Gregg (James Chapman) just wants to clean houses with people who aren’t insane. Unluckily for him, he’s stuck in business with Magda (Gabriella Stevens) and Philip (Craig Lindeman) – two complete nutcases. Add to that the fact that the girl Gregg loves, Libby (Shanon Kulupach), seems to regard him as no more than a friend and co-worker, and you’ve got a recipe for cleaning hell.
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Created by Tristram Baumber, THE CLEANISTS is a clever short-form Australian comedy that has found success on YouTube and with British broadcaster Showcase. The reason the show works so well comes down to the writing and the chemistry of a cast who genuinely enjoy working together.
James Chapman, who plays Gregg, says: “Having the opportunity to work with a bunch of talented young actors, cinematographers and producers was very appealing. Knowing that we were all hungry to show the world what we can do and that we were all 100% dedicated to the show had me hooked in from the start. I would probably have to say that ‘No News’ was the most enjoyable episode to film – due in part to the number of times we would break during takes because something funny would happen or we would realise that there were six people in a two-metre by two-metre room. And the sound guy was sitting in the sink.”
Chapman believes his character is his own worst enemy. “On the surface, Gregg appears to be a level head, cool kind of guy. But if you look more closely at his mannerisms, the things he does, you learn that he is really quite an insecure personality. This is one of the reasons Philip is able to get to him so easily. Gregg is constantly seeking the approval of Libby, a girl he adores but turns out not to actually know that well. To me, I think Gregg is so obsessed with getting the things he wants, he subconsciously sabotages himself – until he’s in situations where his goals and ambitions become out of reach to him.”
Shanon Kulupach, Libby in the show, says: “THE CLEANISTS is short, sharp, witty comedy about four unlikely housecleaners – that are all a bit loopy. It’s silly in a smart way! Libby at first appears to be the sweet girl-next-door type but throughout the series you see her change – she still has that sweet naïve quality but she isn’t as shallow as she may at first seem. She has a head on her shoulders and mostly her obliviousness is not ignorance; she’s just more easy-going than the others. Things don’t bother her all that much until very late in the series.”
Kulupach’s favourite episode to shoot was ‘Mr Aspen’. “I liked that episode because Libby’s slowly-evolving attitude started to emerge. She got to kind of join the madness instead of being oblivious for a change! Also, the four of us were all together for most of the episode and I think you really got the group dynamic. I particularly loved the scenes outside Mr Aspen’s particularly pink room. It just made him more annoying: why is your room pink, you grown man?”
Libby’s personality isn’t the only thing to evolve over the course of the series, Shanon says. “I love that Libby was the only character with a real ‘wardrobe’. Tristram and I worked together to develop Libby’s style – you’ll notice it emerges slowly throughout the episodes. It kind of reflects her attitude. As she becomes more aware of the idiocy around her, her true nature comes out in the clothes – almost like she’s rebelling.”
Magda, played by Gabriella Stevens, is maniacal in her efforts to control the rest of the group. Says Stevens: “My character is crazy – but in the best of ways. Magda is so much fun to play and so different from who I am. As an actress, I can’t think of a better role: Magda is confident, determined and she has an ambition that drives every scene she’s in. For me, the best episode is ‘Summer Madness’. It was the funniest to film and that’s the episode where we all achieved the most, in terms of filmmaking and acting.”
Craig Lindeman rounds out the cast with his turn as the show’s resident weirdo. “Philip is really the oddball of the group,” he says. “He’s happy in his own bubble and has no care in the world. Asking odd questions and making situations awkward are really the hallmarks of the character. It’s his strange actions and the bizarre things he says that make Philip a lot of fun to play; I like characters that stir the pot and this one fits the description perfectly. My favourite episode is ‘The Friendship Box’. It took a while to film and I had a sore back by the end of it, but I loved the story.”
Brayden Porter, associate producer of the show, couldn’t be happier with what the team has achieved. “THE CLEANISTS, to me, is like a condensed and quicker version of a typical laugh-a-minute sitcom. So it’s more along the lines of laugh-a-ten-seconds – and it has a lot more intelligence in the humour than many modern sitcoms. Tristram Baumber is like the Larry David of internet comedy, and I’m very interested to see his CURB after this SEINFELD,” Porter says. “The episode I really loved shooting was ‘CSI: Cleaning Services Incorporated’.”
“It was the last episode we shot and I got a major case of the giggles during a particularly funny scene, which also happened to be one of the last scenes we were shooting to wrap up the series. This was more than slightly irritating to a lot of the worn out crew but I had fun… so that’s all that matters, right?”
There is certainly a lot of fun to be had with THE CLEANISTS, which the team hope to continue with a second season this year. James Chapman sums up the show by saying, “The big selling point of this show is its quick-paced style and insane sense of humour. But beneath that, the relationships and dynamics between the characters are what really drives the series. The moments between Gregg and Libby in particular show how, regardless of all the crazy stuff that goes on with The Cleanists, they are still humans just trying to get a job done.”
For more on THE CLEANISTS:
On YouTube: www.youtube.com/thecleanists