Seasoned Aussie star makes ‘apocalyptic’ waves Down Under

She’s known in Hollywood circles for her roles in mainstream movies like Pompeii, Sucker Punch and Sleeping Beauty, but Australian actor Emily Browning has returned home to star in a locally made comedy series.

Touching down before the March 17 launch of Prime Video’s latest Sydney-based production, Class of ’07, Browning doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to doing comedy.

It’s her first time.

‘Out of my comfort zone’

Melbourne-born Browning, 34, has worked alongside the late Heath Ledger, Kiefer Sutherland, Orlando Bloom and Billy Connolly over her 25-year career, and has been based in Los Angeles for the past decade.

She spoke about her lead role in Class of ’07 as part of an all-Aussie cast of young female actors and stand-up comedians this week.

The comedy centres around a 10-year high school reunion, which descends into life-and-death stakes after an apocalyptic tidal wave hits and leaves the women stranded on their school campus, which is now an island surrounded by water.

An absurd setting. High stakes to get it right.

“I’ve been working for such a long time but I’ve never done comedy before … and I felt like the ‘newbie’ on the set in a weird way.

“All the girls are so funny and so great at improvising … it was quite a vulnerable learning experience for me and I went outside my comfort zone a bit,” she says.

Co-star Caitlin Stasey, 32, who started her career in a Qantas commercial in 2000 singing I Still Call Australia Home before spending five years on Neighbours, says Browning’s reputation “preceded her”.

“While Emily doesn’t think of it this way, her reputation precedes her and she’s personable and affable … if you’ve got someone at the top who is not willing to participate or doesn’t care about the community, it does suffer and we were lucky not to go through that.”

‘Lord of the Flies in cocktail dresses’

Prime says the eight-part, 30-minute series is about more than just the apocalypse – it’s “an unapologetic love letter to female friendship, featuring two old friends finding their way back to each other” during the end-of-days setting.

The remaining classmates all have a decent portfolio of work and bring a fresh, funny spin on what happens when the world is about to end.

The show has even been described as “Lord of the Flies in cocktail dresses”, a reference to the 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author William Golding.

His story is about a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island who fail dismally, and tragically, in trying to look after themselves.

The cast roll-call includes Home and Away and Wakefield actor Megan Smart, stand-up comedian and regular on The Project, Steph Tisdell and TikTok comedian, Emma Horn.

There’s also Wolf Like Me and The PM’s Daughter actress Claire Lovering, South African-born Australian actor Sana’a Shaik, Bernie Van Tiel (Home and Away), Chi Nguyen (Fisk), rising star Sarah Krndija, Rose Flanagan (Glitch) and veteran theatre and TV actor Debra Lawrance.

Stasey says it was award-winning Australian writer and director Kacie Anning (Upload), also the executive producer, who was willing to dig out some new talent.

“It was good that Kacie was willing to bet on so many people who don’t have these large profiles, because we can get into the habit of recycling and deifying certain people in this country.

“Some people deserve it (she says, snuggling into Browning) but it’s nice they’re doing it. Casting is 95 per cent of the success!” she laughed.

Adds Browning, a former Australian Film Institute Award winner for best young actress: “The older I get, the more I want to be around women and I feel like I kind of manifested that in this job.

“The industry is still improving but for so long, every project, it was ‘oh you’re the girl’ … there’s the cast, and you get to be the girl.

“And that’s not ideal … so it’s really nice to have a big bunch of women who are all different, diverse.

“Every character in this show is messy in their own way, f–ks up and does the wrong thing. It was really enjoyable.”

A scene from the Class of ’07. Photo: Prime Video

‘Punching above our weight’

Browning got her big cinema break with the 2002 horror flick Ghost Ship.

Rotten Tomatoes points out it was “her portrayal of a resourceful orphan in the film version of the popular book series Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events in 2004 “that made her a star across the pond”.

In 2011, she was “all the rage in Hollywood as a fiercely imaginative mental asylum patient in Sucker Punch, a role that challenged her physically and emotionally, and launched her as one of the most promising and versatile actresses of her generation”.

Streaming platforms have increasingly been using Australia as a home base for local productions, while the big movie houses continue to look at studio space and film locations across the eastern seaboard.

Screen Australia’s 32nd annual Drama Report, released in December, revealed an all-time-high expenditure in Australia on scripted screen production of $2.29 billion.

This was made up of a record spend on Australian titles of $1.51 billion, plus $777 million spent on foreign productions.

“We’ve always punched above our weight in terms of our impact in Hollywood. One positive about the pandemic is a lot of things started shooting here again,” Browning said.

“I would like to work here as much as possible.”

Her next unannounced project is not apocalyptic, and may be “back to her serious, sad girl roots”.

“Definitely won’t be as much fun as this, but hopefully more comedy in the future,” Browning said.

Class of ’07 streams on Amazon Prime Video from March 17

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