Benjamin Law reveals “dirty secret” ahead of TV debut
Benjamin Law on the set of SBS series The Family Law.
Benjamin Law’s new six-part series The Family Law has put form to his hit memoir of the same name as he makes his first foray in television.
Co-written with friend and colleague Marieke Hardy, Law told IF that bringing the highly personal memoir to the screen was less about what he felt and more about how his family felt.
“I have already written a book about them and now it’s… hey family! Now our lives are going to be on television,” he said.
“I have got this really amazing career turning point and you are involved. They were curious about what it would look like and once they read the script, they thought this is really funny.”
The series is told through the eyes 14-year-old Benjamin Law over a long, hot, Queensland summer.
The Family Law is developed and produced by Matchbox Pictures in association with Screen Queensland, Screen Australia and SBS.
A Chinese-Australian family navigate a series of calamitous events and memorable milestones which remind us that families can sometimes feel more like a sentence than a blessing.
Law said he wanted to tell the story of a marriage and a family that was falling apart.
“It’s a comedy about separation and divorce, the classic comedy material really,” he said.
“Tragedy plus time equals comedy. It will appeal to anyone growing up thinking their family are freaks.”
Law said Hardy was brought on board to give a boost to the writers’ room.
“I know she has worked in writers’ rooms since she was a teenager,” he said.
“She is always offering some remarkable ideas that you would have never thought of in a million years. The other great thing is our script editor was Kirsty Fisher. It’s like The Family Law had inherited the brains trust of Laid.”
Law's TV persona performs in the school talent show.
He said the “dirty secret” was the book had no structure.
“It’s a collection of black comedy and personal essays. They take place before I was born and they go right through up until the 2000s when I was in my 20s. It has no narrative arc.
“One of the challenges was figuring out what were our parameters and we decided to set it over one Queensland Summer.”
The series introduces a predominantly Asian-Australian cast of new comers.
The Family Law episode 5.
Trystan Go (The King and I) stars as Benjamin Law and plays a middle child striving for showbiz stardom while trying to keep his parents’ marriage from falling apart.
Fiona Choi (The Newsroom, Homeland) plays Law’s mother, Jenny, who has the habit of frequently finding a way to bring the conversation around to the state of her “vee vee” during childbirth.
Anthony Brandon Wong (The Matrix, Nowhere Boys), takes the role of Law’s father, Danny, who works at the family Chinese restaurant seven days a week, until Jenny kicks him out of the family home and he must find a way to win her back.
His siblings are played by Shuang Hu, George Zhao, Karina Lee and Vivien Wei.
Law said he stayed out of the casting process as he did not want to include his strange personal biases.
The Family Law.
“We wanted the actors to be right for the characters as we had written them,” he said.
“They needed to be able to play the tragedy and comedy and truth of these characters. I had that feeling when I saw Fiona Choi play Jenny – someone has nailed this character so perfectly.
“Trystan, he is a teenage monster who needs to be lovable as well. He was such a hard worker.
“The miracle is everyone has the same idea of the show in their head. We all shared the same sense of humour. When I see it on screen I am really gratified. It’s so stupid… the jokes still make me laugh. I think it will appeal to anyone who has come from a broken family.
“A part of me goes back and thinks Ben growing up would have been pretty stoked about this.”
Law is now working on several television projects including Australian feature documentary Deep Water, for SBS with BlackFella Film.
The Family Law will air on January 14 at 8.30pm on SBS.