By MIA FREEDMAN
Debra Oswald is the creator and head writer for Offspring.
Throughout her career she’s also worked on shows like The Secret Life of Us, Police Rescue, Bananas in Pyjamas and Wildside. And she’s also written plays for teenagers and children’s books.
This week, I talked to her about the show, about Patrick and about why they made the decision to let him go…
What she had to say was fascinating.
MF: Let’s cut to the chase – why did Patrick have to die?
DO: Making long-form television, especially in Australia, writers and producers have to deal with certain realities. When actor availability becomes complicated – whether it’s connected to pregnancy, other work, where they live – we have to work around that and find ways to create satisfying story out of it.
We love Matt le Nevez. We created the Patrick character for him and we’re thrilled we’ve had him (being wonderful) in the show all this time. Knowing we would need to write him out at a certain point, our job was to find the most appropriate way to do that. We agonised about this but in the end didn’t believe Patrick would ever leave Nina and their baby. Could we believe he would leave them for a job elsewhere, for another woman, through a break-up? No. Patrick and Nina have had a grand love story so it required something very big to end it.
Again with the timing of the events, we talked and talked and agonised about it. We felt it was better for him to die very near the end of a series so that Nina and the audience could have the break and perhaps a narrative time jump to catch our breath. Then we could use the remaining time Matt could give us to have Patrick in the series 5 as a figure in Nina’s imagination. I’m not exactly sure how that is going to work yet but I think it is an exciting prospect. The imaginative landscape we’ve establish in Offspring over four series means we can have Patrick appear without it being a sudden added-on gimmick. Those fantasy devices have always been part of our toolkit. And, most importantly, I think it would express a real and fascinating part of what a person experiences after a loss like that. I, for example, often imagine conversations with my beloved late father. And good god, if I lost a partner as Nina has, that person would not leave my mind in a hurry.
We also agonised about whether Patrick should die before or after his baby is born. After much thought, we felt it was better to have the birth as a consoling thing and small upswing at the end of the series. His death would feel like a tragedy however it happened.
I realise many people think the death of a main character is breaking some contract we have with the audience about the kind of show it is. But Offspring has always had comic and serious stories intertwined. One of the things I’m proudest of with the show is that, at our best, we find a balance between moving people and making them laugh. The show is often ABOUT the fact that so many elements exist in our lives at the same time, confusing but full of the juice of life.