Roger Monk channels an Almodóvar classic in ‘The Unusual Suspects’

Roger Monk.

When screenwriter Roger Monk was offered a gig on the Aquarius Films/SBS crime caper The Unusual Suspects, he seized the opportunity to channel his favourite film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Tonally he saw similarities with Pedro Almodóvar’s Oscar-winning 1988 black comedy-drama about a woman who embarks on a strange journey to try to discover why lover suddenly left her without any explanation.

Set in Sydney’s affluent Eastern suburbs, The Unusual Suspects revolves around the theft of a $10 million necklace from self-made Filipino businesswoman Roxanne Waters’ home during her twins’ birthday party,

The suspects include including socialite Sara Beasley, whose life is crumbling fast, and her long-suffering nanny, Evie De La Rosa, a godmother of sorts for other Filipino domestic workers.

“The show is about female frenemies, disparate characters who come together through circumstance and become friends,” Monk tell IF.

Producers Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford hired Monk to work with lead writer Jessica Redenbach and Vonne Patiag when the key characters and plot lines had already been mapped out. Monk wrote the final episode and did some re-plotting with Redenbach.

Casting is underway led by casting director Kirsty McGregor, with Natalie Bailey as the set-up director and Melvin Montalban directing one episode in his TV debut.

Earlier this year Fielder and Staniford hired Monk to script Paradise, a true life romantic drama adapted from The Monthly article True Love in Nauru by Abdul Karim Hekmat. Rhys Graham is attached to direct the saga of two gay Iranians who met and fell in love in the detention centre.

Jessica Redenbach with Roger Monk.

He thinks they reached out to him because of his first feature credit, Tony Ayres’ Walking on Water. The 2002 drama starred Vince Colosimo and Maria Theodorakis as friends who fall out after a close mate dies from AIDS.

Aquarius is developing Paradise with Tine Klint’s LevelK, continuing a relationship that started on Wish You Were Here. Monk is collaborating with Hekmat as a story consultant and has become close to the two men at the centre of the story.

“It’s about forbidden love and finding love in the most extreme situation,” he says. “No one was their friend on that island. Everyone was homophobic and they were attacked constantly. But there is a happy ending, which I won’t reveal.”

The writer’s career is flourishing as he’s just finished writing a teen horror series for Singapore-based Beach House Pictures. His recent credits include Itch, script editor on The Strange Chores and the feature doc The Coming Back Out Ball Movie

Earlier he worked on such shows as Nowhere Boys, Dance Academy, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Secret Life of Us and East of Everything.

Screen NSW has given him development funding for Mortal Coil, a dark, half-hour comedy which he is setting up with an unnamed production company before pitching to streamers.

The plot follows a couple – both adrenaline junkies – who inadvertently start a euthanasia business to pay for expensive IVF treatment.

He’s script editing The C Word, a TV comedy drama in development at Continuance Pictures, which follows Siobhan, a 20-something, aspiring poet, who is searching for her place in the world and tells a terrible lie that will change her life forever.

Also he’s attached as the showrunner on Tiger Bayu, a 52 x 10′ action animated series in development at Jakarta-based Viva Fantasia Animation, mentoring emerging Indonesian writers and animators. It’s about a schoolboy who is transformed into a knight and protects a sacred gem from tyrants.