US college kids see the real Chris Lilley

05 December, 2013 by Don Groves

Chris Lilley at the USC Berkeley Q&A


Critics in Australia, the US and elsewhere who think Chris Lilley pays attention to their reviews, good, bad or indifferent, are misguided.

The creator of We Can Be Heroes, Summer Heights High, Angry Boys and Ja'mie: Private School Girl doesn’t read reviews, according to his producing partner, Princess Pictures’ Laura Waters.

Waters doesn’t read reviews either, as a rule, although she was aware of the UK blogger who bagged Summer Heights High because the Australian media aired his carping comments. “You get a tonne of great reviews and someone finds a nasty one,” she says. “We both made the choice not to read reviews; it’s healthier.”

The actor/writer/producer may have a reputation as a very private person but he revealed a lot of himself in the US last month. Lilley and Waters spent a few weeks touring the college circuit in the lead-up to the premiere of Ja'mie: Private School Girl on HBO and were overwhelmed by the responses.

Chris did Q&As and hosted screenings of the show at University of California, Berkeley, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, the George Washington University in Washington D.C., and HBO arranged a screening for New York University students.

“Hundreds of people were turned away; it was surreal, crazy,” Waters tells IF. “One middle-aged father came up to us and said his sons aged 11 and 12 run around the house singing Black Balls (Lilley’s song in the guise of African-American rapper S.mouse in Angry Boys). Chris was his normal self: he really opened up to the audiences. After the tour we told HBO we want to do it again.”

Lilley is now editing Jonah (working title), the six-part series which follows the further adventures of the bored Tongan teenage delinquent who was expelled from the concrete playgrounds of Summer Heights High.

Jonah’s father Rocky Takalua sent him back to Tonga to live with his uncle and their family in hopes that he will get his life back on track. But life is still not cool for Jonah and his Poly-posse, who continue to swear, tell tall tales and tag ‘Dicktation’ all over the school grounds.

The series is co-produced by Lilley, Princess Pictures, HBO and the ABC, with BBC3 aboard again. Waters says she pitched Summer Heights High to HBO executives, who passed initially but changed their minds. She’s delighted to have the support of the three broadcasters, noting, “They could not be better creative partners.

Lilley seems to have a penchant for privacy but Waters says, “He’s a normal, honest person He’s not interested in the business of being a celebrity.”