A change of heart from actor Aaron Pedersen to go back to Path of Mystery led producers Bunya Productions and ABC to switch to prequel series, Mystery Road: Origin.
But in the process, it ultimately revitalized the franchise.
Speaking at a Screen Forever panel, ABC’s outgoing Head of Drama, Entertainment and Indigenous Sally Riley said: “Path of Mystery it was fully funded, we had production dates, we were ready to go, and I get this call from Greer (Simpkin, producer) saying, “Aaron wants to take a break from acting.”
“They were equipped, ready to go. We spent some time persuading him… but by then he had already crossed my mind: why don’t we do an origin story?”
The producers and writers spent nine weeks tweaking the version of the script before starting pre-production.
“Then came the question ‘Who will play Jay Swan?’ I immediately said, “It must be Mark Coles Smith because you looked similar, but you have the same charisma,” Riley told Coles Smith.
“I was the last blackfella who wasn’t in the franchise!” Coles Smith laughed.
“Mark has that gorgeous smile and he just slipped right into it. He’s so cute when you see him meet Mary (Tuuli Narkle), see them begin their relationship in this beautiful love story,” Riley continued.
“Then Greer says ‘Dylan River wants to direct all six episodes.’ All right. Interesting. Has he already done a TV series? But we knew he was an exceptional talent. It’s a huge risk, but we were changing scripts, we had a new Jay… why not include this young director?
“I think two days later they came back and said, ‘We want Tyler Perkins to do it.’ Because he and Dylan are so close. I thought, ‘Okay, right!’ And then probably a week later, he comes back and says, “There’s a composer Dylan wants to work with.” I’ve never done television before!
But Riley said having young creatives and a cast has broken new ground for the franchise.
“He just revitalized the series and we were so excited about it. It was just like, ‘Yes! Let them rip! As long as it’s in the same world and feels the same. Let them go for it!