MDMA, ‘Mad Max’ And Pissed Mattresses: Behind The Scenes Of Matt Okine’s ‘The Other Guy’
Briggs had a lot of fun punching Matt Okine in the face.
“So the scene today, what’s happened is my character has just broken up with his girlfriend, and the first person that he’s kind of been with since his girlfriend, they’ve both woken up, and one of them has pissed the bed.”
I’m on the set of Stan’s newest locally produced comedy show, The Other Guy, starring Matt Okine. We’re in a Sydney shopping centre, and after watching a few different scenes of the series’ first episode being shot I’ve pieced together the plot… kind of. I know it has something to do with a mattress and an ecstasy pill, but I need Okine to explain what the hell is actually going on.
“It’s actually my character AJ’s ex-girlfriend’s mattress,” he tells me. “My character doesn’t want to admit that he was the one who pissed, so she’s like, ‘If this isn’t your piss, you have to buy me a new mattress’. So, he goes on into this spree of finding a new mattress.”
To complicate the situation further, AJ’s best friend and mattress shopping buddy Stevie, played by Harriet Dyer (Love Child, No Activity), has decided to take MDMA before heading out to the store.
It’s a very funny set-up because it’s simultaneously absurd yet somehow still relatable. And no, this isn’t me admitting I’ve pissed on a mattress in my sleep.
Even though the show’s premise is based on Okine’s actual experiences, the wildest parts of The Other Guy are a “fictionalised version of anything that’s ever happened to me personally” Okine tells me.
“I mean, really the only things that are true to my life personally, was the core event that kick-starts the whole show. And, the rest of it… I realised pretty early on that real life is not as interesting as TV. You can’t rely on reality to run your storylines. So yeah, it was really exciting all of a sudden to be able to go anywhere with the stories, and make really amazing characters that stand out off the page and on the screen, and really become their own.
“It’s kind of been fun to be able to imagine it bigger and weirder and wilder than it ever was.”
From Love Child To The Other Guy
While AJ is the show’s central character, there’s a solid supporting cast throughout the series including The Feed’s Michael Hing, rapper Adam Briggs and Dyer.
The relationship between AJ and Dyer’s character Stevie is one of the most consistent parts of the entire series, whereas some of the other characters tend to drop in and out.
“The first four episodes particularly are a lot like a kind of buddy comedy, like just two friends getting through the world,” Dyer explains. “AJ’s obviously just gone through a massive breakup, which I was witness to. I’ve known him since his character’s mum passed away, like, I think maybe a 15 year friendship or something crazy and it’s just totally platonic. It’s a really great character for a woman because so often it’s a romantic situation.”
According to Dyer it’s rare to see to this kind of dynamic on Australian TV. “Friendships are normally of the same gender, but this one, it’s like I just literally play his best guy friend except I’m a woman,” she says.
Dyer says playing Stevie came naturally and a lot of the character’s voice and identity is based on her own personality and background. But does that include being high on MDMA in a mattress shop?
“I’ve not gotten high in a mattress shop before, but I wouldn’t rule it out. And, you know, I wouldn’t judge those who are.”
The Mad Max Connection
A significant amount of the show takes place at AJ’s workplace, the fictional Fade FM radio station. Those scenes were filmed at Sydney’s FBi Radio, and even though it’s an actual radio station the producers still brought in the production big guns, including a props guy from Mad Max: Fury Road.
“He was telling a story about how he’s been in Namibia working on Mad Max, and I was like wow they put the Mad Max prop guy on this thing,” Hing, who plays AJ’s radio colleague Sam. “Then I was thinking to myself, how good could a props guy be? Obviously, in Mad Max he’s got to make guitar that spits fire or whatever. But here it’s like I’m watching him go around the radio studio where we’re shooting. He’s got photos of how we set it up the last day. He’s putting the chip bag in the exact same spot. He’s measuring the level of the Powerade bottles, filling it up exact.
“Everyone on this production who I’ve worked with has been that level of detail, that level of professionalism.”
Okine and Hing have known each other for nearly a decade, which has its pros and cons when it comes to shooting.
“There was one point where we’d been shooting for 11 hours and we have to do an hour just at the end,” Hing tells me. “It was like, basically, hey just do a fake radio show for an hour, and we’re just gonna record it and put it up. I was like, man if I had to do this with literally anyone else it would have been a fucking nightmare.”
But it’s not always easy, especially on a show with a quick production time like The Other Guy. The entire series was shot in just four weeks, and according to Okine most scenes had to be done in two takes. That kind of time pressure can lead to some tension and awkward moments, especially when some of the cast know each other quite well.
“When you’re, for example, screaming at someone because you’re angry, your character’s angry at them, you’re still physically yelling at someone,” Hing says. “I think, sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh I don’t want to yell at my friend Matt.'”
“Then, part of you is like ‘Yeah I gotta fucking yell at Matt’. That’s cool. I got to scream at my friend Matt.”
“I’ve Broken Matt’s Balls For Years”
The person having the most fun on set, at least today, is Briggs.
The character he’s playing, Dog Murphy, is “an amalgamation of all Matt’s online trolls, which I was definitely a part of in real life anyway” he says, laughing. “I’m his nemesis. I’m the source of his anxiety, his insecurities. Like real life.”
When I ask Briggs if his storyline relates at all the MDMA/mattress situation he replies, “No, I was here to punch Matt in the face today. Just living my dreams dog, you know what I mean. Just living my dreams.”
Online trolls are something Briggs has to deal with himself, so I ask him how he, personally, deals with the kind of thing his character is dishing out.
“I think it’s the nature of having a public position in this day and age,” he says. “You’re open and susceptible to so many onslaughts of opinions of people who wouldn’t necessarily have the avenues to release their opinions. If you take it on board it’s bound to mess with you. It’s one of the things I’ve dealt with in my own career as well. I don’t take good or bad, I don’t take either.”
A New Benchmark In Australian TV?
All of the cast members I spoke to were keen to give Stan kudos for green-lighting a show like The Other Guy that tells real Australian stories and manages to feature a range of characters that look and sound like real people in inner-city Sydney, where most of the series is set.
“I think it’s just real, you know what I mean,” Briggs tells me. “You’re surrounded by different cultures. Especially if you move in our circle… that’s what you’re surrounded by. That’s the palette that needs to be addressed as well in Australian TV.”
Because shows that feature genuinely diverse casts are so unique on Australian TV, there’s a risk The Other Guy gets typecast as a show about diversity, as opposed to something that just happens to feature it, because that’s how Okine’s lived his life.
“It’s like when people talk about Home and Away it’s all white people, but no one ever goes ‘this is a great show about the white experience’. But, if you’re a person of colour and you do anything, you’re representative then of all that thing,” Hing explains.
“This is a show that involves elements of the fact that Matt isn’t white, because they’ve not written around that. He is that character, AJ.”
The Other Guy is streaming on Stan now.