Jakarta. After directing martial arts-western "Buffalo Boys" in July this year, Mike Wiluan returns with a brand-new period drama "Grisse," scheduled to air on HBO Asia this weekend.
The drama series, created by Wiluan, was directed by award-winning veteran Australian television director Tony Tilse, who has produced many HBO Asia series, including "Serangoon Road" and "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries." Wiluan also joined in to direct the series.
Set in mid-1800s Indonesia under Dutch colonial rule, the eight-part series of hour-long episodes follows the story of a group of unlikely individuals leading a rebellion against a brutal governor and suddenly finding themselves in control of Grisse, a Dutch garrison town.
Wiluan said at a press conference on Wednesday that the name of the show was inspired by Gresik, a small town in East Java.
"From all the cities I have visited, Gresik holds a special place in my heart. I have read a lot of literature on the town and immediately fell in love with it," he said.
"Grisse is actually the Dutch name for Gresik. When I found out about it, the characters started to pop up in my mind and I thought it would make an interesting story," he added.
Wiluan said the series has an interesting storyline as it shares a cinematic universe with "Buffalo Boys," with both set in the same era.
"I drew inspiration from MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe], where all the universes cross over into one another. Who knows, maybe I will make a new project where these two ['Buffalo Boys' and 'Grisse'] unite," he said.
The English-language series features several unique characters, each from a diverse background and creed, who unite for a chance to break the yoke of tyranny and write their own destiny. These characters are played by Adinia Wirasti (Kalia), Marthino Lio (Maran), Alexandra Gottardo (Harsha) and Zach Lee (Jambu).
Australian actor Michael Wahr, Japanese actor Toshiji Takeshima, Malaysian comic Joanne Kam and Singaporean comic Hossan Leong also feature in the series.
Adinia, who played the title role in the series "Kalia," said she immediately fell in love with the character after she received an offer from Wiluan.
"Kalia is the epitome of a strong woman. She is a reluctant leader, who has a fear of abandonment. I could almost feel her pain and I thought she could be developed over the course of the season," Adinia said.
Alexandra Gottardo, who plays Harsha, the right-hand woman of a manipulative salon owner in the town of Grisse, also portrays a strong character in the series. In the first episode, the 33-year-old actress shares many scenes with Zach Lee (Jambu) and is said to share some "adult" scenes throughout the series.
In a preview screening of the first episode on Wednesday, the series showed a promising storyline and an interesting character lineup. The subsequent scenes grew more intense and solid as the main character, Kalia, is forced to make life-changing decisions in uncertain times.
"Grisse" is shaping up to be an action-packed series, and promises interesting plot twists to keep the audience glued to their screens. It also brings hope for more big-budget productions based in Asia, to capitalize on the region's rich history and culture.
"Grisse" is set to premiere at 8 p.m. on Sunday, exclusively on HBO. New episodes will be shown in the same time slot every Sunday. The series will also be streamed on HBO Go and be available on HBO On Demand.