ABC greenlights Porchlight Films’ Maralinga nuclear testing drama ‘Fallout’

(L-R) Ewen Leslie, Shaka Cook and Jessica de Gouw. 

Production is about to begin on Porchlight Films’ Fallout (working title) for the ABC, a six-part drama inspired by the 1950s British nuclear testing that took place in outback South Australia. Written and directed by Peter Duncan (Rake), the project has attracted a strong cast including Ewen Leslie, Jessica de Gouw, James Cromwell, Ningali Lawford Wolf and Shaka Cook.

Fallout is set in 1956, at the height of the Cold War, when the Menzies Government has welcomed British atomic bomb testing at remote, ‘uninhabited’ Maralinga, in outback South Australia.

Leslie plays Major Leo Carmichael (Leslie), an Australian Army engineer and WWII hero, who is charged with keeping the base functioning smoothly. But testing the most dangerous weapon in the world is no easy task for Leo with a commanding officer (Cromwell) who is not fit for purpose; a new meteorologist, Dr Eva Lloyd-George (De Gouw) who starts asking questions; and the government and press watching his every move.

And as it turns out, the land of Maralinga may not be so uninhabited after all, when Leo’s faced with the arrival of a family of Indigenous Australians, curious about the giant clouds that explode occasionally.

Financed in partnership with Screen Australia, Create NSW, South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) and Head Gear Films, Fallout will be produced by Vincent Sheehan and Tanya Phegan, who co-created the series with Duncan.

The ABC’s head of scripted Sally Riley said: “The ABC is excited to bring the unique voice of Peter Duncan back to our audiences. His razor wit and satirical retelling of the Maralinga testing will challenge those who know the history, and be unbelievable for those who have little knowledge of what happened on Australian soil. This is a fictional story about true events.”

Screen Australia head of content Sally Caplan said: “Delving into a unique chapter of Australia’s history, this is an important and compelling Australian drama with local and international appeal. Peter Duncan, Vincent Sheehan and Tanya Phegan are creatives at the top of their game, and we’re thrilled to see this trio combining their talents for the first time. I can’t wait to see the team bring this exciting thriller to ABC prime-time audiences.”

Create NSW executive director, investment and engagement Elizabeth W. Scott, said: “Blending thriller, political satire and biting black comedy with a star-studded cast Fallout is set to be one of the most memorable series we’ll see on TV next year. Writer/director Peter Duncan and producers Tanya Phegan and Vincent Sheehan will grip audiences at home and internationally with a story that ignites the unthinkable 1950s British nuclear testing in Maralinga, outback South Australia, in a new take on a disturbing historical event.”

SAFC acting CEO Amanda Duthie said: “We thank and acknowledge the Maralinga Tjarutja community for welcoming this production into Country. Their collaboration with the creative team will enable a highly distinctive project.”

The series will be distributed internationally by About Premium Content; Fallout marks its first investment into an Australian series.

Fallout will air on the ABC in 2020.