Exclusive: Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola talk Rosehaven on SundanceTV

Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor
Emma (Celia Paquola) and Daniel (Luke McGregor) are sorting out life in Rosehaven, Tasmania

Rosehaven is already a TV hit down under in Australia and is soon to debut its second season in the county. But lucky for us, tonight we get our first taste of the premiere season which brings us smalltown life Tasmania, or “Tassie”, style.

This regional comedy includes classic curveball “didn’t see it coming” wit laced with smart dialogue and loads of charm, thanks to the combined efforts of Tasmanian-born Luke McGregor, who plays Daniel McCallum, and his writing and acting partner Celia Pacquola, who stars as Emma Dawes.

The premise is simple: Daniel needs to head back to the island of Tasmania from mainland Australia to help his mum and her flailing real-estate business, and somehow his bestie Emma, who should be honeymooning in Bali, winds up suddenly at his door surprising all.

The acclaimed Australian series will make its U.S. debut tonight, Wednesday, September 27, at 11/10c pm on SundanceTV.

We spoke to McGregor and Pacquola about the charming comedy…

Monsters and Critics: Luke, your character Daniel McCallum returns to his rural Tasmanian hometown, Rosehaven. Where and how did you meet Celia, and ultimately work together and conceive this premise for a comedy?

Luke McGregor: We met on the stand-up comedy circuit, then again later on the set of Utopia…an Australian sitcom called Dreamland in the US. We liked working together and had a similar sense of humor, so we decided to try and write a TV show of our own.

My parents are in real-estate and Celia is from a small town — we merged the two together to create Rosehaven.

If comedy doesn’t work out for me I may still have to work for my parents at their real-estate agency in Tasmania, so playing an agent in Rosehaven is good practice.

M&C: Luke — did I detect in the premiere that your self-help tape had an American accent? Who was that you selected in the opening scene when Daniel returns to Tasmania?

LM: That was Franklyn Ajaye, an excellent actor/comedian/human being who we met on the set of Utopia.

M&C: The cop Greg Hardwick, father of bully Bruce, sets the tone for Daniel’s return — that it won’t be such an easy transition. Yet later in the series, he seems to warm up to Daniel and Emma. Talk about what inspired that exchange and the actor who portrays Greg, please.

Celia Pacquola: We love Greg. We loved the idea of having the person least suited to being in law enforcement as Rosehaven’s only police officer.

He’s basically Santa Claus in a police uniform, well-meaning and hopeless at actually disciplining anyone. He’s more likely to offer criminals some biscuits and let them off because ‘kids will be kids’ even if they’re in their 40s.

Kim Knuckey is the actor who plays Greg and we are so thrilled to have him. From his first audition, we knew we’d found our Greg. He’s an amazing actor who has played a lot of policemen in his career, but none so gentle and open-hearted as Greg.

M&C: This comedy really illustrates how best friends and friendships can supersede familial relations. You both instinctively know when to help each other, and Daniel is so supportive of Emma. Talk about your real life relationship and how this influenced your art?

CP:  Luke and I are best friends in real life which is great because it means we don’t have to be very good actors to pretend we like each other.

I guess we were really excited to do a show with two lead characters that really complimented each other…in terms of personalities…they make fun of each other way more than giving actual compliments.

Daniel feels trapped as his childhood self and is trying to be a grown up and Emma wants nothing more than to live life as a child.

Emma is Daniel’s biggest cheerleader and Daniel is probably the only person who takes Emma seriously and appreciates her sense of fun.

Luke and I in the real world are pretty similar. Working on the show together has only made us closer as mates, and so it keeps getting easier to write that friendship for Emma and Daniel.

M&C: Luke, let’s talk about mum “Barbara” for a minute. Where did her contrarian judgmental character spring from?

Kris McQuade
A tough customer, Kris McQuade plays Barbara — who gives no slack to son Daniel

LM:  Barbara is pretty much the exact opposite of my real mum. My real mum is very encouraging, talkative, and enjoys a night out.

Barbara gives Daniel nothing, she figures a roof over his head and a job is enough. She doesn’t say any more than she needs to, and she really doesn’t like going out unless it’s to sell a house.

I think if Barbara was my mum in real life I wouldn’t go home for Christmas as often. I would however happily spend Christmas or any other public holiday with Kris McQuade – the actor who plays Barbara.

M&C: Barbara’s physician, Grace, is your ex, doing rural doctor work and can’t wait to get out. Could you talk about her character and the actor who plays her? There seems to be a connection still there…

LM: We wanted Daniel to have an ‘old flame’ in Rosehaven that he still secretly/not so secretly has a crush on. We liked the idea of that character being the local doctor because it would mean Daniel would be forced to see her for mole scans, rashes etc. whilst also trying to win her back.

Grace is played by Katie Robertson. We wanted Grace to be fairly clinical in her interactions with other people – but still likable.

Katie was perfect for Grace. One…because she’s an excellent actor, and two, she’s so ridiculously likable that we were pretty sure we could write a scene where Grace kicks a dog and people would still be on her side.

Katie — if you’re reading this, we’ll never ask you to kick a dog on or off camera.

M&C: Celia, talk about Emma’s initial reaction to Rosehaven which she says is “like a toy town” and is immediately charmed by the smallness of it. Did this happen in real life and what are some of the lesser known idiosyncrasies of small-town Tasmania?

CP: Emma was very excited by the smallness of the town, but then again she’s excited by most things. To others, Rosehaven may seem small and boring but to Emma, it’s adorable and probably made her feel like a giant then she’d get distracted thinking about what it would be like to be a giant and probably call Daniel to debate details about giants and where they would buy clothes.

