Home / World News / ABC’s Summer Love: Robyn Butler worked with hubby Wayne Hope both in front of and behind the camera

ABC’s Summer Love: Robyn Butler worked with hubby Wayne Hope both in front of and behind the camera

Lockdown: say those words to any Victorian and you’ll likely be met with an eye twitch, an exasperated sigh and a very definite “I don’t want to talk about it”.

Those long 18 months that Melburnians spent mostly locked inside their homes — and their State — because of COVID-19 restrictions certainly took a toll. There’s a “to-the-bones” fatigue that’s hard to explain to anyone who wasn’t there; a collective PTSD perhaps?

Husband and wife actors-turned-TV-producers Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope were not immune. But their experience of COVID lockdown also had an unexpected upside — it proved an incredibly fruitful time for the pair.

It turns out being locked inside a house with your husband — who also happens to be your creative partner — can have its benefits.

Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope in production on Upper Middle Bogan for ABC1.
Camera IconRobyn Butler and Wayne Hope in production on Upper Middle Bogan for ABC. Credit: Supplied

“The advantage of having those lockdowns was that we now have a lot on our slate,” says Butler, who is speaking to STM about Summer Love, the comedy series she created with Hope, and which is now airing on ABC.

The show, already a hit with viewers, features eight standalone stories, each about a different set of guests staying at the same coastal beach house in Victoria. The common theme is love, and there’s a sensational ensemble cast, many of whom also wrote their episodes — Butler and Hope will star in one set to air this week.

The series is the first of a slew of new projects from the pair’s production company, Gristmill. They’ve had a number of hit shows over the years, most famously the incredibly popular comedy series, Upper Middle Bogan.

There’s more to come — a drama they’re working on, another kids’ show is in the works (they’re already responsible for the uber-popular Little Lunch and The InBESTigators, both airing on Netflix and ABC), and “quite a few” other projects in pre-production.

“We certainly developed a lot in these last two years,” Butler admits. “We had a chance to go back to things and redraft, and think ‘I don’t really like where this is, let’s have another look at it’.

“It was really good and not something that you get the chance to do enough of.”

It was on one particularly frustrating lockdown day that Butler had the idea for Summer Love.

Shots from ABC tv show Librarians, created by Robyn Butler and Wayne
Camera IconRobyn Butler and Wayne Hope in The Librarians, which they also created. Credit: Unknown/supplied

“Actually, I had the idea 24 years ago,” she clarifies. “I developed it as an anthology series set in a holiday house, and it was called ‘Lot 23A’.

“Nothing came of it because it was 24 years ago and — what’s an anthology? No one knew what I was talking about. I was a baby anyway, so nobody listened to me.”

The idea popped back into her head during that first difficult lockdown.

“It was during the first lockdown here in 2020, which was so hard in gloomy, wintery Melbourne,” she explains. “Wayne and I were actually working on something else at the time (which was) quite dark and quite complex to write. We just felt so bogged down by it and I said ‘What about that holiday house idea?’

“So we started rethinking it and, honestly, I don’t think we would have ever brought it back into our headspace had it not been for COVID and the lockdown and the circumstances.”

Fast-forward two years and we’re finally getting to see it — and Gristmill is something of a “family business”.

Butler’s daughter, actor Molly Daniels, has worked with her mother on several of their series, including as drama coach on Little Lunch and as a writer on several episodes of The InBESTigators. “Molly is just a little dynamo — she is just fantastic, and we think she is so funny and talented and great,” says Butler proudly.

Daniels is Butler’s daughter from a previous relationship. She has another with Hope, and she too is keen to get in on the family business.

“So it’s going to be, you know, it’s like you have family construction businesses, and plumbing businesses — and we have the family television business!” she laughs.

So, what’s the secret to working harmoniously with members of your family? And how on earth did they all emerge unscathed the other side of lockdown?

“I think the trick is just loving them a lot and just really, really liking them a lot — that’s the key,” Butler says. “No, but really, Wayne and I just continue to work really well together.

“We have a funny existence because when we were down the coast (shooting Summer Love) and we lived down there for three months, it was all day, every day together. We are on set together, we’d go to sleep together, we’d wake up together — we are constantly in each other’s pockets.

“Then we come back to Melbourne and we had to divide and conquer to do all the things. Wayne goes into post (production) and he takes care of the edit, and I work on all the other shows we are doing.”

And it all — just works.

This week Butler and Hope will reunite again, hopping in front of the camera to play a couple of mismatched guests who accidentally double-book to stay in the house.

The couple, who met when starring opposite each other way back in 1998 (while filming a mockumentary series titled Small Tales & True, which Butler co-created), have co-starred on and off over the years, most notably in their successful comedy series, The Librarians.

Butler was pleased to be back co-starring with her partner in roles they had written together.

Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope are the creative force behind Summer Love. They're also the stars of an episode.
Camera IconRobyn Butler and Wayne Hope are the creative force behind Summer Love. They’re also the stars of an episode. Credit: Supplied/ABC

“It was so joyful to be back acting with Wayne again,” she says. “We just absolutely loved it.

“It was delightful. But there is a certain vulnerability that you do feel — it’s different when you’re running the show to then having to be suddenly in the acting position.

“But I am so glad we did it.”

Butler and Hope’s episode of Summer Love airs on September 21, at 9pm on ABC.

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