When Drew Proffitt rang through for his interview last Wednesday at 4pm I was lucky enough to have the in-laws around
As I was running off down the hall to the study – like a school girl hosting her first sleep-over – to set up the iPad to record me and Drew talking to each other over the loud speaker of the iPhone, Reservoir Mother-In-Law was walking out the door with Archie and Lewis for swimming lessons and Reservoir-Father-In-Law was setting up with blocks and books and plasma TVs to cover the activities and madness of Tyson and Maki.
I was kid-free for the next 45 minutes!
And a lucky thing it was too because otherwise it would have been an unworkable disaster.
Drew is a legend and this interview was a real buzz. I kind of wish it had been a sleep-over instead of an interview. We could have watched The Goonies in our PJ’s and eaten popcorn until we were sick and made a pact to stay up all night together before falling asleep about 11pm.
Still, I’ll take what I can get. And the thing that I got was this –
On The Origins Of House Husbands
RD: G’day Drew. Thanks heaps for the interview.
Drew: That’s okay. I hope I make sense. I’ve had three coffees and the room is spinning.
RD: Is that all you’ve had? I’ve had twelve and some of this new brain stimulant I’ve been trialling.
RD: Right. So where did the idea for house husbands initially come from? Did you notice something happening on a grass roots level? Or was it a completely spontaneous idea?
Drew: It came form me being a freelance writer at the time and spending a lot of time at Marrickville Metro, which is like a suburban shopping centre in Sydney.
RD: Oh, like Northlands…
Drew: … yeah, so, one day as I was down there buying Sushi and I noticed there were a heaps of Dads around with their kids and it kinda got me thinking. Initially I thought a house husband would make a great character in a family drama but then I thought what if it was a show with four Dads, and each of them represented a different kind of family so a single dad family, a two dad family, a blended family and a nuclear family. So I called up Ellie Beaumont (co-creator) – because I was working on something else with her at the time and because she’s so talented and has so much experience with young children – and I kind of begged her to help me develop it and she agreed, thankfully, and we created the show from there. Ellie wrote the pilot and did an amazing job and everyone loved it and suddenly it was in production. It happened really, really fast.
RD: Were you surprised that Channel Nine were so enthusiastic about it? It’s a revolutionary idea…
Drew: Yeah, it’s different I guess because most successful relationship dramas in Australia so far have been mainly coming from the female point of view so in that way House Husbands was very new, and also the idea of gay Dads is something that hasn’t been done here before either. It was a big risk on Channel Nine’s part.
RD: It’s paid off…
Drew: It has. The idea of House Husbands is still new enough that it hasn’t been done to death yet in television but it’s not such an alien idea either. It’s still relatable to people because I think nowadays in many households the parenting is more equally shared than it used to be only a generation ago. So I think people can look at House Husbands and recognise their own families in it.
RD: I agree. In one of the episodes, season one, I was watching House Husbands with Reservoir Mum and Rhys Muldoon’s character, Mark, was dancing drunkenly in his daughter’s classroom and she turned to me and said, ‘Gee, Mark reminds me of you…’
On Stereotypes And Scripting
RD: There are still many people who think that to become a stay-at-home Dad you somehow have to become either feminised in some way, or that you’re ‘under the thumb’, or that you have to change your masculinity in some way but you haven’t done that with any of the characters. Something I really like about the show is how these four blokes are just themselves in the stay at home role. And I especially like what Lewis has gone through in season two because he’s probably the most stereotypical of the Dads, but the baby’s come into his life now, and there’s this more caring and nurturing side of him on display, but he hasn’t lost that gruff kind of masculinity that was a real engaging part of his personality.
Drew: Yeah, Ellie was really careful with the scripting of that and with working with the other writers that we always maintain the masculinity of the guys and to keep in mind that men do approach parenting slightly differently than women do. It’s kind of a second chance for Lewis in a way – or, I guess, a fourth chance for him – because he really wasn’t that actively involved in the early parenting of his three daughters. His grandkid gives him the chance to do what he maybe never wanted to do early on in his life. So it’s really nice to show other levels of Lewis in this series.
RD: And Gary Sweet’s the perfect actor to balance out those qualities?
Drew: Gary is such a great actor. You can give him anything and he’ll turn it in to gold. So we’re really lucky we’ve got him because in other hands you might not really see those levels as well, but because the scripts are so strong and Gary’s so great it’s all really working.
On Men, Women And Family Roles
RD: Last season, I thought you represented the working Mums really well. Early on when I became a stay-at-home Dad and Reservoir Mum started work full-time she was made to feel – on certain occasions – that she wasn’t such a good Mum because she wasn’t the one at home. It’s the sort of prejudice and stereotype that working women face. I thought that was conveyed really well through Abi. Was that something Ellie Beaumont had a lot of control over, being a working Mum with four kids?
Drew: Oh definitely. That’s something Ellie’s encountered a lot through her life but I think everyone can relate to that, I mean no matter what decision you make in life there’s always going to be people who think you’ve made the wrong one.
Drew: But I also think women are judged more harshly. If a man does more with the kids he’s often congratulated for being a great Dad but then no-one will question a man if he’s away from home for most of the day. There are different expectations, I think, which are quite unfair. Just because a father is seen hanging out with his kids he’s somehow considered this amazing super-dad who’s making an effort. But he’s just being a regular parent. This idea that a man who is looking after his own kids is ‘babysitting’ is just really weird.
