In the opening scene of Bloom, Stan’s newest original Australian drama, there’s a sequence that involves Ryan Corr doing a rambunctious nudie run through a country town as he tries to escape a cop.
It goes for a few minutes, and it sets the tone for Corr’s mysterious character in this series with a supernatural twist. It was also a scene that Corr watched the first time with a room full of about 100 strangers at the Sydney premiere of Bloom in late November.
“Well that was certainly something to watch, wasn’t it? Sorry, Mum,” Corr, 29, jokes during the press day the morning after, where he’s doing interviews alongside co-star Phoebe Tonkin.
“That’s me the whole time,” he says with a laugh during a chat with 9Honey Celebrity. Despite the awkwardness of running stark naked in front of cast and crew — save for “your stuff in a beige bag that ties at the top and tape between your bottom, so you look like a Ken doll” — Corr recalls shooting the scene as “a lot of fun.”
“It’s an unusual thing to do but I think everyone sort of embraces the funness of it,” he says. “It’s the same as doing sex scenes — they’re almost choreographed and there’s a lot of respect dealt around that. You can really feel the crew supporting you when you’re doing anything like that.”
But it wasn’t all nudie runs and sex scenes on the Bloom shoot for Corr, which took place across various locations in Victoria in 2018. For the most part, Corr plays the one of the local people in a small country town with a big secret: he’s not who people think he is, because he’s the younger version of someone and has been restored to his youth.
In Bloom, an Australian town is ravaged by a devastating flood that claims the lives of five locals.
A year later, a mysterious new plant is discovered and it has the ability to restore youth — a superpower that changes the lives of some of the town’s inhabitants, causing them to “re-evaluate everything that’s important.” Some will even kill to keep the plant’s powers secret from everyone else.
Corr and Tonkin, 29, play two of the inhabitants who experience the power of the plant.
“Sam is a criminal returned to his youth, and he’s doubling down on all the bad things that he’s done, because he realises once he’s got to there that he hasn’t been punished for them, he doesn’t believe there’s any sense of consequence,” Corr explains of his role. “He’s very irresponsible, he’s dealing with a lot of shame and guilt for abandoning his child, essentially, and I think he manifests that in violent ways. He’s like a sprung coil.”
Tonkin plays young Gwen Reed, a former Australian actress who’s married to Ray (Bryan Brown) suffers from Alzheimer’s in the present day (played by Jacki Weaver). Ray will do anything he can to help the wife he loves so dearly, so when he discovers the power of the plant he sneaks some to her at the care facility in the hope of bringing back her youth, vitality, and most importantly to him, her memory.
The young Gwen who returns is not exactly what Ray envisaged, Phoebe teases.
“Gwen is, or was, a very successful Australian actress, who had a wonderful life and a wonderful husband, but she never had a child, which was something that she always wanted to have,” Tonkin tells 9Honey Celebrity. “What was cool about these characters, which we haven’t really spoken about a lot, is even though they’re the younger versions, in my case with Gwen, she’s younger but something’s off-kilter about her.”
“It’s like Dr Frankenstein: Who did I bring back to life? Was it my wife when she was younger? Or is it some sort of other supernatural being that I don’t really understand or can control anymore? And that was really fun to play.”
Another aspect of sharing roles with other people meant workshopping how each actor would portray the character, but according to Corr there was “surprisingly little” collaboration because “the tail three episodes weren’t even written by the time we started shooting the first. Sometimes we’d even be shooting when some of the older characters were cast.”
Corr did get to spend a few hours at the start with Rod Mullinar, who plays the older version of his character, Sam. “Briefly Rod and I spoke about the things we could carry over, some physicality we could match, or some vocality,” he recalls. “And you’re hardly on set together because you’re playing the same person, but other than that it’s just conversation: ‘How did that scene go the other day?’”
For Tonkin, finding the time with Oscar nominee Weaver was trickier because she wasn’t on set for very long. “I was watching a lot of interviews with Jack, especially when she was younger, stuff that I could find on YouTube, just so I could see how she spoke,” Tonkin says. “But she kind of did the reverse. When she got to Melbourne she came on set and had lunch with me, and sort of watched how I talked. We weren’t necessarily trying to find something in the middle, because when we meet her she’s suffering from dementia, so she’s not a reflection of what she was when she was younger. She’s unwell, so it’s a different side of her than she would have been.”
One thing is clear when chatting to Corr and Tonkin about Bloom is how much they loved working on it and how excited they are for people to see it.
“We knew that it was a tone that was very specific that had to be hit, and we were hoping — like everyone that was a part of it — that it would land. And we felt like it did. We turned away and said, ‘I want to watch the second ep.’ And I think it’s really interesting,” Corr says of watching the premiere episode with a crowd.
The sentiment is echoed by Tonkin: “I’m super proud of this one.”
Bloom, a six-part drama series, drops on Stan on New Year’s Day.