NZ comedy takes undiplomatic approach

Lesley-Ann Brandt, Dave Fane and Craig Parker star Diplomatic Immunity, a politically incorrect...
Lesley-Ann Brandt, Dave Fane and Craig Parker star Diplomatic Immunity, a politically incorrect comedy series about manipulation, love and cultural clashes. Photo by TVNZ.
One's new New Zealand comedy series follows the trials of a fallen diplomat who ends up babysitting the New Zealand embassy of the morally bankrupt Royal Kingdom of Fe'ausi.

Diplomatic Immunity, created by James Griffin (Outrageous Fortune, Serial Killers), is a politically incorrect comedy series about love, manipulation and cultural clashes.

Craig Parker (Lord of the Rings, Mercy Peak) stars as Leighton Mills, a man on his way up - until an unfortunate incident involving Champagne, a member of the Royal Family, the back seat of a limo and a paparazzi photographer.

Now Leighton finds himself diplomatic attache to the nondescript villa that is the Auckland embassy of the Most Royal Kingdom of Fe'ausi. David Fane (Outrageous Fortune, Sione's Wedding) is Jonah the ambassador, a whale of a man with an XXL personality and a talent for scams. However, Jonah has an Achilles heel: his beautiful, headstrong daughter Leilani (Lesley-Ann Brandt).

Banned from the Most Royal Kingdom of Fe'ausi for her leadership of anti-monarchy stirrers, she has been sent to New Zealand. The series' irreverence was immensely appealing, Parker said.

"I think there's a lot of comedy that comes out of supposed taboo areas and to me that's the best kind of comedy.

"We're not a prissy culture when it comes to what we laugh at.

"We like the slightly blacker comedy, the slightly darker humour, and this has moments where you go `Oh my god, they're going there'. And on this show, we go there! And it's funny because it's not done maliciously.

"The comedy comes out of celebrating the madness of cultures colliding."

Griffin said the idea for Leighton came when he was working on Sione's Wedding and bro'Town.

"I was acutely aware of being the one who's culturally different. In addition to that, I'd always wanted to write a show about politics and I'd always wanted to write a show with Dave Fane in a lead role, so those three things coalesced to become Diplomatic Immunity."

Driving through Auckland suburbia, Griffin had occasionally spotted a nondescript house adorned with a national flag and marked with a plaque. These supposedly ordinary houses were often the diplomatic premises of some small country unable to afford flashy downtown office space.

Griffin latched on to the idea of a Pacific Island consulate located in the middle of Auckland's residential streets, and so the consulate for the Most Royal Kingdom of Fe'ausi was born. Diplomatic Immunity boasts a strong line-up of well-known New Zealand faces. Among them are John Leigh (Outrageous Fortune, Shortland Street), Mario Gaoa (Sione's Wedding, bro'Town), Kayte Ferguson (Serial Killers, Spin Doctors), and Hannah Marshall (Shortland Street, Amazing Extraordinary Friends).

Diplomatic Immunity screens at 10pm on Tuesdays on TV One.



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