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Chris Lilley returns to HBO with Angry Boys, a mocumentary in the same vein as their previous collaboration, the critically acclaimed Summer Heights High.
After playing three central characters on the eight-episode send-up of high school life that aired on the premium cable network in 2008, Lilley steps into the shoes of six extremely different characters for the 12-episode Angry Boys. While Mr. G, Jamie and Jonah aren’t featured; a few of the characters will be familiar to diehard Lilley fans who haven’t already seen the Australian series.
Here are five things to know about HBO’s Angry Boys, which premieres Sunday, Jan. 1 with back-to-back episodes starting at 10 p.m.
1. Lilley plays six characters, two of whom fans of the writer-actor have seen before in his Australian/Sundance Channel mocumentary series, We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year: twins Daniel and Nathan Sims. “I wanted to bring back those guys and have them anchor the series and jump their characters off into other worlds,” Lilley tells The Hollywood Reporter. The brothers live in the fictional town of Dunt, South Australia, which serves as the setting for Angry Boys. Other characters include Gran, the boys’ politically incorrect grandmother who works as a guard at an all boys prison; S.mouse, an African-American rapper from L.A.; Jen Okazaki, a soft-spoken Japanese mother of three whose son, Tim, is an aspiring skateboarer; and Blake Oakfield, a former surf champion.
2. The Sims family is the backbone of the series that incorporates Daniel and Nathan’s heroes — including S.mouse and Blake Oakfield — characters who were inspired by Lilley’s conversations with teens across Australia. “I met with teens in country towns and they had hero worship-like posters of pop culture figures, skaters, surfers and sports people — as well as naked girls — and that gave me the idea to jump into the premise for the show,” he says.
3. It’s just as politically incorrect as Summer Heights High was, but that’s not Lilley’s top priority. “There were things with Summer Heights High that I got into trouble with and I think I got a bit scared off,” he notes. “But when I look at [the show], it’s that desire to shock and challenge people — I don’t like the idea that my main motivation is to be politically incorrect. It’s part of what I find funny but mostly I like compelling and real characters. That’s what I care more about than shocking people.” Keep that in mind when you meet Lilley’s African-American rapper S.mouse.
4. Speaking of S.mouse, Lilley brought the character beyond the screen, releasing an album and performing as the rapper in London and is open to doing the same stateside. “It was this interesting thing where the character stepped into the real world — it wasn’t like a comedy show and I’d never done any spinoff things like that before. It was really unusual to be a white Australian guy in London playing a black American guy,” he says. “I’d love to do that [stateside]. We’re going to let the show air a bit but I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a good reaction and the fans will be keen on it. I don’t really do much live stuff ever, but it’s really fun and I’d definitely like to do that.”
5. Summer Heights High won’t be revisited. While characters from We Can Be Heroes were incorporated to Summer Heights High and now Angry Boys, Lilley is pleased with how the series ended and has no plans to revisit Mr. G, Jamie and Jonah despite pressure to bring back the popular characters. “It would water down the motivation of the series,” he says. “I like to think of the series as just this one-off thing that’s a story that starts and finishes and I feel strong about doing that rather than thinking about cashing in.” Instead, Lilley says he’s more excited to step out of his comfort zone by trying something new. “I like the challenge of putting myself in really scary situations — like playing a character like S.mouse, who is so far removed from me.”
Angry Boys premieres Sunday, Jan. 1 at 10 p.m. on HBO. Watch a promo below.
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