TVNZ's new family drama The Cul de Sac to ramp up Kiwi sci-fi scene
The corridors are empty. It's dark and far too quiet as footsteps fade in the stairwells.
Down the hall, tents are tied to staircase railings and ceiling beams, clothes are strewn everywhere, and a silver tin sits empty on a small cooker.
Only one person speaks and all other eyes are fixed upon him, a lone figure in the only beam of light coming down in the centre of the room.
His name is Doni. He wears a long black trench coat and an air of authority and this is his domain.
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He's still only a teenager, but he has his dad's keys to the local high school.
So when all the kids of the world wake up one morning to find the adults gone and something more sinister roaming the world in their place, the high school becomes a safe haven.
This where the teenage stars of upcoming Kiwi teen drama, The Cul de Sac, all gather.
The television series follows two major sci-fi tropes and mixes them together with some Kiwi flavouring: a world with no adults meets what sounds like an alien invasion.
The details are still unclear; no one involved with the production is giving too much away but there are "creatures" which the kids are constantly on the run from, and the stakes are high.
The whole thing is so under wraps that actor Amanda Billing (Shortland Street, Find Me a Maori Bride) can barely tell us anything about her character, and her character isn't even one of the main ones.
"It's tricky because my entire character is kind of a spoiler," she says.
"She disappears like all the other adults and when she comes back she's a bit different from what all the kids expect her to be, she's a bit strange. They realise it's not like it used to be but they're not sure why."
But that's about all she can say because "there's a mysterious element to it" and she doesn't want the audience finding out anything they shouldn't.
The one thing she does want you do know is that you've never seen anything like The Cul de Sac before.
"It reminded me a bit of the 80s which to me, was a bit like the glory days of Kiwi family drama. Things like Under the Mountain and Children of the Dog Star, and I really enjoyed how they were a bit low-fi but good stories, great characters and really compelling, gritty New Zealand stuff," she says.
"I'm just really looking forward to teenagers being able to see themselves. I think that's awesome and it's about time. Young people are such consumers of the screen these days...if you're making stuff in their voice, Kiwi accents on screen, strong, interesting quirky Kiwis just like them, that's quite cool."
And that's exactly what this is. It's a Kiwi setting, Kiwi characters and actors, Kiwi accents, language, humour and relationships.
The high school is set in the Albany Senior High School; tents were pitched in an open-plan study room and extras were volunteers from the school's drama class.
And both on screen and off, it's the young people who have the run of things.
BRIGHT YOUNG STARS
Greta Gregory, who plays the series' main character Rose, says it was refreshing to work with the school students.
"Albany Senior High School is such an amazing school, it kind of sets the world I guess, how it starts turning into this kind of cult hub," she says.
"All the extras had all volunteered to come and do it, so they were all pretty ambitious young actors as well. It's so cool to work with people that aren't just coming on board because it's a job, it's people who are like really into it and really keen to throw mud on themselves and get into it."
And when she talks about throwing mud, she means it literally.
These guys got stuck in, getting dirty and jumping through hoops - or rather, over fences - and even spending a few days in the North Head tunnels.
"It was a really fun and collaborative process. Things weren't completely set in stone so if you wanted to have a conversation about what your character was saying, the director was so open to changing a few things here and there to further the story," she says.
"That and adding a few funny, lighthearted moments that some of the boys would dream up as they were going along - KJ and Beulah were a lot of fun to work with because they like to set each other off, because they've known each other for a little while."
She speaks of her co-stars KJ Apa and Beulah Koale with the utmost admiration, saying it's incredible to work with actors who "are absolutely on the cusp of greatness".
Apa recently starred in Dreamworks film A Dog's Purpose, and landed the role of Archie in a screen adaptation of the Archie comics.
And Koale just landed a role in an upcoming Hollywood production called Thank You For Your Service, in which he will star alongside the Bafta nominated Miles Teller.
"It's so exciting to work with people who are about to go and do great things. I think those two are absolutely ones to watch," says Gregory.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
Back home though, Apa and Koale star as Jack and Lucas in the show, the other two points in a classic love triangle with Rose.
Well, it's just "the sniff of a love triangle" if you ask Gregory, but the way Apa explains it there's no denying the potential for teenage angst.
"[Jack] doesn't have that many friends...but the stuff that happens in The Cul de Sac brings him closer to Rose, who he kind of has a little crush on. But Lucas comes in and kind of takes that away from him so there's a little bit of rivalry there," explains Apa.
Coming from Shortland Street (where he played Kane Jenkins), Apa is at home with the drama but says it was "refreshing" to work on something "completely out of this world".
He even convinced the less-than-keen producers to let him do his own stunts.
"It was a lot of...I guess you could say flipping? Not really because I can't really do flips but it sounds better than jumping around. It's hard to explain, but stuff that you'd usually expect a stuntie to do," he laughs.
He wasn't the only one; Gregory found herself jumping fences and hanging from ladders, and even Billing ran her body into the ground running around - in heels - for days.
For all of them, the fact that the show offered something so different was the very reason they took part.
"I was like hell yeah, when do you ever get this kind of show in New Zealand? So I really wanted it," says Gregory.
"It's a strong female lead who is not conventional and - I guess you grow to like her but - she's not immediately likeable and she has flaws like everyone else and is stubborn like a lot of people, and with that she's very loyal and protective of her family and that's what drives her."
The characters are relatable, they say, even if the story isn't.
"The story I think is really weird, but at the same time it's quite cool. When I first read the script I didn't know what to expect because it was so different, but as we went on to film...I think it's definitely aimed to teenagers as a target audience but you can definitely sit down and watch it with your whole family," says Apa.
"No one's ever seen anything like this before from a New Zealand production."
The Cul-de-Sac premieres tonight, April 3 on TV2 at 6pm.