Rebecca Gibney’s thriller Wanted is heading for our hills

by Russell Baillie / 20 November, 2017

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Wanted.

It was 800 Words starring expatriate Kiwi Erik Thomson – aka Australia’s favourite TV dad from his days on hit show Packed to the Rafters – that pulled off the trick of setting a prime-time Oz show in New Zealand. But now Rebecca Gibney, the former Julie Rafter who also got her start in acting on this side of the Tasman, has followed suit.

The second series of Wanted (TV3, Monday, 8.30pm), the action thriller series she created with husband Richard Bell and also stars in, spends most of its six episodes haring around Central Otago, having spent most of its 2016 first season haring around the Australian outback.

The first series paired Lola (Gibney) and Chelsea (Geraldine Hakewill) as two strangers kidnapped then forced to go on the lam in the Queensland hinterland. They were chased by crooks and corrupt cops, while harbouring a few secrets of their own.

The odd couple – Lola being a brassy fortysomething checkout operator, Chelsea an uptight twentysomething accountant – survived right to the end, still holding on to a pile of the villains’ cash and a key card. But then came the cliffhanger: Lola’s son was being held hostage in Bangkok.

“Season one was all about the two women being on the run from the bad guys, whereas season two is about Lola protecting her family – how far will a mother go to save her son? The hunted have become the hunters – it’s a very different story,” says Gibney.

The first episode of the new series has the two women heading to Thailand. As well as trying to rescue Lola’s son, they discover a clue that sends them jetting to another exotic locale: Dunedin.

Then it’s off to Central Otago. Cue a body falling from the Skippers Canyon bridge sans bungy; gunfights in tussock country; foot chases across bridges on the Taieri Gorge Railway; police car chases that look as if the Pork Pie movie may have hung a right at Alexandra.

Along with the familiar geography, there are many recognisable faces in the New Zealand supporting cast. Pork Pie star Dean O’Gorman plays Will, a local hunter who gets involved with Chelsea and whose high-country skills may come in handy.

Elsewhere, Kirk Torrance plays a local and Lola’s ex, plus Elizabeth Hawthorne appears as Will’s mother and Peter Feeney as Chelsea’s father. Matthew Sunderland plays a hitman chasing the women from the markets of Bangkok to the forests of Glenorchy. How persistent.

The show’s New Zealand connections extend to those calling the shots behind the camera. Directing the first three episodes was Robert Sarkies, who cast Sunderland as David Gray in Out of the Blue, his 2006 feature about the Aramoana massacre.

Levin-born Gibney enjoyed the area so much, she and her family decided to stay. She, Bell and their son now live in Queenstown and commute to Australia for work.

The second season of the show starts in New Zealand on the day Gibney and Bell will be in New York to hear whether season one of Wanted has won the International Emmy Award for best drama series.

This article was first published in the November 18, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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