Rachel Griffiths to lead NZ dramedy ‘Madam’

Rachel Griffiths.

Rachel Griffiths has headed across the ditch to front the cast of Madam, a half-hour dramedy about a woman who starts an ethical brothel in small town New Zealand to provide for her family.

The series, which started shooting this week, is produced by Tavake and XYZ Films for Warner Bros. Discovery ANZ and Fifth Season. It will air in NZ on on ThreeNow and Three, with Fifth Season handling international sales. 

Madam is based on the unpublished memoir of Antonia Murphy, an American woman who was inspired by New Zealand’s decriminalisation of sex work and founded an escort agency built on a philosophy of protecting women’s legal rights, emotional wellbeing, and financial independence.

Griffiths stars as McKenzie ‘Mack’ Leigh, who starts the brothel when faced with a philandering husband and a mountain of debt.

Joining her in the ensemble are Rima Te Wiata, Danielle Cormack, Robbie Magasiva, Martin Henderson and newcomer Ariāna Osborne.

Shoshana McCallum, who won an International Emmy for NZ series Inside, and Harry McNaughton co-wrote the series and will act as showrunners on the production with set-up direction from Kacie Anning. Madeleine Sami will also direct. 

Tom Hern and Halaifonua Finau are executive producing for the Auckland-based Tavake, with Aumua Crystal Vaega on as co-executive producer and Belindalee Hope as producer. Nick Spicer, Aram Tertzakian and Marci Wiseman produce for XYZ. 

“We are excited to be bringing this remarkable story to life with a brilliant and eclectic cast and a massively talented bunch of creatives behind the scenes,” said Hern.

Madam sits perfectly within Tavake’s slate of content – it’s a unique, very human story with heart and humour and we are grateful to our partners and funders who are joining us on this ride.”

XYZ’s Wiseman adds: “We are committed to finding stories that are grounded in authentic characters and stories that are accessible globally. To co-produce this project with our partners Tavake in New Zealand is a prime example of how we are committed to expanding our independent studio model beyond film into the world of premium television.” 

Madam been supported by the Te Puna Kairangi Premium Productions for International Audiences Fund, NZ On Air, and the New Zealand Screen Production Rebate