Kid’s TV Queensland performer trio Ashlee Lollback, Arnijka Larcombe-Weate and Michael Balk have become seasoned experts through a series of industry shows including Smashhdown!, Brainbuzz, Whurrawhy, dirtgirlworld, The Bureau of Magical Things.
Now they embark on their next series for 9GO!, a fantastic 50-episode release of factual comedy, Earth science researchers.
All three have worked in film and theatre, equipping them with the improv skills QTQ9 Kid’s Unit embraces in a format from writer/producer Dominic Morris.
“We worked on it smashdown! together in the previous years, which created a rapport and friendship with everyone. The first day we started filming this, it was immediately comfortable, which allows for much better work because you’re not worried about being judged. There is 100% trust,” says Arnijka Larcombe-Weate TV tonight.
“We are such a small crew Earth science researchers, so it allows everyone to have a voice, to be heard, to work closely with each other, which I think is a very rare opportunity in this industry. Often these are quite large crews and you don’t know the people personally.
Larcombe-Weate and Ashlee Lollback play two amateur detectives from an alien planet who have come to Earth to investigate the human race. The show takes the form of a comedic investigation, with each episode focusing on a different aspect of human behavior or biology.
“They crash on Earth and are given this mission…. each episode explores a different human behavior or something on Earth that is quite bizarre,” says Ashlee Lollback.
“It’s really cool, because it’s just these two innocent characters discovering these things as they go. We have this great segment called Hit the Streets where we go out and interview humans on the street, which is a lot of fun.
“We went to Queen Street Mall a couple of times, in one episode on Cold we go to an ice rink, skating around asking people questions.”
“Private group chat (Larcombe-Weate) always wants to get answers. Major Let Down (Lollback) is the most relaxed alien. The private group chat is very forthright and leverages things between people…she’s kind of out there,” Larcombe-Weate explains.
“The aspect of my character, I would say, is I just woke up from bed and have frizzy hair and Ash woke up with straight hair.”
Drawing on plenty of comics and improv, he cites comedic influences including Kristen Wiig, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Seinfeld AND Friends.
“My brain has always worked in a very ‘pun’ format. So working with a production like this gives me those opportunities and the space to create fun moments.
Ashlee Lollback is thankful that QTQ has allowed her to juggle kids’ TV by day and theater commitments by night.
“There were days where we were shooting five episodes a day of high energy, even if it’s not silly or patronizing in any way. …..drive to QPAC doing a production of The boy swallows the universesleep for a few hours, come back here and shoot five episodes: those opportunities you can’t pass up,” he observes.
“Arnijka and I are always willing to try things together. Then Michael, who is the most brilliant improviser in the world, comes up with brilliant things on the fly.”
Michael Balk is the troupe virtuoso he expects to spend 1300 episodes of television with Earth science researchers. A versatile artist whose CV dates back to High blue water in 2005, he played several roles in the new 9GO! series including reporter Blake King-Neus (geddit?) and his reporter twin brother, Jake King-Neus.
“Blake often talks to Jake, who is assigned to the less wholesome investigations. He will be sent into the human digestive system to report on gastric fluid, for example. So it’s not a pleasant job and he’s always quite unhappy with where the network sends him as an investigative reporter,” he explains.
“Their convention, really, is to string together the research that the two main characters do, so it’s a pretty big role. I play it with pantomime and comedy but the information is all 100% accurate.
“The other character I love is General Ignorance….. He’s the alien commanding officer, pink-skinned dude you’ll find at the end of the final report, who comes back from Planet Earth to find out what humans have been up to. He is an utter idiot, from another planet in every sense of the word.
Despite a diverse background, Balk has no qualms about staying in children’s television.
“I’ve done a couple of American films, one after another in various different roles. I’ve had a few spares, I’ve done a lot of replacement work. I voiced Joseph Fiennes for a short time and Robert Mammone. Back then my ambition was still to be an adult actor, but I’ve found that an actor is an actor and work is the most important thing. I have found that kids TV is something I am very good at and a constant job,” she believes.
“I am very passionate about building new audiences for Australian content and it all starts with Kids. That’s why we did dirtgirlworld (to ABC) – because if you want to save the climate from the impact of previous generations, you have to form a new generation.
“I love that it’s not only a great and good job, but it also gives children the opportunity to hear Australian voices and Australian stories. They don’t wake up one day, go to the cinema and start watching Australian feature films. They must have a developed interest in it. This is my point of view.
Earth Science Investigators airs at 7:30pm weekdays on 9GO starting Monday, July 3.