TV

Why Netflix chose Tidelands to be its first original Australian series

It was more than just a genetically blessed cast that sealed the deal.

By Helen Vnuk

Charlotte Best has been having flashbacks to her childhood.

In the new Aussie drama Tidelands, she plays Cal McTeer, a young woman who returns home to the fishing village of Orphelin Bay after years in jail.

"I grew up boating with my father and three brothers on the coast," Charlotte, 24, tells TV WEEK on the Queensland set of the show.

"The scenes we were doing the other day when I'm fanging it around in a tinny, I'm like, 'This is my childhood come back to me!'"

The former Home And Away star says there are so many things about Cal she can relate to, including the self-discovery.

Charlotte's new role has been giving her childhood flashbacks.
Charlotte's new role has been giving her childhood flashbacks.

"I'm the same age as Cal, and I'm finding who I am and where I'm going, wondering where I fit in," she says.

"So it's been great."

There's definitely a lot that's relatable and very Aussie about Tidelands.

But this is no ordinary home-grown drama. If it was, Netflix wouldn't have chosen it as its first-ever original Australian series.

Elsa and Charlotte make a powerful pair on screen.
Elsa and Charlotte make a powerful pair on screen.

Tidelands has been inspired by the mythological creatures known as sirens. Living along rocky coastlines, sirens were traditionally believed to have the power to enchant sailors, luring them to their deaths.

In Tidelands, a commune of half-siren/half-humans, known as Tidelanders, live on the outskirts of Orphelin Bay. Cal returns home just as the body of a fisherman who has been gruesomely murdered has washed up on the beach.

She finds herself uncovering the town's secrets – and it's not all about the Tidelanders. There's also a massive drug-smuggling operation based in the bay.

*Tidelands* executive producer Nathan Mayfield with Charlotte and Elsa.
Tidelands executive producer Nathan Mayfield with Charlotte and Elsa.

Executive producer Nathan Mayfield was involved with pitching the Tidelands concept to Netflix. He says it was just a matter of days before they came back with a "yes".

"When we were all signed and inked, I asked Netflix, 'Why this show?'" Nathan remembers.

"They said they'd been pitched a lot of stuff in Australia, but nothing that felt big. I think everything had felt true to an Australian audience, but [they] hadn't really thought about what it looked like as a global show."

Netflix felt the show has both local and international appeal.
Netflix felt the show has both local and international appeal.

"We loved that. It gave us permission to think big, be bold and play in worlds that are rarely seen on Australian TV – in crime, thriller and supernatural."

Even though Tidelands has supernatural elements, Nathan says they were firm about one thing.

"We're a 'no scales, no tails' show," he says. "So it's not something we've seen before."

Elsa features alongside Aussie actress Madeleine Madden.
Elsa features alongside Aussie actress Madeleine Madden.

With its cast drawn from around the world, Tidelands manages to feel very Australian and yet international at the same time.

Spanish actress Elsa Pataky, who lives in Australia with her husband, Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth, plays Adrielle, the leader of the Tidelanders.

Elsa, 42, says she loves the mix of the supernatural and the real in the show.

"The whole story about the sirens, I grew up with them," she explains during a break in filming.

Ex-con Cal returns home- but things have changed.
Ex-con Cal returns home- but things have changed.

"Because my character's not human, that gives you freedom that is really interesting."

As a Tidelander, Adrielle is very strong – not just mentally, but physically.

"I love how strong the female characters are," Elsa says.

"I'm not saying that the men's characters are not, I'm just saying they're very equal. It's good to see stories like that right now."

Brazilian Marco is starring his his first English role.
Brazilian Marco is starring his his first English role.

Brazilian actor Marco Pigossi plays Adrielle's offsider, Dylan. Marco is a huge star in Brazil from his roles in telenovelas and movies, and he has 3.6 million followers on Instagram.

Tidelands is the first role he's taken on outside his home country.

"It's my first time working in English," Marco, 29, says. "It's my first time working with supernatural drama. So it's my first time for everything!"

Marco loves the mix of accents among the cast.

Queensland offered a unique background for the series.
Queensland offered a unique background for the series.

"It adds a lot to the show," he says. "The Tidelanders come from all over the world."

Being half-human and half-siren, the Tidelanders have a relaxed attitude to sex and nudity. Marco thinks that will go down well in Brazil.

"They come from the water," he explains. "Their bodies are natural for them. It's kind of what people are supposed to be, you know? People aren't supposed to be so worried about things."

"Brazil is a little more like this. I think Brazil's going to love this show!"

Aaron Jakubenko plays Cal's brother, Augie.
Aaron Jakubenko plays Cal's brother, Augie.

For Aaron Jakubenko, being cast as Cal's brother, Augie, gave him the chance to return to Australia.

Aaron, known to Neighbours fans as bad-boy Robbo, has shot three recent roles in US productions in New Zealand.

In Tidelands, his character is another bad boy who's heavily into the drug trade.

"He's a seventh-generation fisherman in Orphelin Bay and seventh-generation smuggler," Aaron, 29, says.

Cal's past actions put a wedge between her and Augie
Cal's past actions put a wedge between her and Augie

As for Augie and Cal, their relationship is complicated.

"When they were young, he was her big brother," Aaron says.

"I've got little sisters and they mean the world to you. But then she did something – or so we think – that tore them apart."

"When someone comes back and you've lost communication, there's a lot of self-hate and shame about not keeping that healthy relationship with your sibling."

Tidelanders Adrielle and Dylan embrace their sexuality.
Tidelanders Adrielle and Dylan embrace their sexuality.

Aaron admits the series can be "quite debaucherous". In the first episode, there's a sex scene between his character and one of the Tidelanders.

"It was wild, but not necessarily in the way you would expect," he says. "The Tidelanders are powerful physically."

Aaron, who's dating actress Ashleigh Cummings, isn't keen to be seen as a sex symbol.

"If Augie is someone people are connecting to, that really excites me," he says.

Tidelands has set the bar for any future Netflix Australian original series.
Tidelands has set the bar for any future Netflix Australian original series.

"Anything sexual doesn't interest me. I've got someone I'm in love with."

As for Charlotte, she feels a "huge responsibility" heading up the cast of Tidelands.

"Being the first [Australian] Netflix series, it's paving the way for where we're going from here," she says.

"We need to show the world we've got so much to offer."

"It's a wonderful opportunity to be part of that journey for Australia and show what we can do. I think about that a lot. No pressure!"

Tidelands premieres on Netflix on December 14th.

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