Melvin Montalban and Natalie Bailey.

Short films, music videos and TVC director Melvin Montalban will make his TV debut on an episode of The Unusual Suspects, Aquarius Films’ four-part heist caper commissioned by SBS.

Natalie Bailey, whose recent credits include helming three episodes of Avenue 5, Armando Iannucci’s HBO comedy starring Hugh Laurie and Run, an HBO series starring and executive produced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is the set up director and will direct three eps.

Scripted by Vonne Patiag (Halal Gurls), Jessica Redenbach (Spirited, Rush) and Roger Monk (Itch, Nowhere Boys) and set in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, the plot revolves around the theft of a $10 million necklace from self-made Filipina businesswoman Roxanne Waters’ home during her twins’ birthday party,

The ensuing police investigation exposes hidden rivalries, shady business deals and forbidden affairs. No one is safe from suspicion, including socialite Sara Beasley whose life is crumbling fast, and her long-suffering nanny, Evie De La Rosa, a godmother of sorts for other Filipino domestic workers.

Casting is underway led by casting director Kirsty McGregor, with production investment from Screen Australia, Screen NSW, Cutting Edge and the international distributor About Premium Content.

Marking their first collaboration with SBS, producers Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford, said: “The Unusual Suspects is a female friendship story about a group of women from different walks of life wrapped up in a wildly entertaining heist caper with an important message at its heart.”

Montalban said: “To be working and learning under experienced helmer Natalie Bailey is a wonderful opportunity. As a Filipino-Australian, to direct a largely Filipino cast is an equally exciting prospect. I can’t wait for the opportunity to share the experience of Filipino domestic workers in a heartfelt and genre-bending way.”

(L-R) Vonne Patiag, Polly Staniford and Angie Fielder.

Bailey, whose other credits include the Channel 4/AMC drama Loaded, E4/TNT’s Gap Year and lead director on Princess Pictures/Network 10’s How to Stay Married, said: “I’m thrilled to be working back in Australia with Aquarius and SBS.

“It is a rare opportunity to direct a female-centred series, let alone one with such a dynamic heist at its core. The Unusual Suspects explores the bonds of female friendship and experience while cutting to the heart of some of Australia’s ethical blind spots – wealth disparity and the exploitation of immigrant workers.”

Marshall Heald, SBS director of TV and online content, added: “The Unusual Suspects uses the hook of a heist genre to unpack the complex relationships between a diverse group of women.

“SBS has a proud history of producing original and exceptional drama and this latest chapter marks our first foray into dramedy.

“The talented creative collective will ensure the series entertains and enthralls whilst telling a story that explores a different facet of the Australian multicultural experience with female friendship at its core.”

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