Zahra Newman, Thomas Ward and Sam Cotton.
After Josh Thomas’ Please Like Me ended after four seasons on the ABC, his co-writer and co-star Thomas Ward realised there was something lacking in his career.
Having spent the best part of six years in that “bubble,” Ward worried that he did not know any other producers.
So he introduced himself to a number of producers including – fortuitously for him – RevLover Films’ Martha Coleman. She told him she had optioned Ben Phillips’ blog and e-book Diary of an Uber Driver.
After reading the blog he says: “I really liked the idea of doing a show that explores a community, the intimacy that comes with Uber rides and the fact that the protagonist was the same age as me and from a similar background.”
So he prepared a pitch outlining how he would turn the blog into a half hour series and work-shopped the pilot with Coleman and producer Lauren Edwards.
They took it to the ABC’s Sally Riley, who commissioned the six-part dramedy directed by Matthew Moore (Offspring, Home and Away), which premieres at 9.30 pm on Wednesday August 14.
The personal story of Uber driver Ben (Sam Cotton) is very different to Phillips’ but Ward borrowed ideas from some of the accounts of the passengers and their experiences.
Ben tries to negotiate his relationship with Beck (Zahra Newman), the mother of his unborn child, while observing the behaviour of his passengers played by a stellar guest cast including John Bell, Caroline Brazier, Ed Oxenbould, Julian Maroun and Emily Barclay.
A big fan of Cotton’s, he says: “I was blown away by his performance. He did a better job than the version of the character I wrote. He brought so much into the moments of observing what is going on in the back of the car.”
The series was supported by Screen Australia, Create NSW and All3Media International.
Despite his endearing performance as Tom in Please Like Me, the former stand-up comic is not pursuing a career as an actor. All through the ABC series he felt self-conscious on camera and found that, perversely, whenever he got to feel more comfortable, the less Josh Thomas liked his performance.
Although he does not see himself as an actor, he’s willing to give it another shot, if asked.
He is hopeful Diary of an Uber Driver will be renewed and is keen to collaborate with Josh again. He’s developing a few projects and has been consulting as a script producer, most recently on Golden Boy, a Kiwi sitcom which just premiered on the country’s Three network.
The show follows a self-destructive aspiring journalist (Hayley Sproull) who lives in the shadow of her All Black brother (James Rolleston) in a rugby-mad small town.