Shari Sebbens. (Photo: Bohdan Warchomij).
Marcus Graham and Shari Sebbens will be among the ensemble cast of Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions 30-episode serial drama The Heights, which started production today in Perth for the ABC.
Set in Arcadia Heights, the series explores the relationships between the residents of a social housing tower and the people who live in the rapidly gentrifying community that surrounds it.
Joining Graham and Sebbens in the cast are Roz Hammond, Fiona Press, Dan Paris, Calen Tassone, Saskia Hampele, Phoenix Raei, Yazeed Daher, and newcomers Bridie McKim, Mitchell Bourke, Koa Nuen, Cara McCarthy and Carina Hoang.
Kelton Pell, Briallen Clarke and Bernie Davis will also be series regulars.
The new series was created in-house at Matchbox Pictures by Warren Clarke (Mustangs FC) and co-creator Que Minh Luu.
Clarke said the joy of The Heights lies in its characters. “It’s a diverse community, but this series doesn’t seek to exploit the things that make us different but rather explore and celebrate the things that ultimately make us all the same. This isn’t story about good versus evil or rich versus poor; it’s about the very unifying experience of trying to make one’s way in the world, and the family you surround yourself with, whether by bloodline or by circumstance.”
ABC head of drama, comedy and Indigenous Sally Riley said: “The Heights will broach complex social issues faced in the reality of our lives today.
“We’re thrilled to support a 30-episode program that is built on a model of bringing together new talent with experienced creatives for a timely new Australian series that is a microcosm for a diverse nation that is continually redefining itself. The Heights will make audiences laugh, think and be emotionally engaged.”
Clarke will be the series’ showrunner, and it will be produced by Peta Astbury-Bulsara. The EPs are Debbie Lee for Matchbox Pictures and Riley and Luu for the ABC.
James Bogle, Andrew Prowse, Renee Webster and Darlene Johnson will direct the first season, which has been written by Hannah Carroll Chapman, Romina Accurso, Peter Mattessi, Megan Palinkas, Nick King, Clare Atkins, Niki Aken, Dot West, Magda Wozniak, Mithila Gupta, Tracey Defty-Rashid, Larissa Behrendt, Miley Tunnecliffe, Katie Beckett and Melissa Lee Speyer.
That a new serial has been commissioned is likely welcome news to many corners of the industry, as the trend towards shorter-run series had left some dismayed by the lack of training opportunities for writers and directors. The Heights has brought on many first-time actors and screenwriters, such as Beckett, Lee Speyer, Behrendt and Tunnecliffe. This is also Webster’s first time directing TV drama, having worked on short form content previously. She will be mentored by Prowse throughout the shoot.
The series will also be a welcome boon to the WA industry, employing nearly 100 local crew, and casting 93 speaking and extra roles from the state.
Screenwest CEO Seph McKenna said the production was a first for Perth. “Having a quality, scripted drama coming out of our state is a real game changer for our local screen industry.”
“There’s a real buzz around the ABC studios in East Perth and it’s exciting to see crew and creatives busy collaborating to deliver this local project.”
The series has been developed and produced by the ABC with Screenwest, Lotterywest and NBCUniversal.
International sales will be handled by NBCUniversal Distribution.