“It’s my first grandmother role and I’m embracing it. It feels kind of right,” says Lisa McCune.
“I’m happy to play it. If I like something, I don’t worry about that stuff, really. I mean, I’m worried only from the perspective that I want to work.”
Indeed, at 52, McCune may well be on the younger side of expectations to play a grandmother, but in ABC ME’s new series Planet Lulin, her character is twice that age as an alien.
Planet Lulin, from Moody Pictures and Princess Pictures, centres around grade 6 student Lulin, a half human / half alien from the planet Astorad, whose powers are emerging. But she is also being tracked by intergalactic invaders the Megaheads, determined to banish her to the Void.
The series by writer Melanie Sano blends live action with fantasy and animation, especially in the form of a a giant alien plant, as well as themes of family, science and intergalactic charm.
McCune, who plays 104 year old Ezme, is alien grandmother to Lulin (Nina Gallas) and mother-in-law to human father Ken (Kevin Hofbauer).
“There’s a freedom about Ezme because she’s Astoradian. They’ve had to leave their planet so they’re refugees, in a way, on another planet. She wants Lulin to be safe, so she’s a wonderful foil for her. She’s a protector but she’s also having to, I guess, fill the place of her mother who is not in the story because as we discover, she has been the target of the Megaheads who are trying to rid the world of Astoradians,” she explains.
“What I like is her freedom on Earth, because she has these incredibly strong powers nothing on Earth really scares her. She’s very planet proud.
“On a scientific level, she’s really quite fascinated to see how Lulin is going to mature, because she is half Astoradian and half human. None of them know how that’s going to manifest itself. So they’re always kind of edge, and because Lulin’s hitting puberty, that’s when all these changes are starting to happen.
“It’s kind of sad for her at times too because she does miss her mum, so there’s lots of bigger themes in there that are wrapped up in seemingly-sweet show.”
McCune had previously worked with producers on projects such as Blue Heelers and How to Stay Married, but Planet Lulin (previously announced as F.A.N.G.) marks her first foray into Children’s TV.
“I worked with Jonathan Shiff on Reef Doctors, and I used to got on set and see that beautiful Mako Mermaids moonlight pool set,” she recalls. “There’s something really magical about it. And I love the Harry Potters, so to be able to go and explore new territory is a gift, actually.
“There’s this sense of play. It’s one step closer to theatre in a way, particularly with the style of this piece because it’s very multi-layered….my background growing up was Bewitched, Doctor Who, so you get to play in that Star Trekky-world where anything is possible. It’s wonderful.”
Child actors include Uma Dumais, Max Turner, Cassie Robb, Carlee Clements while the adult cast features Zachary Ruane, Don Bridges, Carissa Lee, Virginia Gay and Marta Kaczmarek.
“I’m playing Ezme a little heightened,” McCune continues. “I don’t have to do too much work because the costume and the makeup department have had an absolute ball with this character. They’ve been given the freedom by the producers, and the trust, and I’ve really had some fun stuff to work with.
“But I really feel my role is to support the wonderful story of the kids and their adventures and their growing up. It’s a nice place to be. It’s lovely not to be carrying a responsibility in a different way, because it’s the kids’ show.
“There’s a bit of slapstick, a lot of heart but the kids are really in the driver’s seat. It’s always coming back to them.”
Planet Lulin screens weekdays from 5pm Monday on ABC ME.