Irreverent Comedy Takes on Disability Stereotypes
The Angus Project, an upcoming ABC comedy pilot that drops in December, presents disability on screen in new ways.
It is loosely based on the real-life story of actors Angus Thompson and Nina Oyama.
Angus is a 26 year-old actor from Bathurst who has cerebral palsy.
Nina was Angus’ carer during his Public Relations studies. Together, they would often “go to parties, get super drunk…get semi-regrettable tattoos and eat hangover food.”
According to a statement from these creators, they initially made The Angus Project “because we were sick of the sanitised, inspirational version of disability that is often portrayed in mainstream media.”
“Now that we have been afforded the privilege of a 30 minute pilot episode, we want to dedicate the show to putting disability-identifying people on screen in a way that the Australian public has never seen before,” they said.
“We wanted to show the way Angus lived, and make him the main character of his own story.”
Angus is an aspiring sports journalist with cerebral palsy, who works for local newspaper The Bathurst Gazette. He wastes his days with his carer Nina, a flailing university student who has a knack for blowing even the most mundane tasks out of proportion. Assisted by their eclectic drug dealer Kane, the two find colourful ways to shirk their responsibilities, and undermine their mean boss Kath, who runs the regional disability service provider.
In the pilot episode, Angus must get an interview with gold medal winning paralympian, Wayne “Wizza” Miller in order to secure his first front page story in The Gazette. In exchange for the interview, Wizza has some bizarre demands, which send Angus and Nina all over town and deep into the regional Australian countryside.
The Angus Project’s cast reads like a who’s who of Australian comedy, with Sammy J, Veronica Milsom, Rob Sitch, Sam Campbell and Craig Anderson. Nina told Insights that the show creators, “had a list of our dream cast members and we ended up with all of them!”
Nina previously knew Veronica Milsom from a stand-up comedy gig years ago, and times she had been a guest on Triple J Veronica and Lewis. She also knew Rob Sitch from her time a recurring cast member in season three of Utopia.
“Sammy J…was the only actor I’d never met before we started shooting, but we had mutual friends, so they put us in contact. He was amazing to be around on set, we made him improv heaps. I had to cover my mouth with my hands during his takes because I was scared I was burst out laughing and ruin the take.”
The Angus Project pilot is part of the ABC’s Fresh Blood initiative. Working with Screen Australia, this kickstarts the careers of young comedy writers, directors, and performers by providing them with funding to make a series of skits. Four teams are chosen to produce a pilot. Screen Australia and the ABC hope to take one of these pilots to a full series in 2019.
According to Nina, the creators have “hundreds of stories to tell” if the show is renewed.
“Part of our writing development process was creating multiple stories with different characters, and making sure that we wouldn’t run out of plot lines,” she said.
“We have a huge back catalogue of story lines to use if we are fortunate enough to be commissioned a full series. Though the show is episodic, we also have an overarching narrative planned for Angus and Nina’s friendship if we are given the opportunity.”
The Angus Project airs on ABC Comedy and iView on 4 December at 9:30pm
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor
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