INTERVIEW | Shaun Micallef on politics, John Clarke and THE EX-PM

Andrew Dugdale (Micallef) & Hank Coates (Clarke)
Image - ABC

The state of Australian politics is laughable.  And Shaun Micallef wouldn’t have it any other way.

Season two of The EX-PM premieres tonight on the ABC, with Micallef back as Andrew Dugdale: the former Prime Minister, who’s looking to make a political comeback.

In what is a bit of life imitating art-imitating life, Micallef says it’s hard not to draw inspiration from real-life events that dominate the news cycle.

But don’t expect to see the political intrigue of something like House of Cards or even a sharp political comedy like Veep. With the Australian political scene as its inspiration, The Ex-PM is in a world of its own.

“I think, probably for me, it is more laughable and doesn’t seem like a ‘real’ version of politics.  It’s sort of bit second-rate, the stakes just don’t feel that high here, which sort of lends it to being a bit ‘burlesque’.
“In a way, The Ex-PM reflects the perilous situation our present government is in, where they really can’t afford to lose anybody or a seat.
"It’s very, very interesting in a sort of sad way. So, I liked the idea of Dugdale running again.  And Abbott has been the real petrol for this engine, I think.  Just watching him and watching the way he operates”.

The ensemble cast has found its feet in season two and what elevates the story line is the late and great John Clarke.

He plays Henry ‘Hank’ Coates; the shadowy ‘puller of strings’ who draws Dugdale back into the political spotlight.

Sadly, the 68 year old passed away soon after filming was completed.  It’s a loss felt deeply by Micallef.

“It was great working with him the first time around, but it was especially pleasurable the second time around because he spent more time with us”.
"He took his ‘normal’ character that we knew from the Clarke and Dawes dialogues and shaded it a bit more darkly. That involves a bit of ‘acting’ and John was a very good actor.
“In this one, we get to see a little bit more of that and I’m so pleased we can do that, given that he’s no longer with us.  I’m just so pleased that I got to work with him as intensely as we did”.

The Ex-PM season two premieres tonight 8.30pm on ABC.