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Podcast – Nakkiah Lui: creating TV comedy Preppers

Preppers co-creator, co-writer and star Nakkiah Lui on shooting a comedy about doomsday prepping in the midst of a pandemic.

Nakkiah Lui in Preppers.

Nakkiah Lui in Preppers

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The old saying goes ‘write what you know’ and for Nakkiah Lui, it’s partly how the idea for Preppers came about.

It was a genuine fascination with ‘preppers’ – people who prepare for an apocalypse – that led Lui on the path to making the new half hour comedy, which launches on ABC and ABC iview on 10 November.

“I got really into doomsday prepping, not even as a research thing,” she says on the latest episode of the Screen Australia podcast, and was bingeing shows like Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic.

“I got really into that world and I started thinking about, at that too, I was questioning this idea about ‘what is hope?’ I felt especially after my nana passed away… what is it to be hopeful, how do you have hope in the future… especially being a First Nations person and seeing my family were really directly impacted by a lot of racist policies in this country.”

A Gamillaroi/Torres Strait Islander woman, Lui began to reflect on how much hope still existed in her upbringing. “I was raised with such hope, feeling like the world was my oyster when that was not the case for so much of my family.”

That, and the interest in doomsday prepping, began to merge in her mind.

“I thought [how] in a way, First Nations people have already survived an apocalypse. Colonisation, 1788, that was like the end of the world for so many Aboriginal people. It was a complete change of life and complete decimation of so many communities and families, so I think for me, Aboriginal people are kind of like, the original doomsday preppers or apocalypse survivors,” she says. “And then I started intertwining those two themes.”

It was while throwing the idea around with her husband, editor Gabe Dowrick, that they realised there was a series in this. Not just that – they could explore these themes, and more, through a comedic lens. Together the pair would end up co-creating and co-writing Preppers, which was directed by Steven McGregor and produced by Lui’s Kiki & Kitty collaborator Sylvia Warmer of Porchlight Films, with Liz Watts executive producing through Spirit Pictures.

“[We] wonder[ed] why someone hasn’t done a show about doomsday prepping yet in terms of a fictional comedy because it’s such an interesting world. It’s so extreme,” Lui says.

In Preppers, Lui stars as Charlie, an Aboriginal woman who, after fleeing from her own personal cataclysmic event, finds herself amongst a ragtag group of doomsday ‘preppers’. The ensemble cast includes the likes of Meyne Wyatt, Aaron McGrath, Jack Charles, Eryn Jean Norvill, Ursula Yovich and Chum Ehelepola, just to name a few.

Throughout the podcast, Lui also talks about getting her start in the screen industry on Black Comedy, writing for stage vs writing for screen, how she stays on track during long development periods, and creating space for First Nations stories – something that’s particularly been on her mind since starting the Allen & Unwin publishing imprint, JOAN.

Preppers launches on ABC and ABC iview on 10 November.

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