“Our show was never Californication,” says Corser, referencing Showtime’s 2007 comedy starring David Duchovny as a philandering writer. “People describe Hugh as a womaniser but he’s had semi-consistent long-term relationships. The difference between season one and season four is that we were quite conscious of the hierarchical structure. Kate (Jenkinson from Wentworth) plays Tara, a female version of Hugh. They become each other’s enablers – having a lot of fun but ultimately spiralling.”
It’s not a good outlook for the single father of baby Eliza, whose American mother has fled the scene. Luckily, Whyhope has its share of strong women to admonish Hugh and pick up the pieces. This season, Robyn Nevin arrives as Dinah, Eliza’s American grandmother, joining a cast that includes Hayley McElhinney and Nicole da Silva (both as Hugh’s former flames), and Tina Bursill as Meryl, Hugh’s mum and the town mayor. Corser’s Glitch castmate, Dustin Clare, also joins as a love rival.
For Lothario to be palatable now, he must be kept in check. Every scene of hedonistic abandon (there’s a doozy straight up, involving Tara and recurring pharmaceutical rep, Kimberley, played by Vanessa Buckley), has sobering consequences for the leading man.
“A two-dimensional bad boy or girl is a bit boring. It’s fine to be flawed and everyone has a bit of ego. But if you make that decision that the character is going to go through a personal crisis because of their behaviour, that makes them accountable to themselves. Or they’ll double down and be in denial, but just explore the repercussions of people’s actions.”
With showrunner Tony McNamara lost to bigger things after his black comedy, The Favourite won a BAFTA, it’s up to Keith Thompson (whose substantial body of screenwriting includes The Sapphires) to keep the long-running commercial drama from slipping into soap territory.
“People want resolution but you can’t resolve anything because you end your central storyline,” Corser explains. “If everyone learnt their lesson in the first or second series, you’ve got a different show. So the fourth series we’ve reset Hugh. He may have worked through some of his tendencies but he can revert.”
There are hints this season won’t be the last, with Corser looking forward to catching up with the locals of Mudgee, where the series is filmed, a NSW town spared the worst of the bushfires. The cast and crew weren’t always so welcome there, with traffic disrupted on the first morning of shooting.
“We made the great mistake of blocking off the main bridge into town. There’s a (coal) mine outside of Mudgee and we had a line of white HiLuxes backed up about a kilometre,” Corser recalls.
Now, the series is a source of pride for the town, with many a resident having appeared as an extra.
“They’ve really embraced us. They’re a big part of our success.”