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Podcast – Wakefield showrunners Kristen Dunphy and Sam Meikle

The showrunners of Wakefield on plotting the eight-episode ABC TV series, how music influences their writing, and the challenges and silver linings of a COVID-19 shutdown.

Sam Meikle and Kristen Dunphy on the set of Wakefield.

Sam Meikle and Kristen Dunphy on the set of Wakefield

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When Wakefield went into production in NSW in January 2020, it appeared the bushfire crisis would be their biggest hurdle. Then COVID-19 happened.

“It was a complete set of disasters,” says showrunner and creator Kristen Dunphy.

As with the rest of the screen industry the series went into a forced shutdown in March 2020, but amid the anxiety and stress, there were some silver linings.

Showrunner Sam Meikle says: “What it did allow us to do was it allowed us to get really good strong preliminary cuts for episodes one, two and three in the COVID break – to know what we had, what was working, what we wanted to adjust, maybe what we wanted to pick up and that was, I think, a real godsend.”

Dunphy describes it an “unexpected bonus”.

“It was just an incredible opportunity that we wouldn’t have otherwise to review what we’d done and to have really important conversations with all involved about how we were going to move forward.”

Throughout the latest episode of the Screen Australia podcast, Dunphy and Meikle talk through the journey of bringing the psychological mystery Wakefield to screen, including the personal nature of the story, a four-year development period, their unusual approach to plotting the eight episodes, and how music plays an integral part in both of their writing processes.

In Wakefield, which is produced by Jungle Entertainment, British actor Rudi Dharmalingam stars as Nik, a gifted psych nurse who gets a song stuck in his head that begins to trigger a dark secret from his past.

“It starts to produce shards of memory that are just poking into the present,” Meikle says. “And so we have this dynamic that unfolds across the eight episodes where as he’s getting worse, the patients that he’s dealing with are getting better. And across the eight episodes, it’s a psychological mystery: what is at the heart of this man’s trauma?”

Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse (The Dressmaker) and Kim Mordaunt (The Rocket), Wakefield also stars Harriet Dyer, Ryan Corr and Felicity Ward. All episodes drop on ABC iview from 2 April, with the series launching on ABC TV from 18 April.

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