Acclaimed Aussie drama blooms again
Imagine a plant that could make anyone young again.
The idea of a botanical fountain of youth is the central premise of Stan's original Australian drama Bloom, which returns for a binge-worthy second season premiering over the Easter long weekend.
The award-winning series is set in the idyllic country town of Mullan where, a year after a devastating flood killed five locals, a mysterious new plant is discovered with the power to restore youth.
For former actor Gwen, a role shared by Jacki Weaver and Phoebe Tonkin, it's a lifeline to escape the early effects of Alzheimer's disease and reclaim her youthful body and mind.
But her husband Ray, played by Bryan Brown, is wary and for good reason. The so-called miracle plant is rare, has dangerous side effects and some are willing to kill for it.
"I just thought it was such an interesting idea. It's very simple, but there are some very big themes in it about youth, everlasting life and vitality, and what that means if you're in a relationship and the other person doesn't get to live forever," says Tonkin.
"Obviously with Jacki and Bryan being involved, as a package it seemed really exciting something that hasn't been done in Australia before … it's an opportunity to do something that is elevated while still feeing innately Australian."
Tonkin is best known for her breakthrough roles in the Aussie teen dramas H20: Just Add Water and Tomorrow, When the War Began.
The Sydney native is based in Los Angeles, where has starred in the hit supernatural TV dramas The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.
Bloom was a welcomed reason to return to home soil, with filming of season two wrapping in country Victoria just days before the region's devastating summer bushfires.
"A few more days we would have had to postpone; we were quite lucky," Tonkin says. "It's so nice to be able to work back home with familiar faces; there's a different energy.
"Now I'm back in LA and everyone in my industry is in lockdown. It's a bit of a strange time, but I'm sure as it (the coronavirus) gets contained life will relatively go back to normal. We're all looking forward to that."
In Bloom's new six-part season, time has passed since the events of season one and the plant has transformed; the experience and its side effects are far more severe.
"This time around the stakes are a little bit higher," Tonkin says. "Last time it didn't last for that long and Ray and Gwen were panicked tyring to find the berry. This time around the berries last indefinitely and it's about Gwen not having to live without Ray.
"If she is able to live forever, does she want to if she can't live forever with the person she loves?
"There's this aspect of contortion because these characters become addicts in a way. With Gwen, once she is rejuvenated her main focus is quite sweet. She wants her husband to be young as well, but when she's unable to do that she becomes a version of herself that Ray doesn't recognise. She's so desperate and compelled to find this berry for her husband it consumes her. There's always a darker side to any kind of magical thing."
With news of the miracle plant spreading, several new characters arrive in town - each with their own motives.
Anne Carter (Jacqueline McKenzie) - the former CEO of a biotech company - arrives with her young daughter and her friend's teenage son Luke (Ed Oxenbould) for a tree-change but it's only her cover story.
There's also Mullan's troubled new priest John Melvin (Toby Schmitz), who is trying hard to rally faith and is desperate for a miracle from God.
"We are very lucky to have a very solid cast this season," Tonkin says.
"I did (the SBS miniseries) Safe Harbour with Jacqueline and she's wonderful and so talented. Her character brings in the idea of recreating these berries in mass production, so it's not just for the people of Mullan to experience.
"She comes in to introduce the idea of science while Toby's character comes in with a religious point of view. It's a battle between science and faith."
The new season also stars Gary Sweet, Bella Heathcote, Jackson Heywood, Genevieve Morris, John Stanton and Anne Charleston.
All six episodes of Bloom season two are available to stream on Stan from Thursday, April 9.