SBS has announced the director and first cast of the upcoming series While The Men Are Away.
Produced by Arcadia, the series is described as a queer revisionist historical dramedy set in 1940s rural Australia.
While the men are off fighting in WWII, the people who have been excluded from power suddenly find themselves running the show. Two Women’s Land Army recruits from Sydney arrive in the country and undergo a heady course in race relations, rural politics, spirituality, sex, and personal growth – oh, and farming.
Director Elissa Down (Ivy + Bean, The Black Balloon) will lead the eight-part series with director Monica Zanetti (Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)), Iggy & Ace) joining to direct an episode.
The upcoming World War II dramedy, currently in pre-production in Sydney, introduces a mix of fresh talent: the Casting Guild of Australia’s Rising Star 2022 winner, Shaka Cook (Hamilton) and Rising Star 2022 nominee and double Sydney Theatre Award nominee, Max McKenna (Jagged Little Pill, Muriel’s Wedding the Musical); as well as Benedict Hardie (Nautilus, The Invisible Man), and the screen return of Gemma Ward (The Great Gatsby, The Black Balloon).
Director Elissa Down said “I’m thrilled to be back home in Australia to direct While The Men Are Away. The scripts are like nothing I’ve read before – irreverent, absurd, funny and also incredibly heartfelt and moving. Our team, like the characters in the show, are a beautiful band of misfits. Huge kudos to SBS for commissioning the series.”
SBS Head of Scripted, Julie Eckersley, said: “While the Men Are Away is a series that delivers on our vision to tell exciting and authored work that is uniquely Australian while having global appeal. This queer, sexy, warm-hearted series is our first foray into half hour dramas and we think our audiences will love it. It is another great example of the fresh and distinct content that SBS brings to Australia.”
This is Lisa Shaunessy’s (Sissy, 2067, Hipsters) first scripted series under her production company Arcadia.
Producer Lisa Shaunessy said “Bringing a show as cheeky, full of love and sex in all its colours, with a wink to the past and a foot firmly in today is a brave step for our partners, that we wholeheartedly applaud. Their foresight to see the world and the characters that we know audiences will love and crave more of, is a credit to the great commissioning team at SBS. We’re excited to light up screens with this fabulous cast, telling a part of the real home story of WWII”.
While The Men Are Away is created by writer Kim Wilson (Wentworth, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart), Alexandra Burke (Sissy) and Monica Zanetti (Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)). The series is written and developed by Kim, Alexandra and Monica, alongside Magda Wozniak, Enoch Mailangi, Jada Alberts and Sam Icklow.
Creator Kim Wilson said “I couldn’t be more proud of this show and the immensely talented people working so hard to bring it to life. Elissa’s innate gift of finding the heart amidst the humour, while eliciting incredible performances from actors, makes her the perfect fit. Lisa and Alex and their team at Arcadia have been champions of this world from the outset, working above and beyond. Add the amazing support from SBS to the mix, and we have the ingredients to make something really special.”
Screen Australia’s Head of Content, Grainne Brunsdon, said: “We’re pleased to support Arcadia’s first television series, working together with an exciting mix of established and emerging Australian writers. This is a fresh, playful and captivating dramedy, and I’ve no doubt it will entertain audiences on SBS next year.”
Head of Screen NSW, Kyas Hepworth, said: “Screen NSW is thrilled to support While the Men Are Away. As Arcadia’s first scripted series for audiences at SBS, it boasts an inclusive story, creative team and cast, led by a talented key creative team that includes Lisa Shaunessy, Kim Wilson, Elissa Down, Monica Zanetti and Alexandra Burke. As the production gets underway in Central West NSW it will boost jobs and provide valuable opportunities for regionally-based cast, crew and businesses. I wish the team all the best for filming in Orange and throughout the Central West.”
While The Men Are Away is an Arcadia production for SBS with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with SBS. Financed with support from Screen NSW. Red Arrow are managing international sales.
It will premiere on SBS in 2023.