Hunter Page-Lochard is a Cleverman dreaming
CULTURE, media and the supernatural all collide in the ABC's groundbreaking new series Cleverman.
The drama, which boasts a talented, mostly indigenous cast, interprets Dreaming stories in an exciting new way in the sci-fi genre.
In a dystopian world set in the not-so-distant future, Australia is facing a new border protection crisis as the government and society struggle to deal with a newly-discovered species of 'hairypeople' who have been living among us undetected for thousands of years.
Many of these hairies live alongside Aboriginals in a walled community known as the zone and their movements are restricted, supposedly for the wider public's safety.
Production designer Jacob Nash (of Bangarra Dance Company) brings the hairypeople, inspired by the stories of the Gamilaraay and Bundjalung people of Northern NSW, to life with the help of Wellington's acclaimed Weta Workshop.
The show's namesake, the Cleverman, is an Aboriginal leader whose special powers and responsibilities are passed from generation to generation.
"In the tradition he's a conduit between The Dreaming and the real world," Hunter Page-Lochard tells The Guide.
"He's a bridge between the spirit and the real. I think that's a metaphor for what we need right now as a society with all the obstacles and problems we face, whether it be asylum seekers or the stolen generation."
But when the Cleverman title is passed on to Lochard's character Koen, a young man estranged from his family and the Aboriginal community, it is unclear if he will be up to the task.
"He left the zone and found a life for himself by himself," he says.
"He's lost but he's a proud person.
"When he's given this responsibility it calls for him to be someone who's completely opposite to what he is.
"In the human world, the Cleverman brings balance and peace, but on a deeper character level it's someone who's at peace with himself."
The Cleverman is an indigenous superhero of sorts, so it's surprising that Lochard was initially reluctant to take on the role.
"I went for another role first," he says.
"To be honest, I just didn't think I looked like Koen, but I guess I was wrong.
"That whole process of jumping ship to a different character made me delve into the script a little bit more and then I saw it for what it was and it blew my mind."
The Australian-New Zealand co-production will premiere on Thursday on the ABC and in the US on Sundance TV. It will also screen on BBC3 in the UK.
"It's been quite a build-up. I'm quite overwhelmed and excited as well, I mean, an 80 percent indigenous cast is getting a viewing the (United) States," Lochard says.
"Everyone's been saying it and I don't want to be a broken record but we need more of this on Australian television, not just the indigenous aspect but the genre as well."
Cleverman also stars Deborah Mailman, Iain Glen, Frances O'Connor, Ryan Corr, Rob Collins, Stef Dawson, Rarriwuy Hick, Tasma Walton, Jack Charles and Tysan Towney.
Cleverman premieres on Thursday at 9.30pm on ABC1.