Rachel Griffiths, Deborah Mailman return to Canberra for Total Control season two

Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths returned to Canberra to film Total Control season two. Picture: Supplied
Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths returned to Canberra to film Total Control season two. Picture: Supplied

Certain things can only happen when you film a drama series in Parliament House.

For example, when award-winning actor Rachel Griffiths films a scene in its courtyard, it can be mistaken by media and minister advisors - if only for a moment - to be a real press conference.

But as producer Darren Dale told The Canberra Times, it is simply just one of the side effects of filming in a working parliament.

Mr Dale and Ms Griffiths, along with actors including Deborah Mailman, Anthony Hayes and William McInnes, returned to Canberra last week to start filming the second season of ABC's political drama Total Control.

There aren't many countries that allow film crews to use a parliamentary building as a TV set, but Mr Dale said the authenticity it brings to the Australian show is invaluable. However, it does, unsurprisingly, come with certain rules and requirements.

As well as taking part in two recces to Parliament House and going through an approval process to confirm where and when they can film, there had to be a certain amount for flexibility when it came to the schedule.

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"For instance, we were supposed to be filming behind the Prime Minister's office earlier this week because he wasn't supposed to be in the building," Mr Dale said.

"Then suddenly, the Prime Minister was in the building. We got a call from the federal police saying 'You can't film there', so we had to shuffle some things around and film in different areas.

"But look, that is the reality of filming in a working parliament. Them allowing us to film in there is just so wonderful for the show. It's great that the two things can exist - the real world and art alongside it."

Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths returned to Canberra last week to film the second season of Total Control. Picture: Supplied

Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths returned to Canberra last week to film the second season of Total Control. Picture: Supplied

Season two of Total Control follows Indigenous senator Alex Irving (Mailman) who decides to run as an independent. The decision sees her confronted by online trolls, threats against her family and political opponents riled by the audacity of a black woman standing up for the voiceless.

With a storyline that revolves so heavily around politics, Parliament House and Old Parliament House, which was used to film all of the senate chamber scenes, play a vital role in bringing the drama to life.

"This is a very well resourced show, made for the ABC but also with an international audience. This means we're competing with shows like The Crown that have tens of billions of dollars in its budget," Mr Dale said.

"You think about Parliament, that's a building we just could never recreate. That would be hundreds of thousands of dollars. We would never have the money.

"So in terms of what filming here adds to the show and its authenticity, it's kind of extraordinary and that's why coming to Canberra for us is so important.

"And it's great to leave Sydney as well, for the actors. Everyone clicks into a different gear because the show is set in the seat of power of the country.

"For the actors to get into those characters, it's wonderful."

Along with both parliamentary buildings, scenes were filmed at Lake Burley Griffin and the Canberra airport - one of the few airports in the world that allows film crews.

The new season of Total Control will premiere on ABC later this year.

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This story What it takes to film a drama series in Parliament House first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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