The first episode of the rebooted season of SeaChange starts a long way from Pearl Bay.
In the 20 years between the three seasons on the ABC and the revival on Nine, a lot has happened to the show’s main character Laura Gibson, played by Sigrid Thornton. Unpacking some of that journey will be part of the fun on the new season.
Nine first announced the return of the much-loved Australian drama at its 2019 Upfront held 10 months ago and the series is being produced by ITV Studios Australia and Every Cloud Productions. The series is the first scripted drama for ITV Studios in Australia.
ITV Studios has the rights due to its heritage through Granada Television and previously Artist Services (which originally produced the series co-created by Andrew Knight & Deb Cox).
It will produce the series with Every Cloud Productions, Cox’s production company co-owned with producer Fiona Eagger.
Nine and the producers were keen to secure the services of Sigrid Thornton and other original SeaChange cast members. Part of the lure for Thornton was being given production responsibilities.
Thornton told Mediaweek: “Executive producing is something I’ve been work towards for quite a long time and this was a great opportunity on a series that I feel deeply invested in.
“I have been involved with the reboot since the beginning and helped contribute to storylines, casting and putting the series together.”
The final pieces in the puzzle of returning to Pearl Bay were assembled not long before Nine made the 2018 announcement, with Thornton revealing it was not much more than a year ago she was first approached. “It’s been very exciting to be part of what has been a rollercoaster ride.”
Thornton does understand that some people think maybe the original series was so good that it should not be brought back. “I understand that there is a feeling we should have quit while we were ahead. But with interest from Nine, who have been very supportive of the project from the very start, we had to consider the options to leaving the original well alone. When we discussed it we realised there were many more stories that could be told and not just about the Pearl Bay originals, but a whole lot of new characters that we are introducing into the series.
“We thought it worthwhile doing if we could make it of a similar quality to the original and I think we have.
“It has been a wonderful reunion to be able to work with my former colleagues. It has been incredible fun – there were many smiles, a lot of laughter and gratitude that we were all able to be there together. The cast, old and new, and the crew as well.”
Thornton has had a prolific couple of years with roles also in Lambs Of God, Wentworth and even a guest spot on Orange Is The New Brown. “I have ben extremely fortunate to have had a career with real longevity and I proud to have worked hard to achieve that.”
She added that there had been stretches without a lot of work, or “times when the sun won’t shine. Luckily it has been shining a lot lately.”
There are a number of similarities between SeaChange’s Laura Gibson and the actress who portrays her, admitted Thornton: “The struggle for connection and meaning, the struggle to overcome pain that comes during a number of years on the planet. Laura is me and I am Laura, but she is not like me. She is from me and my imagination and we share a lot of attributes.”
She admitted the character of Laura Gibson hadn’t changed a lot in the two seasons. “Laura is not terribly self-aware and is constantly being reminded about that. Part of the fun of the character is that she is flawed, neurotic and far from perfect.”
Will viewers be shocked this season about some of things that happen to Laura? “I hope so,” laughed Thornton. “Also surprised, saddened and moved. The show takes the audience on a ride that is a bit like life. Nothing is ever static, it always changes. People in sleepy Pearl Bay might imagine things don’t change much, but they actually do.”
Thornton’s return to Pearl Bay has reminded other producers about her considerable screen presence and she told Mediaweek she has been cast and is being considered for a number of roles.