What If Dolly Was Aussie? ‘Seriously Red’ Cast Talk Charming New Musical Dramedy

22 November 2022 | 1:14 pm | Liz Giuffre

"It was really important for me that this was an Australian film."

New film Seriously Red treads both familiar and new paths. It’s the story of Red (Krew Boylan), a fish so out of water that she may as well be in the desert. What connects her to something stable, and us as audience members to her, is her fandom – she is so full of energy and love. This energy can go in many directions (and her passion explodes in spectacular workplace tantrums, too), but its big focus here is on the Queen herself, Dolly Parton. Written and starring Boylan, directed by Gracie Otto and with production support (and cameo amazingness) by Rose Byrne and Dollhouse Pictures, it’s a female-led superhero film, really.

In this film, Boylan plays the wonderfully defiant and undefinable Red, but she also ends up playing Dolly Parton, as Red takes up impersonations as a side hustle. How was it playing two leads in the film? “I mean, there are the goalposts for Dolly,” Boylan says in one of several boobs jokes made during this interview (it’s how Madam Parton would want it). “And the character of Red is a very close character of mine and another muse I have, so she's also very much in my veins. 

“But really, story-wise, and writing-wise, it was really important that Dolly and Red were as far away from each other as they could possibly be. It was really important for me that this was an Australian film, and this was made here, and not an American version of Red, becoming another American. So, all of those things, story, arc wise, were really important. And I love digging and poking both in and around those two women.”

There are clear nods to the Australianness of Seriously Red – not just with the accents and characters, but also the approach. Like Toni Collette’s iconic Muriel/Mariel or any of The Kerrigan family in The Castle, there’s a directness that’s both a bit shocking to start, and becomes so bloody endearing it’s lovely. Added to this is Boylan as Red playing Dolly, and then Daniel Webber playing a Kenny Rogers impersonator. Or rather, a Kenny Rogers impersonator who’s forgotten he’s not actually the real Kenny. The layers are wild and fun, as is the hair.

“Yeah, well, I mean, I think he's got to build a story,” says Webber of getting lost in The Gambler. “I see his story really starts at the end of the film. And what I dream of is that maybe he goes off and like Red does, he sort of actually discovers himself. But he's lost himself, he's had to assume this identity to get a sense of himself to get, you know, validation to get loved to get all the accolades of success, you know, and that's what the film is about.”

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When playing people playing impersonators, it’s tempting to go into “sad clown” or dress-up categories, but the creators were keen to avoid those extremes. “We wanted to celebrate him being a Kenny Rogers impersonator, and that's a choice, we didn't want to push it that far,” Boylan explained. “We wanted it to be a really beautiful relationship between [our] Dolly and Kenny. We wanted it to feel real, and I wanted him to be celebrated and not put down I guess.” Webber adds, “[My] Kenny is ultimately a very lonely person who, really wants and needs love. And that's what these two [characters as impersonators] share. And ultimately, I think our film is about having an identity.” 

The film also features some wonderful supports like Jean Kittson, Bobby Cannavale, Celeste Barber and Wayne Blair, each adding an extra dimension to what it means to connect with your own identity by being a fan of someone, and something else. “I mean, I think that's the beauty of cinema is that you can look at these issues, and you can have them all be okay. And they also can be interpreted to whoever is watching the film, and it doesn't matter,” says Boylan. 

Talking in particular about a close encounter that her Dolly has with Elvis Presley (no spoilers, friends, but let’s just say Baz’s film would have been WAY more interesting if this take was in there!), Boylan and the team were keen to play with fandom and identity in a way that was as respectful and inclusive as possible. “I love that it can be open, and it can reflect whoever is watching the film, and that was really important to us.” 

Made during the last few years of global disruption, of course just getting back to connecting with people is an important theme onscreen and off. For Red and her Dolly and Kenny, that’s where it’s at, and for fans of Australian creations too. “You know, we all felt like it was a lifeline, we were all so excited,” says Webber of making the film. “I don't wanna say desperate to get back but we all had that need, like collectively it really felt like we all just wanted to get back to doing what we love.” 

When it comes to these characters, but also just getting back into fandom generally, Boylan says “the best part about it is that it's so much fun. Like, I knew being Dolly was going to be THAT fun, sexiness, sassiness and carefreeness. And it’s so great to just have the joy of that.”

SERIOUSLY RED is coming to Australian cinemas on November 24