The main street of Rosehaven is actually a town in Tassie called Geeveston which was pretty charming — they have a local apple called a Geeveston fanny! I did get a thrill from getting a country nod…small knowing nod that means hello… from locals.

M&C: An Emergency butcher — is that real?

CP: Yes. There is a 24-hour emergency butcher in a town called Cygnet in Tasmania. It was something we saw on one of our first explorative trips to Tassie and we thought it was such a great idea and something truly representative of small towns in that they make services that work for them. And who doesn’t like the idea of 3am steaks?

M&C: Everyone assumes that Luke and Celia “couldn’t hack it” on the mainland — could you tell us a little bit more about the Tasmanian mindset in general?

LM: That actually relates to something I heard a lot growing up in Tasmania. Whenever someone would leave for “the mainland” or move away to live anywhere outside of Tasmania – if they came back, people would say they “couldn’t hack it”.

I had a friend who moved overseas to live, then kept her return to Tasmania a secret because she was embarrassed to come back like she had failed somehow.

I found out she was back in Tassie when I saw her walking home from the supermarket several months after her goodbye party.

M&C: Emma has a knack for negotiation, kinda. Talk about her a bit, her scene with Daniel where she talks about being married to Josh still, but single. And when Daniel proposes she work with him in Tasmania.

CP: What we have always known about Emma and Daniel and that we hope comes through in the show, is that they are better together.

In a ridiculous — some might say stupid — way, that never would have occurred to Daniel, Emma solved his problem. At the end of this episode, they are both at lost ends — both unsure how to move forward.

They know the next step is probably not going to be easy or conventional, but whatever happens, they will both be happier and better, if they’re doing it together.

M&C: Tell me about “neighborhood watch” and mob organizer Olive, how you created this character and the actor who plays her.

LM: We liked the idea of having an overzealous neighborhood watch in a small town that doesn’t really need one.

Olive…played by the very excellent Gabrielle Adkins, is the leader of the group and believes that Rosehaven is crime-free solely because of her and her followers’ unwavering efforts to keep the streets safe.

She’s like Batman if Batman had no costume, a small group of followers, and Gotham city had no crime whatsoever beyond the odd speeding ticket.

M&C: Emma’s hoarder intervention with Damien and the honesty test, talk about that scene and the actor who plays him. I love how he connects with Emma.

David Quirk
Hoarder Damien catches the eye and interest of Emma

CP: Emma was just very excited to meet a hoarder, and to get to go into their house! But when she meets Damien he is so wonderfully weird and such an outsider that Emma, who also feels like an outsider, has an immediate fondness for him.

Damien is played by an excellent comedian and friend of ours, David Quirk. We always had him in mind for this role because he has such a striking and unique look and performance style. We hope he took it as a compliment that we always saw him as our show’s lovable, eccentric weirdo.

M&C: Mrs. Marsh, tell me about her, the actor who plays her and her role in the story.

Noela Foxcroft
Mrs. Marsh takes care of business, sort of. Actually not…

LM: Mrs. Marsh is played by the super-brilliant Noela Foxcroft. Mrs. Marsh is Daniel’s former babysitter and still treats him like he’s ten. She and Barbara are close friends, but it’s clear, to Daniel at least, that the office doesn’t really need a receptionist.

Mrs. Marsh’s husband enjoys woodworking so she finds McCallum Real Estate’s reception desk a nice quiet spot to knit, do crosswords, and catch up on her reading.

She occasionally answers the phone but only if everyone else is occupied and only after it’s rung for quite a while.

M&C: The Rosehaven pub, I love the ‘Karaoke Fridays’ handwritten sign on the stage. Could you talk about the production design and how you envisioned this space and set?

LM: The Rosehaven pub is the work of several people including our production designer Emma Fletcher, our property master Lucy Glodethrope, and our location manager Mel Dunstone…it’s also a real pub in Longley, Tasmania.

We knew we wanted somewhere that felt warm and cozy, and we’re really happy with the pub we ended up with. What I didn’t realize was how much fake beer we’d be drinking in every scene there and how horrible fake beer tastes…

M&C: Emma’s mum, do we meet her later in the series, and Josh, the ex who left her high and dry in Bali?

CP: Maybe we do. Maybe we don’t…look, I’d be a terrible spy. I will say that over the course of season one and two YES we meet Josh and YES we meet Emma’s mum. But that’s all you’re going to get out of me…which is all the information you wanted. Damn.

M&C: In Episode 3, Daniel’s fear of spiders is introduced. Americans are convinced Australia is loaded with lethal spiders. Could you talk about that and how they were weaponized at the open house, and if you have any real-life spider stories that informed that scene?

LM: That scene was influenced by a childhood memory I had of mum occasionally throwing a spider over the next-door neighbor’s fence, and that same next-door neighbor throwing a spider over our fence whilst I was hanging out the washing.

Deadly spiders aren’t quite as prevalent in Australia as people think — but I was really scared of them growing up because I found a large spider in my bed TWICE. I lifted up the covers to get into bed, and there was one waiting for me under the bedsheet — TWICE.

For years after I would have to lift up the covers to check for spiders before I got into bed. I’m not as scared of them as Daniel is in Rosehaven, but I think if one landed on my face like in Episode 3 I’d have a similar reaction…

M&C: Damien and Emma — a friendship or more, as Daniel suspects?

CP: Damien is a hoarder, a recluse and a weirdo who drinks Frangelico. OF COURSE Emma is into him.

Rosehaven airs Wednesdays at 11/10c pm on SundanceTV.

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