Frances O’Connor, Harriet Walter to star in Foxtel drama ‘The End’

Frances O’Connor. 

Frances O’Connor (The Missing, Mr Selfridge) and Harriet Walter (The Crown, Succession) will star in The End, a 10-part drama co-commissioned by Foxtel and Sky UK.

As first reported by IF, See-Saw Films will produce the series created and written by Samantha Strauss, with shooting starting next month on the Gold Coast, supported by Screen Queensland.

The set-up director is the US-based Aussie Jessica M. Thompson, who made her feature directing debut with The Light of the Moon, which had its world premiere at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival in 2017, where it won the audience award for best narrative feature and was acquired by Amazon Video Direct. Jonathan Brough (Rosehaven) will also direct.

Produced by Louise Smith and Carol Hughes, the series will air on Foxtel’s rebranded Fox Showcase, Sky Atlantic and streaming service Now TV in the UK and Ireland next year. Endeavor is handling the rights in the rest of the world.

The plot follows three generations of a family with separate but intersecting obsessions – trying to figure out how to die with dignity, live with none and make it count.

O’Connor will play Dr Kate Brennan, a senior registrar specialising in palliative care who is strenuously opposed to euthanasia. On the other side of the world, her mother Edie Henley (Walter) is just as passionate about her right to die. Kate has little choice but to bring Edie out from England and place her in a nearby retirement village – Edie’s worst nightmare.

Meanwhile Kate’s children played by Morgana Davies (Devil’s Playground) and Ingrid Torelli (Matilda) are trying to work out who they are and who they want to be. The narrative follows Kate and Edie’s stumbling, fractious journey towards rebuilding their relationship, involving ethics and emotion and positing that it is never too late to start again.

The cast includes Noni Hazlehurst, Robyn Nevin, Luke Arnold, John Waters, Alex Dimitriades and Roy Billing. “I play a retired philosophy professor who is starting to suffer from dementia and is not at all happy about it,” says Billing, adding that Strauss’ scripts are among the best he’s read in a long time. The DOP is Garry Phillips and Anousha Zarkesh is the casting director.

Commenting on its first co-commission with Sky UK, Foxtel head of drama Penny Win said: “The End will present a universal story that affects us all, with Sam Strauss’s beautiful storytelling being brought to life by an exceptionally talented cast and crew.”

The UK-based O’Connor said: “It’s thrilling to be returning home to Australia to be part of such an original series and to be playing a character as complex, interesting and conflicted as Dr Kate Brennan.”

Strauss said: “So often we shy away from death and try to sanitise it, pretend it’s never going to happen. This series aims to do the opposite. As our characters figure out how to die, they’re really grappling with how they’ve lived and what they’re going to do with the time they have left. No one’s perfect in this family but they love each other for their flaws and hopefully audiences will too.”

Strauss co-created the hit teen drama Dance Academy with Werner Film Productions’ Joanna Werner and wrote Jeffrey Walker’s Dance Academy: The Movie. Her writing credits include the FremantleMedia Australia telemovie Mary: The Making of a Princess and episodes of Playmaker Media’s The Wrong Girl and See-Saw Films’ The New Legends of Monkey.

See-Saw executive producer Rachel Gardner said: “It’s rare to see the complexities of life for middle-aged and older women depicted on screen but Sam Strauss has created just that with a group of characters with trials and tribulations that will resonate for all ages.”

Liz Lewin, Sky’s executive producer, added: “Thought-provoking, darkly comic and full of heart, the show dives into provocative topics with unflinching honesty. The wonderfully complex characters will make you laugh, cry and question how you want to live… and die.”