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Tasmania’s the next Hollywood: Luke McGregor

Rosehaven’s Luke McGregor on his increased admiration for Rob Sitch and why Tasmania is the next Hollywood.

Luke McGregor has been running what would appear to be a comedy marathon. Since last year, the comedian has been in the second season of ABC’s Utopia, followed up by the documentary series Luke Warm Sex and now Rosehaven (which he also wrote) – and he’s kept us in stitches the whole time.

In late June, McGregor was nearing the end of that marathon. On a drizzly Tasmanian Wednesday, he was just two days out from wrapping Rosehaven – the ABC comedy series he cooked up with on-screen-off-screen best mate Celia Pacquola.

The pair have known each other since their stand-up days, but the idea to make a show together really came about after working on the first season of Working Dog’s series Utopia. They pitched the idea of a buddy comedy about two friends running a real estate business to the ABC, who came on board, along with support from Screen Australia and Screen Tasmania, with Guesswork Television producing.

Speaking to Screen Australia during a break, McGregor says the experience has given him a newfound appreciation for Utopia director/star and co-writer/co-producer Rob Sitch.

“Celia and I have a couple of scenes off each but otherwise we’re in every scene so you go home to learn lines and you’ve got a book (to memorise from),” he says.

“But even more respect to Rob, because he was directing as well, so he was the main character, learning lines and he was directing which is… that’s incredible.”

Would McGregor want to step up to directing or producing then?

“I don’t know. I’d want to try them all individually first before (otherwise) I think I’d just explode or start crying.”

The cast of Rosehaven

Rosehaven stars McGregor as Daniel McCallum, a young man who returns to his rural Tasmanian hometown to help his mother in her real estate business, when his best friend from the city Emma (Pacquola) turns up – on the run from her new marriage.

“My parents work in real estate, so the show’s kind of if I hadn’t gone into comedy (and) taken over the family business,” he says, adding that the pair actually worked undercover at his parent’s real estate business for 10 days as research, although they sold no houses.

McGregor said it took one or two years to write the scripts and working with the same jokes could be trying. It’s what he finds particularly difficult about writing comedy – just trusting that something is still funny.

“Because by the time you’ve written everything you’ve got months before you potentially film,” he says. “A joke that you wrote at the start of the year might still be funny but you are sick of it…

“You’ve got to be careful sometimes to trust the writing and not change every scene just because you’ve heard all this stuff before.”

The shoot kicked off in early May in Tasmania with Jonathan Brough directing seven of the 8 x 30 minute episodes. In the last block, director’s attachment Shaun Wilson took the reins to direct episode 7.

While it can be hard to pass on your writing into the hands of a director, McGregor didn’t feel that way with Brough or Wilson.

“Maybe if I hadn’t seen anything they had done it would be different but the fact that I love (Sammy J & Randy in) Ricketts Lane, and I love Noirhouse (which McGregor also appeared in) is enough to then trust them on set,” he says.

“It’s the same as someone who edits or does sound…

“It’s actually less stressful, knowing you’ve got people you trust helping out as opposed to more stressful because you’re losing control.”

Similar to Wilson, McGregor hails from Tasmania, and says the recent spate of projects filmed there – including The Kettering Incident, Oscar-buzz feature Lion and Jennifer Kent’s soon-to-be-shot The Nightingale – are ensuring a sustainable industry.

“The fact that there’s been a lot of production recently, means there’s starting to be a good team of people who productions can draw from so hopefully it’ll keep happening more and more,” he says.

“I think Tassie’s probably going to be the next Hollywood,” he says.

“They’ll probably film the next Avatar here, the sequel. (Have a) sign up on Mt Wellington there, in big letters.”

Rosehaven premieres on ABC Wednesday October 12 at 9pm.