Jessica: about


Jessica began with a letter to Bryce Courtenay from a woman asking for help in writing her Aunt’s story. Bryce recognised immediately that Jessica’s extraordinary life would make a great novel.

“What was so special about Jessica is that she was probably Australia’s first liberated woman. She fought against the most astonishing odds to be herself, at a time when women were not allowed to be themselves. They were subservient to their husbands, they had hard, difficult and often impossible lives. Jessica, this kid from nowhere, suffered enormously but she never gave in,” Bryce says.

Screenwriter, Peter Yeldham’s substantial task was to turn a very large book into a two part mini-series, retaining the drama and emotion of the original story.

“It was a wonderful challenge to take on. Jessica is enormously appealing as a character, then there was the delight of writing dialogue for Runche and Hester’s marvellous manipulative ruthlessness. They make great drama!”

The Production

The production of Jessica was a massive undertaking with a large principal cast, hundreds of extras, period costumes, horses, dogs, deadly brown snakes and filming for several weeks on locations near Orange, more than four hours drive from Sydney, and in rural settings around Sydney.

“Filming in regional New South Wales is always a pleasure. The spirit of country folk and the help they are willing to give us is overwhelmingly generous.”

Whole towns were brought to a standstill for days on end as the Jessica production design team removed all traces of modern life, returning them to the dirt-filled streets of early 1900s rural Australia.

Director Peter Andrikidis worked with Production Designer Jon Rohde to achieve a look that incorporates the dust, sweat and heat endured by Australia’s pioneers.

As well as the large main cast, Costume Designer Lorraine Verheyen’s department dressed around 1000 extras in clothes correct from the period.

The integrity of Lorraine’s costume design was enhanced by Principle Make-Up Artist Deborah Lanser, previously an Academy-Award nominee for Best Make Up for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham-Carter.

With Jessica now complete, Des Monaghan confirms that the end result has been worth the challenges of getting it to the screen. He anticipates audiences in Australia and overseas will embrace the extraordinary story of the courageous young woman: “There is nothing more challenging then putting together a mini-series. But once the camera starts rolling you forget the pain and delight in working with such a very special group of people.

The production team have delivered a first-class result on a tight budget and schedule. Screentime is very proud to be presenting Jessica to Australian and international audiences.”


Jessica premiered on Australia’s Network TEN on Sunday July 18, 8.30-10.45pm and Monday July 19 8.30-10.45pm

It won its timeslot in all markets (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) on both nights.

Part One: 1, 573, 512 viewers (41.3%)

Part Two: 1, 582, 320 viewers (44.4.%)