“Love Me” “Warm Hug” Only Marks Binge’s Debut
After two difficult years for the whole world, who could fault a commissioner for wanting to commission a heartwarming and uplifting spectacle? A show about the most important things in life: love, family and friendship?
These were the driving forces behind Binge executive director Alison Hurbert-Burns’ decision to make the streamer’s first original series since its launch in May 2020 a romantic drama.
âI just felt Australia needed a love affair,â she tells IF.
After announcing to the market that the Foxtel-owned platform was looking for “interesting, complex, sexy love story ideas,” Warner Bros. International Television Production Australia approached with the rights to the Swedish drama, Love me (lska mig), created by JosÃ©phine Bornebusch.
Hurbert-Burns was immediately on board. She was already familiar with the original, having attended a WB day in the UK in early 2020, where Viaplay Sweden explained why she originally commissioned the show.
From there, the team moved quickly; Love me got the green light in January, writers’ rooms were underway at Easter, and the show was filming in July / August. The Swedish version helped create the universe, but everyone wanted to put an original mark on it.
Love me examines the modern love experienced by different family members at three distinct points in life, as they all reach an emotional crossroads. The ensemble cast includes Hugo Weaving, Bojana Novakovic, William Lodder and Sarah Peirse, as well as Bob Morley, Heather Mitchell, Celia Pacquola, Mitzi Ruhlmann and Shalom-Brune Franklin.
In terms of casting, Hurbert-Burns says they’ve worked to find the right people so the audience can see each other, and she hopes it’s a good mix of familiar faces and emerging talent.
âWe worked a lot on the character interaction and a lot of rewriting and developing the family dynamic,â she says.
âWhat I like about the show is that it’s multigenerational. So you have three love stories. One for someone in their twenties, one for someone in their late thirties / early forties and one in their sixties. So you have a range of audiences.
WB executive producers Michael Brooks and Hamish Lewis brought in Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford of Aquarius Films to produce, Emma Freeman to lead and assemble a team of writers led by Alison Bell with Leon Ford, Adele Vuko and Blake Ayshford.
Echoing Hurbert-Burns, Fielder says the show attracted attention because it looked like an âantidote to what was going on in the world,â with âbeautifully drawnâ characters.
âThe show felt like a warm hug.
âIt’s been a really tough year. It’s nice to sit down and watch a show that feels good; makes you laugh a little, makes you cry a little.“
Another draw was that Love me would be the only English version of the show, which made it possible to make a show that felt truly international.
âPart of the brief for the show was to make it a love letter to Melbourne, in terms of how we shot it, but also part of the brief was that we wanted Melbourne to look and feel like. if it could be anywhere in the world. It could be New York, London, Paris or Berlin; just a big international city in which these universal stories take place, “says Fielder.
âWe were very focused not on the ‘Australian version’ or making an Australian show; it was basically to create the English version that would sell to all the territories. “
Novakovic, who in recent years has worked in the United States on projects like Instinct, Birds of prey and Me, Tonya, jumped at the chance to star as Clara, daughter of Weaving’s Glen and sister of Aaron of Lodder.
The character is a successful and quick-witted anesthesiologist, but has yet to find love as she approaches her forties. When she crosses paths with her neighbor Peter (Morley), sparks fly, but she clings to cynicism and doubt.
For Novakovic, the scenario was relatable, real, honest and “very Chekovien”.
âPeople cry when they should be laughing, and people laugh when they should cry. It was just a world I wanted to live in for a long time. I cried at the end when it ended. I cried like a baby. I didn’t want it to end, âshe told IF.
“It’s not a light piece of popcorn, but who likes to watch it more?” You watch real stuff; three generations of people who mourn and love simultaneously. You watch three generations of people experience sexual arousals. This includes people over 65. It’s pretty awesome.
Fielder agrees that Love me is a “sex positive” show.
âEspecially when it comes to the older characters Anita and Glen who are in their 60s, we really wanted to embrace the idea that people in that age group have passionate, active and wonderful sex lives. We were very determined to show this in all its glory.
Regarding Clara in particular, Novakovic embraced the fact that she was a charming and funny female lead character.
âUntil her charm stops working, which is the prototype for a romantic male comedy most of the time.
âI love how different we are. I literally wear my heart on my sleeve; you know how i feel when i feel it whether i want you to know it or not. Whereas Clara has such an ingrained survival mechanism to control her feelings. But in times of constraint, they go out. I enjoyed this marriage between someone that I certainly am not, and I allowed someone that I am to step out of that person from time to time.
While many of the Love meThe writers of s may be known for their acting skills, Hurbert-Burns notes that the show is definitely a drama – just one with lightheartedness.
âLife is never a straight line. You have a family that is dealing with grief and death, but they fall in love at the same time. To face what the reality of death is sometimes, if we have to laugh, âshe says.
Fielder praises Freeman’s ability with actors, his ability to hit the right emotional beat, and his excellent visual eye which, along with DOP Earle Dresner, made the show look warm and ambitious.
Equally enthusiastic is Novakovic, who considers the director to be a “visionary”.
“She’s a force to be reckoned with on set, but she has the sweetest, most creative energy. She knows what she wants; she has the most elegant way of being bossy I have ever come across.
âAnd she respects the actors, the heads of departments and the team in a way that facilitates a whole work of artâ¦ Every department is important, every department collaborates. She is a fearless leader like no other in the Australian film industry.
Finally with Love me, Hurbert-Burns wanted to make a show that not only stood alongside HBO, FX, and other international Binge dramas seamlessly, but more importantly, moved people.
âWe have been guided by history.
âIt was a matter of connection, it’s a matter of chemistryâ¦ we don’t order to fill a gap. We just wanted to make a nice and big storey.
âWe were trying a lot to replicate the family, relationship and sexual dynamics that occur in real life. You will see some interesting sex scenes there. There are certain moments of reality, I think the audience will say, “Maybe I would have done this before.” We wanted it to be very authentic. It’s not studio shine.
As for the Binge sequel, Hurbert-Burns says the door is open, encouraging producers to feature both script and unscripted ones. The platform will soon announce its next drama.
âIf it’s a talent or just a story, we want to hear about it. Our audiences are – as streaming audiences are now – large. These are not niches. In the beginning, we are looking for beautiful dramas and comedies with a wide appeal. We’re not looking to order horror or anything at this time; we’re gonna start with the kind of drama that Love me is.”
All six episodes of Love Me air on BINGE starting Boxing Day.