East of Everything: articles


Trouble in paradise ... (from left) Richard Roxburgh, Susie Porter, Gia Carides and Tom Long.

Prodigal sun

The Far Out East looks like a typical hippy backpacker hostel that's seen better days. Except for the presence of Susie Porter, Richard Roxburgh and a camera crew.

This fictional resort at the centre of the new ABC drama East Of Everything is based loosely on the Piggery, in nearby Byron Bay. But we are in the fictional universe of Broken Bay, where itinerant travel writer Art Watkins (Roxburgh) has reluctantly returned home to face up to his past.

"I love doing this character," Roxburgh says. "It was strange reading [the script] because there are so many things in his life that I understood. I've spent a lot of my life travelling and running away from things."

Roxburgh is optimistic that the series, written by SeaChange creator Deb Cox and co-writer Roger Monk, will find a wide audience. "I think it's going to ring so many bells with so many people," he says. "There's a wonderful weaving of comedic elements and, at times, tragic elements. It's got a darker plane to it than something such as SeaChange but it's wonderful drama."

Roxburgh's character has spent much of his adult life looking for paradise anywhere but Australia. But, over the course of the first series (filming begins on the second later this year), he discovers paradise might be his childhood home after all. It's a story about modern men and their relationships, and about reclaiming the past, the writers say.

"SeaChange was about a woman's midlife crisis," Cox says, "but I could only write that after there was a social assumption that women could have a high-powered career and then go off the rails. Whereas this is saying, well of course men get divorced and leave their families and all that but then what? What comes after?"

Monk says he and Cox both have fathers who left the family home when they were young. "We were interested in that next generation of men, how they approach the fact that they don't want to be the same sort of fathers as their fathers were and the difficulties inherent in that."

Roxburgh leads a strong cast that includes Porter as councillor Eve, Tom Long as Art's brother Vance and Gia Carides as Vance's scheming lover. Steve Bisley and relative newcomer Craig Stott also feature. Carides, in particular, seems to relish her role as the manipulative "champagne Buddhist" Melanie.

"It's such a beautiful return for me," says Carides, who lives in Los Angeles with husband Anthony LaPaglia. "I haven't done anything in Australia since Brilliant Lies and that was a long time ago."

East Of Everything was shot during a filming break in LaPaglia's US series Without A Trace, which allowed him to join Carides and their daughter in Byron, where he played goalie with the local football team.

Producer Fiona Eagger says the budget for East Of Everything would make one episode of a show like Without A Trace. "What we do in Australia for the money is unbelievable," she says, adding everyone took a pay cut to be part of the project.

Monk and Cox both live in the Byron area, yet they chose to fictionalise the location for several reasons. "It's not a documentary and it does buffer you - you can take more liberties," Cox says.

Monk adds: "We didn't want the audience thinking 'that must be a real councillor or a real property developer' - they're all fictional."

That said, Porter lets slip that her character, anti-development councillor Eve, is "loosely based on Byron Bay mayor Jan Barham, who has been very active over the years". The similarities end there, though. Eve was Art's first love when they were teenagers. When they didn't work out, he had a short-lived relationship with the mother of his son, Josh (Stott).

Roxburgh became a father himself just before shooting East Of Everything. His wife, Italian actress Silvia Colocca, and son Raphael were staying in Byron with him for the shoot. "I don't want to do anything else when I get home at night except hold my boy and play with him," Roxburgh says. "It's the best thing that's ever happened."

Like his itinerant character, Roxburgh's notion of home is fluid. "I would always say that Sydney's home but I also have strong attachments that you might dare to call other homes around the place. One of them is London and one of them is the generic notion of Italy, because we don't have a place in Italy but I'm sure eventually we will. It's a theoretical thing, because finally you go where the current job is. So where is home? Home is Byron Bay for two months."

Like everyone involved in East Of Everything, Roxburgh believes it's crucial to see more home-grown stories on the small screen. "Unless we have that, we'll forever be in some kind of a cultural vortex."

After the "kneecapping of the ABC" by the previous Federal Government, Roxburgh says things appear to be turning around. "A lot of the momentum that was gathering around the time - for example, we were doing things such as Blue Murder - was lost. They're rebuilding it from scratch. But it's exciting that [we're doing] an Australian series with delicately crafted writing and beautifully thought through storylines - and it's our stuff."

East Of Everything begins on ABC1 on Sunday at 8.30pm.

Kelsey Munro
March 24, 2008
Sydney Morning Herald