Population 11: Crocodiles, murder and absurd comedy in the outback

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Ben Feldman as ANDY PRUDEN, Population: 11 - Photograph by David Dare Parker
Ben Feldman as ANDY PRUDEN, Population: 11 - Photograph by David Dare Parker Credit: David Dare Parker/Photograph by David Dare Parker

Australian actors Stephen Curry and Perry Mooney weren’t sure how their American co-star Ben Feldman would cope with the outback.

The Population 11 cast and crew filmed most of the 12-episode comedy in the middle of nowhere. Or, more precisely, in Derby, a remote WA town 2360 kms from Perth. It’s either a 25-hour drive or a three-hour flight.

“Sometimes people will come out from America and they don’t quite know how to take it,” Curry told The Nightly. “You put them in a place like this and it ups the ante for their fish-out-water feels. Ben took it on, the challenges of being that far away from anything else.”

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

Or perhaps it’s because even for the local cast, Derby is almost as foreign to them as it was to Feldman.

The American actor best known for his roles in Superstore, Mad Men and Silicon Valley said he had assumed all Australians were used to the perils and quirks of the outback, but that wasn’t at all the case.

“I remember pulling over on the side of the road and taking a picture of a crocodile and turning around and seeing the other Aussies also taking pictures,” he recalled. “And it was like, ‘Don’t you guys live with pet crocodiles at home, and they’re like, ‘No, we’re all tourists here’.”

Ben Feldman as ANDY PRUDEN & Perry Mooney as CASSIE CRICK, Population: 11 - Photograph by David Dare Parker
Ben Feldman aand Perry Mooney as two outsiders in a remote town. Credit: David Dare Parker/Photograph by David Dare Parker

Feldman is partly joking. He didn’t really believe Australians had pet crocs but he was still recovering from being in a place where, as he put it, “all animals are just there to kill you”.

Mooney (Gold Diggers, Troppo) had never before lived outside of Queensland, so three months in Derby was “a big step” while Curry, as part of the ensemble cast, came and went when he wasn’t filming.

Curry discovered a particular fondness for regional lollies with peculiar names – Camel’s Balls, Wombat Poo and Bull’s Balls.

“I’ve got two young boys and they were very, very impressed when I brought them home. They’re all gone now and this is why need to go to series two of Population 11,” Curry said.

The remoteness of Population 11’s shoot makes for an authentic backdrop to the murder mystery comedy which was inspired by the strange case of a missing man from the NT town of Larrimah, immortalised in the Netflix documentary, Last Stop Larrimah.

Going into the production at the same as the doco, Population 11 is the brainchild of Phil Lloyd, and it uses the jumping point of the real-life enigma of Paddy Moriarty’s disappearance but then wildly diverges from it. Although there is a woman who is accused of baking a dead man into her pies.

Feldman emphasised Population 11 and Last Stop Larrimah are two very different shows. Even though it springs from the same source material, Population 11 is not a scripted version of the Moriarty incident.

Population 11 is headed to San
Stephen Curry as part of the ensemble cast of Population 11. Credit: David Dare Parker/Photograph by David Dare Parker

“Our show used more of the, for lack of a better word, the vibes of the darkness, remoteness and murder mystery of [the Larrimah case],” he said. “The characters are completely different.”

Feldman’s character is an American man, Andy, who arrives in the fictional town Bidgeegud in search of his estranged father, Hugo. Hugo is nowhere to be found and every one of Bidgeegud’s remaining 11 residents is holding something back.

It’s a closed circle mystery worthy of Agatha Christie. Every townsperson is a suspect, they all have something to hide and they’re all exceptionally weird. Even Andy has an ulterior motive to the father-and-son reunion he claimed to be seeking.

Population 11 is striving for funny, weird, creepy and more than a touch of the uncomfortable. But with its the kooky characters and an alien-like environment, there was always the risk it would be too farcical to be believable.

“We took very careful pains to make sure we never moved into cartoon spaces with any of the characters,” Feldman explained. “We were always really conscious about how these people would behave as real humans. As soon as something bumped for us and it didn’t feel like a natural human emotion or choice, we’d say, ‘Now it’s camp, now it’s silly’. That’s not our show.’

“I personally mix comedy and tragedy together in my life all the time. It’s how I cope. And that’s what the show is.”

Population 11 is on Stan from March 14

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 15-04-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 15 April 202415 April 2024

Justice Lee finds Lehrmann ‘hell-bent on having sex’ with Higgins and ‘didn’t care if she knew what was going on’