Red Arrow Studios International has acquired the global distribution rights to the Australian World War II dramedy While the Men are Away.
The series takes place in rural Australia in the 1940s, a time during which the people who had been excluded from power found themselves running the show while the men were off fighting in the war. Michela de Rossi (Many Saints of Newark, Briganti) recently joined the cast as Francesca, an Italian immigrant struggling to run her husband’s farm after he enlists.
Francesca is joined by two Women’s Land Army recruits, who arrive to deliver the farm’s annual apple harvest. Also helping her is Aboriginal farmhand Kathleen and conscientious objector Robert. As the tragedy of war gets close to them, their lives become entwined in surprising ways that test their relationships, prejudices and identities.
Starring alongside de Rossi are Matt Testro (Jack Irish, The Gloaming), Phoebe Grainer and Jana Zvedeniuk (Bump). The supporting cast includes Googoorewon Knox (Black Snow), Sacha Horler (The Dressmaker, The Letdown), Tara Morice (Dance Academy, Strictly Ballroom), Katrina Foster (Rake), Ella Scott Lynch (Upright), Rebecca Massey (Utopia), Tony Llewellyn-Jones (Colin from Accounts), Evan Stanhope (Thor: Love & Thunder, Christmas Ransom), Jing Xuan Chan (Harrow), Warren Lee and Zavier Morris. Previously announced cast members include Benedict Hardie (Nautilus, The Invisible Man), Gemma Ward (The Great Gatsby), Max McKenna (Jagged Little Pill, Muriel’s Wedding the Musical) and Shaka Cook (Hamilton).
The eight-part series is being produced by Arcadia for SBS in Australia, with major production investment from Screen Australia and support from Screen NSW. Director Elissa Down (Ivy + Bean, The Black Balloon) is leading the series, but director Monica Zanetti (Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), Iggy & Ace) is joining to direct an episode. The series was created by writer Kim Wilson (Wentworth, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart), Alexandra Burke (Sissy) and Zanetti.
While the Men are Away is currently in production in Sydney and is expected to debut on SBS later this year.
“We were immediately drawn to the show’s subversive take on World War II, shot through with both heart and humor,” said Rodrigo Herrera Ibarguengoytia, VP of scripted acquisitions and co-productions at Red Arrow Studios International. “It offers fresh and distinct perspectives that we’re convinced will resonate with international audiences. Michela’s addition caps off a talented ensemble cast that will bring this heartfelt vision to life and we can’t wait to take out this title worldwide.”
“I’m beyond thrilled to have Michela bringing her incredible talent to our lead role,” said creator Wilson, who also serves as showrunner. “The character of Frankie is fiercely independent, intelligent, charming and complex. Michela delivers all of this and so much more. She’s the perfect addition to a phenomenal cast.”
SBS’s commissioning editor, Julie Eckersley, added, “While the Men Are Away is an irreverent, witty and queer celebration of social outsiders and the revolution of being who you really are. The extraordinary talent of Michela joining the cast puts a cherry on the top of what promises to be a truly delightful and heartwarming series.”