At one point, the line between work and life blurred and then completely dissolved, which was probably inevitable when Nakkiah Lui and his partner, Gabriel Dowrick, decided to do a TV show together.
The couple met in 2014 on ABC’s Black Comedy, Lui’s first TV writing gig, which Dowrick edited. “I like to think he fell in love with me onscreen because of my sense of humor,” Lui says. A moment passes before a burst of laughter falls on the phone. “He’s just looking away right now.”
In the years that followed, Lui became one of Australia’s leading multi-hyphens – playwright, screenwriter, podcast host and publisher of her own book. Dowrick is an in-demand editor, working on The Family Law, Wakefield, The Other Guy and the 2017 Lui, Kiki and Kitty series.
The desire to write something together was always there – and it’s about to come to fruition in the form of Preppers: a tight-knit six-part ABC comedy that premieres November 10.
Preppers tells the story of Charlie (Lui), a breakfast TV host. Forced to wear a giant Australian flag thong costume for the show to air on January 26 – his calls to recognize the impact of invasion day dismissed by the show’s executive producer (Grant Denyer as You Do never seen him before) – Charlie is finally knocked down, only to be overtaken by a community of doomsday pickers.
There are echoes of the Get Krackin ‘finale, which Lui co-wrote, which featured a scorching Miranda Tapsell monologue against the racism fueled by breakfast television. âI didn’t expect this final episodeâ¦ to be as controversial as it was. I’ve received a lot of hateful messages on this subject, I’ve had people send me stuff at home, âexplains Him. âFor about two years, every time there was an editorial about itâ¦ I got a barrage of insults, insulting myself. I think part of it for me was like, can I survive this? “
In writing Charlie, she drew on this experience: âHow does it feel to survive this kind of public humiliation?
Interest in preparation, meanwhile, started with reality TV. âA few years ago I really started watching Doomsday Preppers, Doomsday Bunkers, just all of those types of shows,â Lui said. âAnd then I started spending a little time on the forums. It was, like, a real descent.
On some level, it was pure fascination, but there was also a deeper attraction. âTo be a First Nations personâ¦ this idea of ââsurvival and preparation for the worst, and survival being part of your history and part of this value that you hold. For me, this is definitely something that I inherited, âsaid Him.
For Dowrick, preparation offered almost endless possibilities for storytelling. âI’ve always loved that in the prepare for the apocalypse subculture you have all these different perspectives, in terms of how someone would believe the world could end. Environmental disaster, economic shutdown, you know, even stupid stuff like zombies or whatever. Asteroids, Christian rapture … “
This specter of destruction is embodied by all the preparers gathered for the series and interpreted by Meyne Wyatt, Ursula Yovich, Chum Ehelepola, Aaron McGrath and Eryn Jean Norvill. The group is led by Monty, a play written for Jack Charles. “It amazes me that no one has put Jack Charles in a comedy before,” said Lui. “He’s so funny.”
Preppers is a skillful balancing act, a vibrant comedy that never shies away from the seriousness that drives it: First Nations people have faced genocide before, so why wouldn’t they be prepared for anything. ?
To set the tone, it took a lot of rewriting. âWe went back and forth on a lot of these things, right up to editing,â says Dowrick. “Like, how can you come up with an idea and not make someone too uncomfortable not to laugh when you come back?” “
âWe would pull out the storyboard around 9pm and scream that the joke wasn’t funny and try to make a better joke,â says Lui. Or they were going out for a nice dinner and “the next minute we were just talking about the script.”
âBut in a way, we’re both really lucky to love what we’re doing. Sometimes there’s nothing I prefer to talk about than the story I’m playing with in my brain, âsays Lui, who addresses his next comment to Dowrick:â I think it could be the same for you.
Tells him that Dowrick was “a great white ally” during the process, boosting his confidence that a mainstream comedy audience would stick with them during times of seriousness and follow them to the point of humor.
âBecause you’re so invested in it emotionally, especially around the Stolen Generation content. Or, you know, find the bones of the colonial murder. Sorry, those are just really weird sentences, âshe said. “But he was really good at coming in andâ¦ being like, no, shit, that’s a good idea.” They can understand it. People are going to listen, and that’s going to make it funny and good.