There’s nothing quite like having an Oscar-winning actor in your corner, or perhaps a star of one of the biggest TV Series of all time. In the case of Kick Gurry, creator, producer and actor in the forthcoming Stan Original Series “Caught,” the backing of Sean Penn and Matthew Fox has undoubtedly been a boon.
After Gurry shared an early teaser of the show crafted with friends in Australia, Penn’s reaction was music to his ears. As Gurry shared with Variety, “He said everyone’s afraid of stories right now and we have to be pushing forward with courage in storytelling.”
Indeed, the courage to tell bold, new stories has resulted in an audacious six-episode satirical comedy series slated to premiere later in 2023. The series boasts a formidable cast that Gurry describes as a “murderer’s row of talent.” Among them, Sean Penn, who also serves as an executive producer, Matthew Fox, Ben O’Toole, Lincoln Younes, Alexander England, Mel Jarnson, Fayssal Bazzi, Dorian Nkono, Rebecca Breeds, Bella Heathcote, Bryan Brown, and Erik Thomson. Gurry himself also stars, and further casting announcements are expected.
The series is commissioned by Stan, Australia’s leading homegrown streamer. It boasts close to 2.6 million active subscribers. Nine, who owns Stan, called out a “strong content period for Stan, particularly Stan Originals,” in its interim full year 2023 results in February.
Instrumental in bringing the show to screen was producer John Schwarz with his and Michael Schwarz’s company, Deeper Water Films, alongside Brendan Donohue and Gurry’s label, Little Bird Films. Cailah Scobie and Amanda Duthie executive produced for Stan.
“I have known Kick for years and when he brought this project to us, his passion and vision for what it could be was abundantly clear, it made setting the show up and then making it one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences. The show delivers on every front,” said John Schwarz.
Alongside Stan is Fremantle, which will handle global sales, and showcase the series at LA Screenings. It marks Fremantle’s continued push into English-language international scripted series in the U.K., Australia and Canada, across a broad gamut of titles, such as “Totally Completely Fine.”
The LA Screenings outing follows “a very successful London Screenings” said Jens Richter, CEO of Commercial and International at Fremantle, adding that it provides, “another opportunity to have more face time and focused meetings with international buyers, as well as a chance to connect with all of our U.S. partners.”
In “Caught,” Gurry explores themes of identity, fame, and the absurdity of the viral age. “Why can’t we comedically deconstruct the intellectual ideas that humanity is facing right now?” Gurry said, articulating his vision for the series.
The comedy follows four Australian soldiers on a covert mission in a war-torn country. Mistaken for Americans, they’re captured and produce a hostage video that achieves unexpected viral success, turning them into unlikely celebrities.
Gurry was acutely aware of the stakes in delivering a compelling script to his talented cast, particularly as many are friends he respects deeply.
“I really knew it needed to be the right thing and it took me a long time to get there,” he confessed. One of those friends, and star in the show, Matthew Fox told Variety of his reading the scripts with his wife, “we were just ploughing through these scripts, just laughing out loud. She would laugh and I’d be like, “Oh my God,” and I’m laughing and just ploughing through these scripts.”
This support from his co-collaborators is not lost on Gurry, “it’s really been a pretty special experience to have friends who are also your heroes. Standing with you on the front line of a battle to try and get something made is very special.” he said.
Fox’s enthusiasm for his role and having the chance to be on a comedic project is palpable. He describes his character with evident delight, stating, “there was a certain pocket, a certain place that I felt that character lived. And somehow or another I understood where the comedy would lie with him.”
Fox confessed that the greatest challenge during filming was “not laughing in the middle of the scenes.”
Looking back on his career, Fox acknowledged the intensity required, “it takes an enormous amount of energy to try to build a career in this business.” He recalled previous experiences being cast primarily in dramatic roles, “I’ve spent my whole career pretty much working in places of intensity that are emotional, very emotional, and oftentimes on sets that just feel so intense.”
This made the lightness and joy on the “Caught,” set all the more invigorating. Fox said, “And this was just one where there was non-stop laughter, both in the scenes and off the scenes… It was really awesome. Yeah, I want more of that.”
Stan producing shows with this level of global talent and ambitious international expectations is a shift in terms of opportunities for show runners, such as Gurry. Speaking of his trajectory back home, “I left Australia 20 years ago, because I thought Hollywood was a place I could go to explore really unique and original ideas. And ironically, it was going home where I found a place like Stan that would support that kind of thing… A lot of places were scared of the show, they didn’t quite understand what it was, saying ‘but is it funny,’ or ‘is it serious?’ ‘Is it heartbreaking?’ ‘Is it right?’”
Richter of Fremantle indicates the time may be right for more shows to come through in Australia. “‘C*A*U*G*H*T’ is one of a number of comedy dramas we are launching this year. For example, we’ll also be showcasing ‘Big Mood’ this week from award-winning team at Dancing Ledge, starring Nicola Coughlan and Lydia West.” He addded: “There’s definitely an appetite right now for these brilliant shows that use clever storytelling and world-class talent to take on the big questions in a fun and authentic way.”
Gurry shared his hope that “Caught,” could be a catalyst for a renaissance in Australian storytelling. He fondly recalled a time when Australian cinema was renowned for, “these wildly creative, courageous movies like “Muriel’s Wedding,” “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” “Strictly Ballroom,” even “Crocodile Dundee” to a certain extent, really bold, outrageous stories, and we sort of had our own brand in Australia” For Gurry, this is what Australia does best, “I think Australia has an ear for the outrageous like not many other countries do.”
With the upcoming “Caught,” Gurry aims to recapture that audacious spirit, and through it, inspire a new generation of bold Australian stories. “In the world of streaming now, Australia is capable of competing on a world scale,” he said. Stay tuned for the late 2023 premiere of “Caught,” a satirical blend of comedy, courage, and storytelling.