Five Bedrooms: Can two Offspring writers create magic again?

• Five Bedrooms tells the story of a group of very different people.

Michael Lucas and Christine Bartlett are the writers behind 10’s new Australian drama Five Bedrooms. The two first worked together on the second season of 10’s Offspring.

But instead of collaborating with Offspring producers John Edwards and Imogen Banks, this time have teamed up with the busy production house Hoodlum Entertainment for the drama series.

It’s been a busy week for Hoodlum with the second season of Harrow launching on the ABC on Sunday night, and Five Bedrooms premiering on Wednesday.

According to the writers, Five Bedrooms tells the story of a group of very different people. With very different backgrounds. At very different stages of life. All bonded by where they found themselves seated at a wedding. The singles table.

The ensemble cast includes Kat Stewart, Stephen Peacocke, Doris Younane, Katie Robertson, Roy Joseph, Kate Jenkinson and Hugh Sheridan.

The two long-time collaborators first met at a Screen Australia feature script workshop. “We both had feature projects in there,” Lucas told Mediaweek.

“They were the best ones!” added Bartlett. “We found each other across a crowded table and it was pretty magic for me.” [Laughs]

Lucas: “We peeled off at that workshop managed to make each other laugh for the rest of the workshop. I was working on Offspring at the time and we were going into a second season. I thought Christine had the perfect voice for it, so I suggested her to John Edwards and Imogen Banks and they agreed.

“We worked on Offspring together for years and all sorts of other things as well.” Some of the other things they worked on together were 10’s Party Tricks and The Wrong Girl.

Separately, Lucas has worked on Rosehaven (as a producer) and Wentworth (writing). Bartlett has worked on Nine’s House Husbands.

As to the origins of the new Five Bedrooms drama, they told Mediaweek: “It is something we have both talked about legitimately in our own lives. When we met neither of us was in the real estate market. We used to talk about how we could get a group of people together and buy the ‘commune’ as we called it.

The Five Bedrooms concept was put to Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield at Hoodlum Entertainment who had an idea about long term singles.

“That appealed to me and I instantly thought we could marry the two ideas,” said Lucas.

The writers admitted that 10 wasn’t the only network that talked to Hoodlum about the project. “10 is a very natural home for it and we have a long history with 10,” said Lucas.

Rick Maier and Sara Richardson at 10 were aware of the project and they were asking Tracey about it. By that stage we had quite a few scripts.

“That is a huge asset because they are falling in love with it, as opposed to falling in love with a pitch that they love.”

Bartlett said it was not unusual, and almost liberating in a way, to write a script before the project is commissioned.

“You think that no one is going to see it anyway, so let’s just have a good time.”

Lucas: “As long as someone is paying you, you just don’t care. You are just so happy to be writing for some money! The advantage is you can let the show find its own voice. I would prefer that rather than going in and handing in a great one pager or a verbal pitch.

“What happens there is you end up submitting drafts about what they loved about what you said, and what you loved about what you said can be a completely different thing.”

Bartlett said in the case of Five Bedrooms, they had scripts for half the series – four episodes.

She explained they were delighted to be involved in the casting for the Hoodlum drama. The two writers are EPs on Five Bedrooms, which means they get their “stinky little fingers in the pie”.

Bartlett: “What was good about Five Bedrooms was that it was not a hero’s journey, but an ensemble where we look at five different characters. The chemistry between all five was a difficult thing to get right and the most challenging part of the process.

“We were so in love with the characters that we wanted to bring them to life in a way that felt true to them.

“We struck gold really.”

Lucas: “The first person aboard was Kat Stewart and we have a long history of writing with her. After Offspring I was very keen to work with her again and we often talked about things and there were a few things we both had in development with Kat.”

Lucas said that once a cast member of the calibre of Kat Stewart is aboard she attracts other cast too.

Bartlett: “Her character already very much existed on the page. Once her part was cast, and the others too, you start to write to the strength of those actors.

“Even though that some of the things that Kat’s character Liz is doing over the course the season are a little bit questionable, Kat has an extraordinary magic she brings and there is nothing she can’t do.”

The writers told Mediaweek they had been working on the idea for this series since 2015.

Lucas: “We didn’t work on it consistently. We would do a script then go away and regroup with notes. We both also had quite a lot of other projects on the go.”

Bartlett: “The idea changed quite dramatically over the course of that development.”

Hear the complete Mediaweek Five Bedrooms podcast here.

“We have worked on this project completely differently to anything else we have worked on together.”

Top Photo: The homebuyers meet in Five Bedrooms episode one

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