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The story behind The Commons, the new thriller series that will take over your holidays.

If events in new thriller series The Commons hit a little too close to home for you, that’s because they’ve been designed that way.

The story of The Commons is set in the near future, in a version of Australia many of us would never recognise, and yet it’s disturbingly the type of world we could all soon call home.

In the upcoming Stan original drama series Eadie Boulay (Joanne Froggatt) lives in a city that leaves refugee families stranded on the outskirts of town because the inner-city is at capacity, a city that is forced to regularly come to a grinding halt to conserve power and where the climate has become so damaged and dangerous that a single raindrop has the capacity to blind you.

While the epic size and scale of The Commons is impressive, the show was filmed in and around Sydney with a roster of national and international talent, it’s other compelling drawcard is that the story points of the show all stem from real-life occurrences, something the cast and crew kept at the forefront of their minds while filming.

For Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt the allure of portraying Eadie Boulay in The Commons was that she recognised the importance of writer Shelley Birse’s script, which tapped into our current fears and protests to bring to life a story that at first appears fictional but is indeed rooted in fact.

While in the midst of filming The Commons in Parramatta, Joanne told Mamamia that she was struck by her character Eadie’s difficult journey towards motherhood.

In The Commons the wild weather has increasingly redirected budgets into disaster management, meaning that non-essential treatments have been moved slowly off the subsidy lists. One of the first to go was IVF, so once a woman tuns 38 there is a radical drop in pregnancy success rates and with that comes a radical increase in price.

Take a look at the trailer for the new Stan original series The Commons.

“All aspects of this story are based loosely on something that is happening in our world right now,” Joanne told Mamamia. “So the treatments used in the show are based on treatments that are being used right now. The climate change aspects the characters speak of are all based on events that really have happened or are about to happen.

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“I really liked that Shelley tackled that idea of a woman in her late 30s who is thinking ‘this is not working for me’. She’s having a really traumatic time trying to have a baby, which is something that happens to so many women and couples. She has to think about whether that will define her as a person.

“While Eadie is trying to fall pregnant she has to wear a data patch on her stomach so her potential pregnancy is logged and is part of a government process. You can’t just go off and have a baby in this world without registering it, you register your pregnancy like you register a car.

“There’s an epic nature to this story, but it’s also about Eadie thinking about the type of world she’s going to bring her child into. She begins to realise that society is not pressuring her to have a baby, it’s a need that she has that, of course, not every woman will have it. It’s not a subject matter that we ever talk about very much.”

Laura Brodnik and Kee Reece unpack all the drama from The Commons on our Mamamia reviews podcast. Post continues after audio…

In The Commons Eadie’s husband, Lloyd ( David Lyons), acts as a counterpoint to her, having come to the more clear cut decision that attempting to conceive a child in this world is just not worth the risk.

Lloyd is a vector biologist looking to find a cure for a new (horrific sounding) bug, which creeps onto your face in the night and bites you on the mouth, leaving behind parasites which carry the deadly Chagas disease.

“My character has a daughter already, so the storyline is pretty dramatic in that sense,” David Lyons told Mamamia from the Sydney set of The Commons. “I don’t have children myself, but coming into this character I think that part of his inability to give Eadie what she wants is part of his structured personality.

“In order to have a child, she has to compromise her immune system. If she compromises her immune system, he thinks she might die and therefore what was the point? Her perspective is, ‘I need and want a child so much. I want to bring a child into the world who can help change it’.

“They are both really powerful arguments that are pushing against each other.”

Joanne Froggatt and Ryan Corr filming on the set of The Commons in Sydney. Source: Stan.
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For The Commons creator, writer and executive producer Shelley Birse, one of Australia’s most esteemed writers whose most recent work The Code won Best Drama Series at the 2015 AACTA Awards, the idea for the show came to her after reading a series of studies that highlighted how our world is already morphing into the one she created for her series.

“I was feeling a great intensity, as a mother, about what was happening in the climate and most significantly what happens psychologically for us when we know that this danger is true," Shelley told Mamamia. "But how do we pack it all away and keep living?

"There is this great dichotomy between having a child and also knowing what sort of world is coming for them.

"During my research for the show, I spoke to climate scientists and futurists about how and why we’ve failed to engage with climate change. I made a really conscious effort to realise that I didn’t need to tell a story with a lot of violence in it. There is an epic scale to this show but the stories within it are always going to be very intimate.

"At the time that I was writing, the idea that was a bit of a kernel for a particular part of The Commons is that the kinds of assistance that were approved in the UK for the subsidised list changed and so now there is a cut off for what age we would fund IVF, I used that as a template."

The Commons is set to be a gripping Australian drama, and knowing the story behind how it was created will make the stakes seem even higher.

Stan Original Series The Commons premieres Christmas Day – with all episodes streaming.


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