Crime draws top cast

From left, Thomas M Wright, Elisabeth Moss and David Wenham in a scene from the TV series Top of the Lake.
From left, Thomas M Wright, Elisabeth Moss and David Wenham in a scene from the TV series Top of the Lake. Contributed - BBC Worldwide

FROM THE Oscar-winning writer of The Piano comes gritty new crime drama Top of the Lake.

Filmed in the stunning surrounds of Queenstown on New Zealand's South Island, the six-part drama boasts an all-star cast including Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, Killing Time's David Wenham, The Piano's Holly Hunter, Thomas M Wright and War Horse star Peter Mullan.

Written and co-directed by Jane Campion, the haunting mystery centres on 12-year-old Tui, who disappears shortly after being discovered to be five months pregnant.

Top of the Lake - UKTV - Sunday at 7.30pm Qld, 8.30pm NSW.

Investigating her disappearance are Detective Senior Sergeant Al Parker (Wenham) and child protection specialist Robin Griffin (Moss), who is roped into the case while returning home to visit her sick mother.

The six-hour series received critical acclaim when it was screened in full at the recent Sundance Film Festival.

"The landscape is a very important character in the series," Wenham told The Guide.

"It couldn't have been shot anywhere else on Earth. Jane wrote it to be set there.

"The amazing thing about where Jane puts Lake Top's Paradise is when you look at it, it really does look like paradise. Adam and Eve could come out of there.

"On the surface it is breathtakingly beautiful, but at the same time those mountains do actually surround the lake and nearly enclose the lake at times as well.

"Within the series people are swallowed by the landscape and then found within the landscape."

Wenham's Parker is an old-school cop who has come to enjoy his cushy job at the usually quiet Queenstown police station.

"At some stages he doesn't follow exactly the letter of the law, although he would say he does," he said.

"There is a boys' club element to the police station that he runs."

Detective Griffin finds herself at odds with some of the local cops as well as Tui's family.

"She's certainly the outsider, the interloper," Wenham said.

"Here's this young, attractive female coming into this very entrenched boys-club-type world. It's not ideal for her, but it certainly makes for really juicy drama."

Wenham, who has starred in big-budget films like Australia and Lord of the Rings, described Moss as "one of the most talented actresses I've ever worked with".

Top of the Lake marks the second time creator Campion and Oscar-winner Holly Hunter have worked together, after The Piano.

Campion wrote the character of GJ, a mysterious figure who sets up a women's retreat at Paradise, specifically for Hunter.

"As the whole search for Tui gets under way you get into the most eclectic group of characters that live in this community," Wenham said.

"But even in moments of darkness, the series is littered with incredible humour. That's what makes it watchable and enjoyable."

Topics:  drama new zealand tv guide tv series

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