While Disney+ in the U.S. continues to be the home of Marvel and Star Wars series (and sometimes it seems precious little else), outside of its American home base, the streaming service has been going full bore on commissioning new series of all stripes: Welcome to Wrexham, A Thousand Blows, Extraordinary, The Full Monty, Shardlake, and Wedding Season, to name a few. You probably recognize most of those titles, too; however, here they are on (or coming to) Disney's other streaming service, Hulu. That's also true of its latest series, The Clearing, an Australian-based commission based on the real-life 1960s era cult The Family.
Based on the book In The Clearing by J.P. Pomare, the project was first announced as the lead-off for newly created Australian scripted series producer Wooden Horse in the very early days of March 2020 (March 2, to be precise). Ten days later, the world shut down, and execs Jude Troy and Richard Finlayson had to put things on the back burner and wound up focusing on series like The Other Guy for Australian streamer Stan and Stuff the British Stole for Aussie broadcast network ABC. However, Disney+ decided to pick up The Clearing as a co-production and announced filming had begun in July 2022.
Filmed in and around Victoria, where The Family's headquarters, Santiniketan Lodge, was based at Ferny Creek, the series is headlined by Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings) as the group's leader, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, one of the few female cult leaders in history. The Family believed Hamilton-Byrne, who started as a yoga teacher, was the reincarnation of Jesus, a living god on par with Buddha and Krishna, who came to Earth to help humanity. She "acquired" fourteen infants and young children over a decade starting in 1965, some taken from her followers, others kidnapped, and erased their original identities, including dying all their hair platinum blonde.
Here’s the series synopsis:
An emotional and psychological thriller, The Clearing follows the nightmares of a cult and a woman who’s forced to face the demons from her past in order to stop the kidnapping and coercion of innocent children in the future. The series burrows under the skin and inside the mind, blurring the lines between past and present, reality and nightmare in a truly unnerving way. Based on the best-selling crime thriller ‘In The Clearing’ by author J.P. Pomare, it is inspired by the darkness of real-life cults in Australia and around the world.
Otto is joined by Teresa Palmer (Discovery of Witches) and Guy Pearce (A Spy Among Friends), leading a stellar line-up of Australian talent, including Hazem Shammas (Safe Harbour), Mark Coles-Smith (Mystery Road), Kate Mulvany (The Twelve), Xavier Samuel (Elvis), Claudia Karvan (Bump), and Anna Lise Phillips (Fires). Harry Greenwood (The Nightingale), Erroll Shand (The Luminaries), Doris Younane (Five Bedrooms), Miah Madden (Dive Club), Julia Savage (Mr. Inbetween), and Gary Sweet (Wentworth) also co-star.
Also appearing in the series: Alicia Gardiner (Offspring), Matt Okine (The Other Guy), Jeremy Blewitt (The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart), Lily La Torre (Run Rabbit Run), and Ras-Samuel Welda’abzgi (Neighbours). The eight-episode series was created and written by Elise McCredie (Stateless) and Matt Cameron (Jack Irish), with co-writer Osamah Sami (Ali’s Wedding). Directors Jeffrey Walker (Young Rock) and Gracie Otto (Seriously Red) split helming duties.
The Clearing will premiere with two episodes on Hulu on Wednesday, May 24, with one episode a week to follow through July 5, 2023.