Michela De Rossi to lead Arcadia’s ‘While The Men Are Away’

Michela de Rossi

Italian star Michela De Rossi has taken up a central role in Arcadia’s 1940s-set While The Men Are Away, which has begun filming in Sydney.

She joins Matt Testro, Phoebe Grainer, and Jana Zvedeniuk in the lead cast for SBS’s queer revisionist dramedy about Two Women’s Land Army recruits from Sydney who arrive in the country and undergo a heady course in race relations, rural politics, spirituality, sex, and personal growth – oh, and farming.

De Rossi plays Francesca, an Italian immigrant struggling to run her husband’s farm after he seemingly enlists. Along with Gwen (Max McKenna) and Esther (Zvedeniuk), two somewhat naive city recruits of the Women’s Land Army, “Frankie” is talked to deliver the farm’s annual apple harvest, receiving help from Aboriginal farmhand Kathleen (Grainer), and conscientious objector Robert (Testro).

The supporting cast includes Googoorewon Knox, Sacha Horler, Tara Morice, Katrina Foster, Ella Scott Lynch, Rebecca Massey, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Evan Stanhope, Jing Xuan Chan, Warren Lee, and newcome Zavier Morris, as well as the previously announced Gemma Ward, Benedict Hardie, and Shaka Cook.

Phoebe Grainer, Jana Zvedeniuk, and Matt Testro.

Arcadia’s Alexandra Burke created the concept alongside Kim Wilson and Monica Zanetti, who will direct an episode. The scripts were written alongside Jada Alberts, Magda Wozniak, Enoch Mailangi, and Sam Icklow.

The series, which is producer Lisa Shaunessy’s first scripted series under Arcadia, received major production investment from Screen Australia and was financed in association with Screen NSW. Red Arrow is managing international sales.

Rounding out the creative team are DOP Meg White, production designer Alicia Clements, costume designer Nina Edwards, and hair and make-up designer Nadine Terens.

Wilson said she was “beyond thrilled” to have De Rossi on board.

“The character of Frankie is fiercely independent, intelligent, charming and complex,” she said.

“Michela delivers all of this, and so much more. She’s the perfect addition to a phenomenal cast.”

While The Men Are Away will premiere on SBS in 2023.