ABC renews ‘The Heights’, providing another springboard for new talent


The cast of ‘The Heights’ season 2 (Photo credit: Ben King).

Backed by Screen Australia, the second season of the ABC’s ground-breaking drama serial The Heights will start shooting in Perth on August 26, providing more opportunities for emerging directors, writers and actors.

Jub Clerc, whose short Storytime is featured in the horror anthology Dark Whispers – Volume 1 curated by Megan Riakos and Leonie Marsh, and Kelli Cross (Aussie Rangers) are joining the cohort of directors under the production’s mentorship program.

They will be mentored by Karl Zwicky, alongside another addition in Tenika Smith (Neighbours) and Renée Webster, who made her TV drama directing debut on the first season.

Season one writers Romina Accurso, Hannah Carroll Chapman, Megan Palinkas, Peter Mattessi, Dot West, Magda Wozniak, the showrunner/co-creator Warren Clarke and Katie Beckett return.

They are joined by recruits Tim Williams, Nora Niasari, Nayuka Gorrie, Cassandra Nguyen, Jane Allen, Alex Cullen, Faith McKinnon, Libby Butler, Jessica Paine, Sarah Bassiuoni and Aaron McCann.

Added to the ensemble cast are Rupert Reid (Sunshine, Winners & Losers) and Kelton Pell (Pine Gap, The Gods of Wheat Street), who was a regular guest in the first season.

“We are committed to giving opportunities to new directors, writers, actors and crew,” the producer, For Pete’s Sake Productions’ Peta Astbury-Bulsara, tells IF. “The show will continue to represent the real Australia.”

Matchbox Pictures’ Clarke, who co-created the serial with Que Minh Luu, says: “We are future-proofing the industry. These new voices bring a fresh energy and are the next generation of screen practitioners.”

Clarke says Screen Australia’s investment, together with Screenwest’s backing, is a “big piece of the show’s long-term future.”

In the first series one third of the main ensemble cast comprised actors in their first screen roles and two thirds of the main cast were from under-represented backgrounds, Que Minh, now an executive producer at the ABC, tells IF.

There was 50 per cent gender parity among cast and crew including heads of department and four episodes were from writers receiving their first screen credits.

Set in the fictional suburb of Arcadia Heights, the new series of 30 episodes will again follow the relationships between six families living in a social housing tower and the rapidly gentrifying inner-city community that surrounds it.

Friendships will be tested, new love will blossom and Clarke promises there will be several big set pieces. He is confident that having 60 episodes will make the serial even more attractive to international buyers, handled by NBCUniversal Distribution.

The returning ensemble cast includes Shari Sebbens, Roz Hammond, Fiona Press, Dan Paris, Calen Tassone, Saskia Hampele, Phoenix Raei and Yazeed Daher.

Also continuing are the first series regulars Alex Williams and Asher Yasbincek and newcomers Bridie McKim, Mitchell Bourke, Koa Nuen, Cara McCarthy, Briallen Clarke and Carina Hoang.

The series was announced today as a finalist in the Drama Series Production of the Year category at the 19th Screen Producers Australia Awards.

Sally Riley, ABC head of drama, comedy and Indigenous, said: “Season one was warmly embraced by critics and audiences for reflecting real, complex and diverse Australian stories. We look forward to seeing what’s in store for the characters during these 30 new episodes.”

Screenwest CEO Willie Rowe said: “The first season provided incredible opportunities for industry newcomers and seasoned practitioners, giving a huge boost to the WA television industry, with the series engaging over 100 local crew and casting 93 speaking and over 300 extras roles locally so we are very excited to see the series renewed in WA and for it to have growing impact on our Industry.”