Christine Bartlett creates a character who’s very close to home in ‘Five Bedrooms’

Michael Lucas and Christine Bartlett.

After years of creating fictional characters in such series as House Husbands, Offspring, The Wrong Girl and Playing for Keeps, Christine Bartlett allowed herself the freedom to do something unprecedented in Five Bedrooms.

Namely: To flesh out a character modelled on her own life and experiences.

Doris Younane plays her alter ego Heather in Hoodlum Entertainment’s 8-part comedy-drama co-created by Bartlett and her frequent collaborator Michael Lucas, which premieres on 10 at 8.40 pm on May 15.

The set-up director Peter Templeman describes Heather as “funny, complex and raw, and that’s Chris.”

Bartlett tells IF: “Michael gave me permission to be totally unfiltered, so I went balls-out like never before. I was blown away watching what Doris did to bring the character to life.”

At the crossroads in her life, Heather is married to Colin (Alan Dukes), whom she says “peaked at high school,” and they have two doltish adult children.

She sees the chance to turn her life around when her tenant Ainsley (Katie Robertson) departs to move into a five bedroom house with five singles who meet at a wedding.

The ensemble cast includes Kat Stewart, Stephen Peacocke, Roy Joseph, Kate Jenkinson and Hugh Sheridan.

The co-creators started spit balling the concept for the series in 2014 when neither owned a house and they toyed with the idea of sharing a place together.

(L-R) Roy Joseph, Katie Robertson, Stephen Peacocke, Kat Stewart and Doris Younane.

They first met at an Australian Film Commission-organised feature development workshop conducted by Megan Simpson Huberman in 2008, which led to their first features: Bartlett’s The Wedding Party, directed by Amanda Jane, and Lucas’ Not Suitable for Children, helmed by Templeman.

Subsequently they both worked on Offspring, Party Tricks (which he created) and The Wrong Girl.

In late 2014 Lucas met with Hoodlum’s Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield, discovered they were developing a show about singles and they decided to team up.

By the time 10 greenlit the series four scripts had been written. When it came to hiring the other directors, series producer Pino Amenta recommended Fiona Banks, with whom he had collaborated on Wentworth. Lucas approached Corrie Chen after being impressed with her work on an episode of Sisters which he wrote.

Bartlett invited Mithila Gupta to join the writers room after co-writing an episode of Playing for Keeps with her.

Knowing the creators were keen to reflect diversity in the show, Gupta suggested that gay doctor Harry have an Indian mother, hence the casting of Roy Joseph as Harry and Kumud Merani as his mother Manju.

“Diverse characters and stories can’t be shoe-horned in during later stages of development. To present equality, diversity needs to be inherent in the idea and Five Bedrooms is such an exciting and successful example of this,” Gupta says.

Lucas found the show turned out in surprising ways, observing: “The kinship and generosity among the cast playing oddballs and misfits came across more powerfully than I expected. Also there is a lot of comedy, but it is subtle and nuanced.”

The network has shown its confidence in the show by funding development of a second series.