When we left the Butlers at the end of Season 2, Greg had finally come around to Em’s book labelling him as a sh*t husband, Reese Witherspoon was interested and the family finally went on that cruise they had been talking about.
Season 3 picks up six months later and things aren’t exactly where you’d expect for the Butlers. Em’s still waiting to hear from Reese, and Greg’s launched a sh*t husband podcast that’s doing surprisingly not-so-sh*t.
“We wanted to have that little time jump to have some feedback as to how Em’s book went,” Peter Helliar told 10 play.
“We wanted to have the book released and for there to be some kind of reaction. How did it go? Was it a success? Was it a fail? Somewhere in between?”
The other reason the time jump made a lot of sense was slightly out of control for Pete. His on-screen daughters are growing up all too fast.
Starring alongside Peter and Lisa McCune are Willow Ryan-Fuller and Vivien Turner who play daughters Sophie and Chloe respectively.
“[Willow] was like a kid last year and now you’re looking at a young Cate Blanchett on screen,” Peter said.
“Our first Zoom meeting all the cast were on Zoom together and Lisa texted me to say, ‘Look at our daughter, she’s all grown up now!’”
Though the third season was shot on the back of the pandemic, Peter admits that the were lengthy discussions about how much they wanted to dip into COVID as a plot point. The Butlers did end up going on a cruise — a little too prophetic for his liking.
There was something appealing in exploring what the Butlers got up to in lockdown, the way they handled being in isolation together, but during development, the writers made the decision to keep the show as a distraction to the world rather than playing into current events.
Aside from a quip from Chloe, there’s very little that nods to the state of the world at all in the premiere episode.
“That line,” Peter said, “just having references to it, the idea that our 10-year-old daughter now knows what a pandemic is was the kind of level we wanted to be playing at. Just those little nods that aren’t heavy-handed at all.”
We first met Greg and Em Butler on an episode of the ABC series It’s A Date, which saw the pair on their very first date at a strip club. Fast forward over a decade for the pair and How To Stay Married is entering its third season.
Part of the reason Peter was so inclined to return to the Butler family and continue exploring their story was the “untapped comedic talent” he found in Lisa.
“I felt our secret weapon was Lisa in the first season because a lot of Australians hadn’t seen her do comedy on TV, but we knew how funny she was.”
The series also explored an Aussie take on the family sitcom, something Peter said isn’t so common Down Under.
“All our sitcoms have been, strangely, about a widowed man! All Together Now, Hey Dad..!, we hadn’t had a sitcom that was about a family dynamic… I was pretty keen to explore that.”
While Lisa was his secret weapon in the first season, in the upcoming season Greg Butler dips his toe into the ugly, political world of school committees.
“I haven’t been on the school committee but my wife has and she told me about the politicking that goes on. I thought, one day I’m going to have to write about this.”
Now embracing his identity as a fully realised sh*t husband, Greg comes up against the towering presence of Luna Keys played by actual idol Casey Donovan.
“She made me laugh so much on set, it has been quite beautiful to watch her discover her character in the period leading up to shooting,” Peter said.
“She would find these little mannerisms that would make me laugh… I’m probably the most unprofessional of the actors, so I’m usually the one laughing. I can’t wait for Australia to be introduced to Luna Keys.
“It was a real joy to watch her… I feel that’s another secret weapon for us going into Season 3.”
How To Stay Married Premieres Tuesday, 4 May At 8.30 On 10 And 10 play