- When Marta Dusseldorp moved to Tasmania six years ago, she was fascinated by the landscape, especially on the west coast.
So when the world stopped in March 2020, she took the opportunity to get creative, with a phone call to Irish Jack screenwriter, Andrew Knight.
“I was locked up here and he was locked up in Melbourne and I called him and said, ‘I don’t think you’re in a bunker in Cuba. Is that right? Would you like to dream with me? I’m living in the most amazing place, I think, in the world. It’s not known to me and I’ve been exploring a bit…do you want to do something together?” she says TV tonight.
“He said, ‘Yes.’ He told me later, she said it just to get me off the call.
“We pitched it to ABC who said, ‘We love it!'”
The end result is a new 8-part dark and comedic crime thriller, Bay of Fires the pair co-created with writer Max Dann (Staines) through long zoom sessions.
“They wrote a pilot about what we discussed and we pitched it to ABC who said, ‘We love it!’ They put it in full development and so we had to do it!
Dusseldorp plays Anika Van Cleef, the queen of her family’s business empire whose life is turned upside down when an attempt on her life results in a stranger providing her with a new name she hates (Stella Heikkinen) and a new home for her and his two sons in ‘Mystery Bay’, aka Misery Bay.
The former gold rush town Zeehan on the Tasman coast where around 200 locals lived was the central location. Dusseldorp, who produced with Yvonne Collins, actively participated as well as taking the lead role.
“We had a long chat with the mayor”
“We went in and had a long chat with the mayor, Phil Vickers. He said, “You’re welcome” and he just opened it for us. The rest is on screen!” he explains him.
“Zeehan is Main Street, then Strahan is a school and Stella’s home. Queenstown was where we based 150 cast and crew, and we did interiors and street stuff. They are about 40 minutes apart.
“We did it on time and on budget”
“We did it on time and on budget – we’re really proud of it, actually. More precisely, no one was hurt. This was the biggest deal for me.
Having been an associate producer on Janet King, Bay of Fires marks an extremely personal step for Dusseldorp. While ‘Stella’ was deep in her DNA when the cameras were rolling, she had to juggle creative roles.
“Production work is just about making sure everyone feels comfortable and feels safe and happy where they’re working, and all that kind of stuff. It’s about being a decent human being, really, because everyone gives their lives to come, especially when you’re doing a remote shot like that. So you have to be aware of what they have left behind or what they need,” he explains.
Yet he relished the opportunity to oversee and troubleshoot everything from casting and editing to music choices, sound effects, and more.
“I especially loved that part of the production, where you can really be at the table to see it all come together, or not, if it doesn’t. And then find a way to do it. The composer, Cornel (Wilczek), has done a great job of finding this new sound. Andrew was with us the whole time, he did EP and I just found our editing aesthetic was the same. So he was really delightful,” he continues.
“You come in with your experience and your care, and your heartbeat, and you put that into the piece. This is theater, be in control. When you take the stage, it’s your turn to orchestrate. That’s why I always go back on stage, because I’m interacting with a live audience. It is my heartbeat that I am pushing into the rhythm of the narrative. You try to do that as an actor on television.
“It’s a puzzle. A labyrinth that Stella must stumble into”
Not everything is explained in the opening episode, and Dusseldorp says viewers will have to keep watching to learn if Stella gets sucked into some kind of witness protection master plan. Or not.
“We have a long game on it. It’s a mistery. It’s a puzzle. A labyrinth that Stella has to stumble into and we want the audience to understand with her as she belligerently refuses to see the level of danger she is in. She’s kind of a fix-it-all girl, which is way, way out of her depth, she suggests.
“We didn’t really want a genre. We wanted to create a tone that we loved and didn’t necessarily feel like we’d seen that much in Australian stories. We wanted it to be scary and urgent and fun. But situationally funny, not wacky, sending funny or flat comedy. The way we talked about it was kind of ‘Ozarks meet Fargo meet Schitt’s Creek‘ and blending it into our unique tone that is Bay of Fires.”
The series also packs a powerful ensemble including Kerry Fox, Toby Leonard Moore, Yael Stone, Pamela Rabe, Ilai Swindells, Roz Hammond, Tony Barry, Bob Franklin, Stephen Curry, Nicholas Bell, Matt Nable, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Imi Mbedla, Ava Caryofyllis E High heartbreak‘s Rachel House in a pivotal role as the stranger who turns her world upside down.
“This is a great performance buffet”
“We actually wrote the role for her. So she’s just delightful throughout the whole thing. This is a smorgasbord of great performances and truly fabulous scripts written by very experienced TV writers who write because they care,” says Dusseldorp.
“They made the characters better than they were written and deeper. It was a pleasure. We have been very lucky to have such people.
“I hope people get hooked and I hope they fall in love with one of the characters. There’s a lot to choose from, we’ve really written this sort of kaleidoscope of interesting people all with different reasons for who they are.
“This is slowly revealed as the series goes on.”
Bay of Fires airs Sundays at 8:30 pm on ABC.