A place for everything
THE ABC's Logie Award-winning children's series My Place returns, going even further back in Australia's history.
The second series, based on Nadia Wheatley's acclaimed children's book, starts in 1878 and goes back 130 years over 13 episodes, ending in the time before European settlement.
The opportunity to finish the story was important to producer Penny Chapman.
“It was just wonderful to be able to finish it,” said Chapman on the phone from Cairns, where she is currently working on ABC crime drama The Straits.
“I always felt with My Place series one it was like we got half of it done ... like we'd done justice to half of it.
“The book starts with an Aboriginal kid and ends with an Aboriginal kid, so it was important to use that sense of circularity.”
The award-winning producer, whose credits also include Darwin's Lost Paradise, How a City Stopped a Plague and The Slap (currently in production), said My Place's unique format presented a number of challenges.
“It's one of the hardest jobs I've ever done,” she said.
“Every episode there's a whole new cast. The art department was nothing short of genius. Each episode is set in a whole new decade, so there's enormous attention to detail.”
Where the first series of My Place looked at Australian history from the point of view of consecutive generations of children living in the same Sydney house, the anchors of the second series are a tree and a creek.
The new series of My Place is the first television role for many of the 13 young actors, including 12-year-old Simon Garrett, who plays Charles in the seventh episode set in 1818.
But unlike many of the other children, Garrett was not found at an acting workshop.
At the age of nine he was the youngest actor to perform at New York's famous Shakespeare in the Park festival, playing Mustardseed in the 2007 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
“I've found in theatre everything's big,” he said.
“You've got audiences sitting 50 feet away from you, so you've got to be big.
“If you're angry then you throw your arms in the air but in TV, because there's a camera right in front of your face, it's all in a little box. It's acting with the eyes.”
Being transported back to 1818 was an eye-opening experience for the well-travelled young actor, whose work has taken him from Australia and New Zealand to New York and London.
“You really got to see what life was like back then. It was pretty amazing,” he said.
“I don't think I've ever seen a real life baby cow. The cow I worked with on the episode, having it fall asleep on my arm was just beautiful. The not-so beautiful part was when it kind of did its business right next to my shoe.”
Garrett's character strikes a deal with an escaped convict, Liam, and the situation quickly goes awry.
“As the relationship between Charles and Liam progresses, they have a brotherly bond,” he said.
“But he kind of also dislikes Liam because he gets really annoyed with the way Liam keeps requesting things.”
Since filming his scenes for My Place, Garrett was cast in his first feature film role in director John Duigan's drama Careless Love, currently in post-production.
He said the transition from TV to film was an easy one.
“It was filmed in Sydney just next to Coogee Beach – my scenes anyway – and that was a lot of fun,” he said.
“I love swimming at the beach. When I go to New York and London there aren't any waves.
“TV definitely prepared me for the film.”
My Place's supporting cast includes Rob Carlton (Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, The Hollowmen), Matilda Brown (Rake, Underbelly, Offspring), Sarah Snook (Sisters of War, All Saints), Kate Mulvany (The Underbelly Files, Blue Heelers), Martin Jacobs (Underbelly, Wildside), Kate Bell (Neighbours, The Pacific) and Trevor Jamieson (Bran Nue Dae, Rabbit-Proof Fence).