More Than This is a six-episode series following five diverse Year 12 students; Charlotte, Alex, Zali, Jamie and Leon and their teacher Mr E, who are thrown together in an English extension class together. In an authentically raw and true tone, More Than This explores the contemporary global issues surrounding teen life that is identity and belonging, gender identity and sexuality, relationships, family and academic pressures and taking risks.
The Making Of More Than This
Creator, writer, and lead actor Olivia Deeble first had the idea for More Than This after completing a pilot season in the US. After playing the same schoolgirl stereotype over and over in auditions, she was desperate to see a story with characters that truly represented a teen life like hers and her peers; a series that does not depict teenagers' lives as a Hollywood fantasy but rather portrays the raw emotions and challenges this generation are facing in an authentic and empathetic way.
More Than This was written by Olivia when she was 17 years old. It is a show that is always from the teenagers’ point of view and is not an adult exercise in objectifying youth. While developing the series, Olivia took the idea to her childhood best friend, non-binary student filmmaker and actor Luka Gracie. Luka loved the idea and gave the feedback that the series must have a non-binary character and other LGBTQI+ characters. Luka joined the series as co-creator of LGBTQI+ characters, helped develop these characters and also took on the role of Jamie.
As creators, Olivia and Luka wanted to make sure the series represents a diverse mix of real-life teen characters and featured talented, young teen actors, and NOT have much older actors playing the lives of high school students. This desire for authenticity and a belief that it was completely viable for a teenager to make a series about teenagers, has driven Olivia to create stories that are told in the most honest and engaging way possible. Olivia wanted the audience to be able to see themselves and their friends in the characters on screen.
Charlotte is 17, streetwise, strong, and wary. She is the breadwinner in her family and often has to look after her alcoholic father, all while completing her final year of high school. Charlotte knows it is important to get an education and believes she could do well if she could escape the drama of high school and the challenges of her home life. She has a desire to move out and get on with her life ASAP. One of the only good things about school for Charlotte is her best friend Alex.
Alex is 19, commonly misunderstood and mostly keeps to himself. He is repeating year 12 after dropping out last year. He has suffered from epilepsy since early childhood, which has driven his worried, loving, hippy mother to try everything ‘natural’ under the sun to help him. He has trouble concentrating and suffers from anxiety. He keeps stress and his seizures at bay by self-medicating with marijuana. If anyone took the extra effort to get to know him, they would see Alex is a talented musician with a big heart.
Jamie is a 17-year-old non-binary teen who is naturally shy and clever at school. Despite being at the school for a few years, they have not managed to make friends. Their single mum has to work long hours and Jamie does a lot of caring for their younger brother Max. Jamie wishes their mother had more time for them and would praise their achievements. Jamie is almost ready to spread their wings, providing they can overcome their shyness.
Zali is 17, smart and serious. She has very little space in her life for herself, with parents putting pressure on her to achieve and a girlfriend putting pressure on her to spend more time together. Pressure from teachers to perform extra duties and pressure from the media to look thin, strong and beautiful. Adding to that crushing weight are the expectations Zali puts on herself to always be a ‘nice girl’ and please everyone. Zali wishes that someone in her life would recognise how much she is suffering and support her in a constructive way.
Leon, 17, is the eldest son and golden boy at home with his Muslim Albanian family. He has always done okay at school and this final year is the first time he has had to work hard to do well. He likes the idea of being a good boyfriend, but that is easier in theory than in practice for Leon. Things have always come easy to Leon, so it is a shock to have a teacher and friends not on his side. He has to decide if he will take the easy or hard road with school and relationships.
Mr E in his early 50’s, a great teacher and well liked. He once loved teaching but his passion for the job has started to wane. A literary buff, he has started taking the Year 12 English extension class. Mr E lives alone after a recent separation from his partner, Liam. For the last five years, he and Liam raised Liam’s son Phoenix. Having no legal custody rights, Mr E has not had any contact with Phoenix since the split and misses him terribly. Mr E sees himself in Alex and wants to help him any way he can.
Sammy is a 21-year old drug dealer and recently dropped out of univeristy not long after graduating high school. Despite his age he still hangs out with teenagers so he can make money dealing weed to the kids of his old high school. Sammy is charismatic and charming. He knows everyone he needs to sustain his current lifestyle, but has no idea what he wants to do with his future. Deep down he is insecure and too scared to move on with his life.
Benson, 17. Out, loud and proud. Benson is the editor of the school paper. He is the organiser of amazing parties and school lobbyist for Pride Day, all while trying to get noticed as a drag artist in the cabaret scene. He is a great friend who can brighten up a room, but like many teenagers, Benson needs to learn not to invite the entire world to a party when his parents are out.
Legs (Allegra) 17, is the loudest in a crowd and lets others know what she thinks. Girlfriend to Leon and Charlotte’s antagonist, Legs does not mind fighting for what she believes in. She comes across as confident, but underneath, Legs is insecure about where she sits in her relationship with Leon. Her jealousy drives her towards bad decisions.
Emma 17, is Zali’s over-attentive girlfriend. Believing she is doing the right thing by being as supportive as possible, she is the only one who really knows that Zali turns to self-harm when anxious and stressed. Emma is genuinely concerned and trying to help, but this only pushes Zali away. Emma senses the attraction Jamie has for Zali, and that only makes her hold on even tighter.
Episode 01 / Roll Call
Five diverse teens are thrown together in a Year 12 English extension class, with Mr E. Charlotte and Leon have history. Alex seems to know the local drug dealer and shy, non-binary student Jamie meets Zali, who welcomes them in to the LGBTQI+ crowd.
Episode 02 / Alex
Alex is repeating Year 12 due to physical and mental health issues caused by his epilepsy. Unbeknown to his mother, he keeps his seizures and anxiety at bay by smoking weed. After being nearly busted by Mr E, the two bond over music.
Episode 03 / Zali and Jamie
Zali is cracking under pressure from teachers, her strict father, her jealous girlfriend Emma and her own need for control. Jamie finally has friends but cannot spend time with them because they always have to look after their younger brother Max.
Episode 04 / Leon and Mr E
Mr E is not allowed to see his son, he crosses a line with Alex, and has a date at a gay bar that ends up being overrun with his students. Leon fails to hide his lingering feelings for Charlotte from Legs - the effects are disastrous for all three.
Episode 05 / Charlotte
Charlotte confronts Legs for sharing her nude photos, and finds she actually has friends when Jamie and Zali come to her side. Distraught that her Dad stole her money for gambling, she runs away and meets the older charismatic Carlyle.
More Than This is a Baby Banksia production in association with Big Finish Creative, Shapeshifter Studios and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.