RD: Yeah but there’s the other side to that as well. I get those comments and so do many Dads I know… someone will say to one of my boys ‘Oh, you’re having a day out with Dad are you?’ or to me ‘Oh, babysitting are we?’ and it can really cut to the bone because it can be a very indirect way of dismissing your commitment and of insinuating that you don’t really belong in the role… and that you’re not very good at it…
Drew: That’s right. They expect men to be hopeless.
RD (grabbing a tissue): Yes…
Drew: And we really try to avoid that in the show. I mean, obviously there are moments in the series we’re the men do stuff up, and there’s comedy in that, but we do try not to portray them as terrible fathers or complete buffoons.
On Men Developing Skills In A New Role
RD: I think I went in to series one fearing that it was going to revolve around the dumb, incompetent Dad stereotype being constantly chastised by the overbearing, eye-rolling Mum. So I think I was a tad over-critical about certain behaviours and characteristics. But as the series went on it occurred to me that what I was interpreting as a stereotype was more a reflection on the fact that I just didn’t know the characters that well. As I got to know them I could see how those behaviours were part of their personality or their level of experience.
Drew: Yeah and it was because the characters themselves were going on a journey as well. At the beginning of series one Justin and Lewis hadn’t been stay at home Dads for very long so they were going to make mistakes, it was part of their learning process. So as the series went on they got better and better at it and stuffed up less.
On His Personal Influence And Hopes For The Show
RD: So, we talked about parts of co-creator Ellie’s life going into the show through her experience as a working Mum. What about you has gone in to the show?
Drew: Well, I’m gay so I guess you could say I’m Kane but not quite Kane, I mean, I’m not that nice in real life and I can’t cook. But the characters of Tom and Kane and what they bring to the show is important to me because I think it’s important that every group of parents is represented in the show in some way. I think it sends a good message about gay parents and gay people in general, especially because the characters aren’t grappling with their sexuality; there’s no shame or anything brought into it; they’re just trying to get by like everyone else. I also like comedy so I bring a lot of comedy to the show as well.
On Art Reflecting Life
RD: I see House Husbands as another avenue to people talking about what a family is, how they can be structured and what men and women are capable of. The world’s changing rapidly and the options available to men and women are changing. There’s a discussion in many families now about who will work and who will stay at home, and the options around that discussion are growing.
Drew: Yeah, I’ve observed that just with my own family in that maybe the first year after the baby’s born the father is the main breadwinner and then it flips for a couple of years, and then flips back and it’s always open to change with what life presents and offers. There’s more democracy in relationships than there used to be in the past.
RD: This is really good. I’m enjoying it. To me this show is adding to something I’ve been seeing recently around the suburbs. On a grass roots level no one really raises an eyebrow that Dads are involved with the kids and having a more equal part to play in parenting. If you say ‘I am a stay at home Dad’ it’s still a little new but it’s no longer a strange thing to see a Dad pushing a pram, or ducking from work to pick up a child from school, or going to a child’s immunisation appointment, or sharing part-time work with his partner. The only place I see where there is still that clinging to stereotypes is in product manufacturing and advertising where they’re still putting Mums on all of the products and featuring Dads making mistakes on TV ads, requiring the efficient Mum to come in and mop up after them.
Drew: Yeah, there’s a massive hole in the market there isn’t there? It’s funny because I’ve found that advertising is usually a bit ahead of commercial television. I mean if you look at the casting in advertising they’re usually more multi-cultural than television shows. It’s weird that they haven’t picked up on the house husband thing yet. That might be a storyline for Mark to encounter in his work in series three.
On Julia Morris
RD: Okay, I’ve asked Rhys and Lily Jones this and now I’m asking you. Is Julia Morris really loud and crazy? You can be honest.
Drew: (laughing): She’s really lovely. Is she loud? I guess she can be loud. I mean she’s a performer so she’s very entertaining. She’s a massive asset to the show, I mean, apart from being a brilliant actor, she’s a great asset in other ways. She always brings such energy and humour to the set…
RD: Energy equals loud and humour equals crazy?
Drew: … she always boosts morale and is very close to all the crew. She’s just a real pleasure to have around and very entertaining. Sometimes she’ll come in to the office when you’re having a crap day and she’ll tell you some jokes and it’s like you’re watching a stand-up show and it’s just hilarious.
RD: I’ve seen a lot of her comedy work and I always got the impression that she must be full-on and so I’ve asked everyone I’ve met associated with House Husbands that same question and I was certain they’d all say, ‘yes, she’s totally loud and crazy!’ but so far everyone has responded in a way that makes me feel like a total dickhead.
Drew: She’s a very thoughtful and intelligent woman and she’s got lot lots going on. She’s a super impressive person. I like her a lot.
On Destroying My Illusions
RD: So you guys must be trawling my website every day just looking for ideas?
Drew: haha. Well, I haven’t seen it for a while…
RD: Aww, what?!
Drew: … and we didn’t steal your vasectomy idea, I promise you, because that was actually written before you…
RD: We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one.
A Glimpse Into The Future
RD: Do you have anything I can offer readers in regards to what might happen in future episodes of House Husbands.
Drew: There’s something coming up in episode thirteen, involving the ‘downstairs’ of one of the characters, so stay tuned for that.
RD: Wow. So something happens to one of the male character’s genitals?
Drew: Well, it’s not their genitals but it is downstairs related.
Drew: I can’t say too much because Ellie’s in the process of writing it now and I might giveaway something that doesn’t end up being in the script.
RD: This has been really cool, Drew. Thanks heaps.
Drew: It’s a pleasure.
Next week – An interview with Julia Morris!
I’ll put the question to her: ‘Are you crazy and loud?’ And see if I can persuade her to do a Housewok Time-saving vlog!