Secret City: Foxtel to turn Marmalade Files and Mandarin Code into mini-series

Phillip Thomson


Foxtel will start shooting a six-part mini-series in Canberra called Secret City in August.
Based on the books of political journalists Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis, the TV thriller will, however, come with a twist.

The main character from their books The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code – journalist Harry Dunkley – will be a woman called Harriet in the TV series.

The series by Foxtel in conjunction with Matchbox Pictures will be aired by March 2016, with some hoping it finds an international audience.

Lewis said he and Uhlmann, used as consultants on the TV scripts, had been in discussions with Foxtel for two years.

He said making the protagonist a woman allowed for greater character development.

“This is very exciting for Canberra,” Lewis said.

Lewis linked the rising interest in political thrillers to the news items viewers saw each night showing the power games between global giants.

“Look at what’s happening around the world with China and America edging closer to potential conflict,” said Lewis, a former News Limited political reporter.

“It’s a big game of tug-of-war with Australia stuck in the middle.”

Production crew had been scoping locations in Canberra in recent days.

While it was not known where the crew would be shooting, the books include a variety of Canberra locations away from Parliament House, such as the Hansel and Gretel cafe at Phillip, the walking tracks of Mount Ainslie and the National Portrait Gallery.

One location scout was reportedly checking out New Acton and the Kingston Foreshore in recently.

Foxtel’s media statement said the mini-series would be “a high stakes political thriller set in a world of secrets, lies, murder and betrayal”.

“Beneath the placid facade of Canberra, amidst rising tension between China and America, senior political journalist Harriet Dunkley uncovers a secret city of interlocked conspiracies, putting innocent lives in danger – including her own,” the statement said.

The cast includes Anna Torv, known for her role in Foxtel’s Deadline Gallipoli, as Harriet, as well as Damon Herriman from The Water Diviner and Dan Wyllie from Puberty Blues.