Michelle Law Has Us Super Excited About Her New Show ‘Homecoming Queens’
"I always thought there should be a show about being sick when you’re young, now it’s actually happening!"
Michelle Law, writer, actor and all-round great (and hilarious) gal, has been pretty busy recently. Not only does she work on season one of SBS’s darling series The Family Law with her brother Benjamin Law, she’s also a performer and a successful playwright (her play Single Asian Female recently premiered to rave reviews). Now, some brilliant news: SBS has commissioned Law’s brand-new online series, Homecoming Queens, for release on SBS OnDemand.
Homecoming Queens, which is co-created with Law’s friend Chloë Reeson, follows two twentysomething women with chronic illnesses (played by Law and Top Of The Lake: China Girl‘s Liv Hewson) grappling with feelings of disconnection from people their own age. The comedy-drama, which has received investment from Screen Australia, Film Victoria and Screen Queensland, will be available on SBS OnDemand next year.
That is frankly agggeeeeessss to wait for something that sounds pretty amazing. So, to scratch the itch created by SBS’s announcement, we sat down with Law to get the skinny on the series and the infamous Law family.
Junkee: Congrats on Homecoming Queens! How did you feel when the news was first revealed?
When I found out it felt very surreal for me, that it was actually going ahead at last, because we’ve been working on it for several years already. So it had been in development for quite a while. So I guess to get SBS commissioning it was like… oh my god, it’s actually happening.
What’s the response been from the public since the announcement’s been made?
Super warm and super positive! It’s been really nice just seeing people tag each other in the post saying, “This is something that my friend should see”. It’s quite bizarre but really heartwarming.
That’s lovely. And what’s the genesis of Homecoming Queens? I know you’ve been working on it for quite a while, and it’s semi-autobiographical.
So it actually started several years ago now, because my friend Chloë and I, we’d sort of go to parties with people our age, who are in their mid-twenties, and sort of have this feeling of disconnection with them, and feeling like we were both stuck in this static state of being simultaneously old and young. Chloë had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her early twenties, and I have alopecia, which sort of comes and goes and I have no control over it. We bonded over this idea that we couldn’t really connect with people our age anymore.
It started during this conversation we had in her car when we’d escaped from this party quite early, and we were like: “There should be a show about being sick when you’re young… maybe one day we’ll make that show, hahaha!” And then fast-forward several years later and it’s actually happening.
How long have you been working on Homecoming Queens?
I can’t even remember, like, the first email. Maybe two or three years now? Sort of goes fast when you’re constantly redrafting and developing.
And how does it feel to write about and perform a version of yourself?
It’s actually quite a lot of fun. It is challenging at times to discern between the real me and the character me, and separate that in a writers’ room, when you’re discussing the character of the show and what she would do in this situation. Because it’s like: “Oh, but I wouldn’t do that in real life!” And you think, Well, what will people assume about me as a person? And it’s sort of just a constant reminder of how you have to do what’s best for the story and trust that people can make the distinction.
You live a lot of your life in the public eye. How does that feel, to have a lot of your life open to the public?
It’s not something that I think about too much because for me it’s sort of more an exercise of understanding myself more and how my experiences fit within a wider context.
And how do you feel Australia is going with representing more female and female voices of colour on TV?
I think t’s getting much better for women generally. And we can see that projects are getting made through really important initiatives like Screen Australia’s Gender Matters. I think for women of colour there’s still a bit of work to be done. And I think it’s notable that half of the creative team for Homecoming Queens are women of colour — Corrie Chen ( the series director) and I. And although we don’t really want to make a point of that by saying, “Look at this diverse team,” at the same time it’s like, “Yeah, good on us and other women of colour who are going out there and making work.
Do you feel any kind of pressure because you’re a rare voice who is a woman of colour that’s put forward in the media a lot, do you feel the pressure to be representative?
I don’t feel any pressure myself, but I’m certainly aware that that pressure exists. Like it definitely doesn’t influence my work or my creative approach to things, but I’m certainly aware that I am one of few voices out there like that. So there is this expectation that you can fill this gap that’s so gaping, that really needs to be filled by thousands of other projects. It sort of gives you leeway, I guess, to make projects that might be average, or that don’t quite hit the mark. There is this expectation that you’ve gotta make the work and it’s gotta be great straight away.
Your family… you guys are kind of a famous Aussie family now–
(Michelle breaks into laughter.)
You are! You are. So, what do you think makes your story so appealing to the public?
I think it’s sort of dipping into what makes each family individual but also how those experiences are quite universal. I guess with The Family Law, it’s looking at: yes, they’re a Chinese-Australian family, but at the same time they’re going through this incredibly universal experience of divorce and separation. And I suppose for Homecoming Queens, for example the character of Michelle, she’s this young woman going through alopecia, and that’s quite a unique experience, but at the same time she’s dealing with the universal issues of what it means to be a young woman, and body image issues.
So, what do you want people to get out of Homecoming Queens, now that there’s going to be a platform to watch it?
I think… a couple of things. But the most important thing for me is that it provides a point of connection for other people going through similar experiences, whether that be people with chronic illness, or young women, or young women living intersectional lives and feeling like they’re a bit less alone in the world. And also just offer people insight into a unique perspective that’s put forward in an authentic manner, from the perspectives of people who are living those lives… and to make people laugh!
Homecoming Queens will premiere on SBS OnDemand in 2018.
Matilda Dixon-Smith is a Junkee Staff Writer. She tweets at @mdixonsmith.