Continuing SBS’s run of acclaimed original drama series, On the Ropes tells the story of female defiance as it explores the complex and nuanced relationships of a migrant family alongside the deep-seated culture of misogyny in the sporting world.
Starring Academy Award nominated Keisha Castle-Hughes (Game of Thrones, Whale Rider), acclaimed Israeli actor Igal Naor (Homeland, Riviera), local breakout talent Nicole Chamoun (Safe Harbour, Romper Stomper) and Australian screen icon Jack Thompson, On the Ropes follows aspiring Iraqi-Australian boxing trainer Amirah Al-Amir (Chamoun) who has idolised her world champion father Sami (Naor) her entire life.
While working in the family gym in Sydney’s western suburbs alongside her two brothers, Amirah negotiates a professional debut match for her hardnosed fighter Jess O’Connor (Castle-Hughes) with Sami’s long-time promoter Strick (Thompson). Furious that she has done this behind his back, her father threatens to cut her off. Desperate to chase her dream of transforming women’s boxing, will Amirah choose her fighter or her family?
Nicole Chamoun responded to the script immediately, as it’s told from a strong female perspective. “This is the biggest role I’ve ever taken on,” she said. It’s the first time that my physicality was such an integral part to my character. I was training five days a week with an amazing female coach.”
Already an SBS veteran starring in the AACTA-nominated Safe Harbour, she said, “SBS are committed and dedicated to telling rich, diverse dramas and stories. They’re really passionate about telling stories from unheard perspectives that perhaps Australia hasn’t seen before, like Safe Harbour, and this is definitely what they’re doing with On the Ropes. I believe that risk is paying off. I really respect and admire them for taking these risks and telling such rich and diverse stories.”
Played by Castle-Hughes, the role of Jess demanded some of the most intense physical training. Despite her previous role in Game of Thrones, she said: “the role in Game of Thrones is really different and it’s much less physical. There’s more stunt stuff versus having to actually be physically fit. A really big thing for me was just the physicality of the role.”
Having spent the majority of her career mentored by strong independent women, Castle-Hughes embraced the similar vibe on set, as well as in the script, “I had a lot of really strong female mentors throughout my career and have been very fortunate in the career I’ve had as an actor and there’s no better way to learn than by doing.”
The idea in On the Ropes that women didn’t have to be perfect resonated with her. “It’s important that women are humans, perfectly imperfect and flawed, it’s messy, it’s gritty, they’re diverse.” It was these thoughts and themes that Castle-Hughes and the rest of the cast were then able to channel through their scenes and physical training, “there’s been a lot of work and effort to make the authenticity of the boxing world as real as we can. And everyone has been absolutely committed to that.”
The drama features diverse fresh and familiar faces likeLouis Hunter (Troy, Out of the Blue), Michael Denkha (Devils Playground, The Code), Tyler De Nawi (Doctor Doctor, Here Come the Habibs!), Neveen Hanna (Tidelands, The Principal), Nader Hamden (East West 101), Priscilla Doueihy (Back in the Game), Setareh Naghoni, Claude Jabbourand introduces Bonzana Diab, Otis Dhanji and Kobie Duncan.
The creative team behind On the Ropes is predominantly female-driven. Directed by Shannon Murphy (Offspring, Love Child), On the Ropes is produced by Helen Bowden (Wake in Fright, The Slap) and Courtney Wise (Fragments of Friday) and executive produced by SBS Head of Scripted Content Sue Masters and Creative Director of Lingo Pictures Jason Stephens. Writers include Tamara Asmar (Doctor Doctor, Love Child), Adam Todd (Wentworth, Sea Patrol) and Ian Meadows (House Husbands).
On the Ropes airs over four weeks, premiering Wednesday 28 November at 8.30pm on SBS. Episodes will be available after broadcast anytime, anywhere, for free via SBS On Demand.
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