TV

Ryan Corr and Shelley Birse on why Stan’s new series The Commons gives them hope for the future

It's not all doom and gloom in the new series, which explores the effects of global warming...

By Tina Burke
Ryan Corr burst on to our screens – and in to our hearts – with his first lead role as Eric Tanner on Blue Water High, with the part then leading in to perhaps his most recognisable one, as Coby Jennings on Packed to the Rafters.
Since then, the TV WEEK Logie Award nominee has scored praise for roles in shows including Love Child, Cleverman and Bloom.
On Christmas Day, the actor's latest project will hit our screens when The Commons drops on Stan.
Written and created by AACTA Award-winner Shelley Birse, The Commons takes us in to a world one step forward technologically and two steps backward ecologically.
Ryan Corr stars in The Commons. Image: Supplied
Downton Abbey's Joanne Froggatt stars as Eadie, a brain doctor who desperately wants to be a mum despite the tumultuous world she's living in.
The eight-part Stan original series will take viewers on a ride "through the weather channel gone wild" and "the terrifying brave new world of science where Eadie will come face-to-face with the dark heart of intellectual property theft, disaster capitalism and the swampland that is the new eugenics."
Yep, the series sounds like a recipe for an existential crisis. But despite being a drama, The Commons promises to be a good time as well.
"The thing to be said is that it is a joyful ride," Ryan tells Now To Love. "It's not this nihilistic 'we have nothing to do' thing, it's sort of a call to arms and it's injected with this hope and the thought of 'we can be making a difference.'
"In this series we're sort of planted in the middle of people who are living in this world and are moving through it and do still have hope for the future."
"We just hope people have a rollicking good time watching the show," Shelley adds. "A bonus would be that they feel inspired enough to have a conversation amongst family and friends."
David Lyons and Ryan Corr in The Commons. Image: Supplied
The Commons is set at the crossroads of climate change and the cutting edge of biotechnology. In a bid to make the series relatable for us now, Shelley spent three years working with vector biologists, climate scientists and futurists so she could "funnel all those details down in to a nice package."
Ryan admits he was drawn to the series because of the way the script was written, approaching these "grand scale issues" through the "relatable prism" of a nuclear family.
"What was interesting for me was that none of the technology we speak about and none of the science we speak about is non-existent," he says. "It's here right now and so it feels very close and I think that sort of adds to it. This is a piece that hasn't been done before, in that sense, we've gone 'this is what the future will look like' and sort of created something that's unto its own."
Shelley adds this was a mindful decision because they were "desperately trying to make this a relatable, just around the corner" vision of the future.
"I think we made a really conscious decision that everything we look at in the show has either been developed as a prototype or was already sitting, ready to roll out," she says.
"It's those kinds of things with unforeseen consequences to the technology, particularly the technology that the science guys are working on, that we're just not stopping to have conversations about what happens if it goes too far."
This still from the series - which was created before the devastating bushfires - is eerily similar to the current landscape in Sydney. Image: Supplied
Shelley reveals that seeing her script come to life has been a dream come true.
"I'd been sitting alone at home for 12 months with this script and then these guys arrived and it's just such a profoundly gratifying thing, for somebody to pour themselves in to something that you dreamed up at home," she says.
"Jo [Froggatt] was the jewel in our crown and then we built this incredible pyramid around her," she continues. "I feel like there wasn't a single word that didn't feel better than I had written it. For me, it's incredibly humbling."
Ryan admits he was mesmerised by Jo on set.
"Jo is exceptional," he says of working with the SAG and Golden Globe Award-winning actress. "She can hold so much detail and nuance in such simplicity, no take is ever the same.
"When you've got a performer who's like that and is so invested in their role and can move with you, it becomes just a privilege to work with them. I found myself sitting back and just watching her a few times."
Ryan says Jo is "exceptional" to work with. Image: Supplied
With the series set to drop on Stan just in time for binge-watching season – AKA the holidays – Ryan and Shelley say they're excited for viewers to tuck in to the eight episodes.
"I hope they'll watch it because it's incredibly enjoyable," Shelley says. "At a time when there's a tendency to make fairly bleak portraits of the future, this is a great alternative. Having gotten to the end of this series I don't think I've ever felt so much renewed faith in my fellow man."
"It's just continuing that conversation in a productive and an active way of everything we're going to be dealing with together as we move forward and I think it executes that cleverly," adds Ryan.
The Commons premieres on Stan on December 25, 2019.