Already a hit for ABC Australia, where its first two episodes pulled in nearly one quarter of the audience share for its prime time slot, tasty comedy “Aftertaste” will now participate in the Berlinale Series Market and Conference looking to attract broadcasters abroad.
With its comic story of a cancelled chef and his upstart baker niece, “Aftertaste” is a recipe for laughs. Actor and producer Erik Thomson is Easton West: a celebrity chef with a city-sized ego forced to relocate to his pastoral beginnings and start again alongside his baker niece Diana, played by newcomer Natalie Abbott.
“Aftertaste” is written and created by Julie De Fina and Matthew Bate and produced by Closer Productions for ABC Australia with ABC Commercial taking worldwide distribution rights. Jonathan Brough (“Rosehaven”) directs.
Variety spoke with De Fina and Bate ahead of the series’ Berlin participation.
In a modern story of redemption, what role does forgiveness play – both from Easton’s family, and from the intangible masses?
De Fina: In any situation forgiveness can be difficult when there’s a lack of real remorse. I think the masses have become a lot more cynical, even fatigued by disingenuous apologies, which is perhaps why cancel culture has escalated to this point – and that is what Easton is facing in the series. When it comes to family it’s obviously more complex because there are emotions involved and it’s personal. In the case of Easton’s family, beneath the anger and betrayal and even hate, there’s still a shared past and a shared trauma. It doesn’t mean he is owed forgiveness, but it’s certainly not as simple as being able to cancel him – as much as they’d like to.
We’ve seen cancellation of many in the public sphere, but never up close. In what ways do we see Easton’s arc playing out differently here, and how important is it to show this story through the eyes of his niece, Diana?
Bate: It was crucial that this wasn’t a redemption story – we’ve seen that all before. To let Easton off the hook would be to excuse his behaviour which we were never going to do. The real hero and the big character arc is actually Diana’s – and so it was key that her POV be how we experience the drama. The joy and drama is watching how far Diana is willing to go dealing with the devil, in order to achieve her own ambitions.
How important was it that Diana is capable of going blow for blow with her domineering uncle, but without stooping to his level of cruelty? It feels as though that dynamic is what episode one sets up for the rest of the series.
Bate: Diana really is the ‘hero’ of the series, so it was absolutely important that she be able to take him on. She wrestles with how much she needs him and what she’ll do to make her ambitions a reality – but she can’t ever cede power to him. The characters of Brett and Kwame, and of course Diana, are living and working proof that there is a new way to behave. So the show really is about the transference of power, and how uncomfortable that is for men like Easton – and us bearing witness to that transaction is where we mined the drama and comedy of the series.
What aspects of storytelling informed the casting of “Aftertaste?” Which choices did you make that you felt were creatively unique or fresh?
De Fina: Diana is a character who is confident, brash and often very forward, and it was important for us to cast someone who firstly had that natural energy, but also didn’t immediately seem like the sort of person who is allowed to be that way. We wanted someone who isn’t the norm on TV and, had we not gone into the casting process with that in mind, we never would have found Natalie because most of the girls who auditioned had never even had the opportunity to test for any screen roles before. We also wanted the show to reflect the real Australia and also the real world of food, so it was always going to be culturally diverse. With the Brett character, there’s been such a positive reaction to him, firstly because Wayne Blair is so great, and also because, although he is First Nations, it’s not the character’s defining quality or why he exists in the show. And that’s because I knew Wayne, he’s a brilliant actor who rarely gets to display his comedy chops, so it was written with him in mind.