Creators of Hulu’s ‘Creamerie’ Whip Up Post-Pandemic Comedy in a World Where Semen Has Become ‘White Gold’

In Hulu’s “Creamerie,” the future is female — and it’s also dark, dystopian and funny. Season 2 of the New Zealand-made comedy drama, now airing on the streamer as well as TVNZ, is set some years after a plague has wiped out 99.9% of humans with the Y chromosome, i.e. men. And, rather than obsessing about the mandemic’s lost males, “Creamerie” focuses instead on the women who have survived and the different ways they heal and rebuild. The key characters are a group of female dairy farmers and the lone surviving man they have stashed away.

“Kiwis have a very particular sense of humor. We find humor in really mundane things, the day to day. But in a dystopian world, after a pandemic, where everything is stripped back, the basics become quite a big deal. You can find a lot of humor in [characters] trying to get back to normal,” say the show’s predominantly female creative team headed by Ally Xue, JJ Fong and Perlina Lau. They take credits both as creative producers and the show’s three lead actors.

“After COVID, we’ve all got experience of trying to get back to some sort of normal. But the timing was completely coincidental.”

Indeed, the show coagulated out of a broth of cooperation that had been simmering for more than a decade. Xue, Fong and Lau cut their milk teeth on a succession of low-budget web dramas from 2012 onwards and were joined for part of that journey by “Creamerie” director and co-writer Roseanne Liang (who was named by Variety as one of 10 emerging directors to watch in 2021, following breakout feature “Shadow in the Cloud”).

“We started out creating web series and comedy because we were frustrated with the very minor roles that we were getting as Asian women, and being a stereotype. There was no one creating comedy or Asian women being funny,” they say. “‘Creamerie’ came about because we wanted to be bigger players on the main stage, we wanted to work with a bigger budget and just be women playing characters. Not being Asian characters talking about being Asian.”

“Creamerie” itself began to rise to the top of their agenda in 2018 at a time when the group was also feeling despondency and frustration on a macro scale, especially about where U.S. President Donald Trump was leading the world.

“We were really big fans of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ We loved it. But, at the end, we sort of just walked away feeling a bit quite deflated and depressed. Part of that is because some of the things within that show are a bit closer to home than we’d like to admit,” say the trio.

Nevertheless, the group found inspiration from it. “It’s a female-centric show, both on and off screen. And we wondered, ‘could we take that inspiration and do something similar? Something fresh?’”

Like “man milking.”

Real-world New Zealand has more cows than humans, meaning that the show’s dairy imagery is contextual and immediately relatable to local audiences. But it also led to a surprising plot device.
At the series’ development stage, the discovery of a pornographic image of a man with his genitals hooked up to a machine that was extracting semen became “man milking” in “Creamerie.”

“If suddenly all people with a Y chromosome were wiped out, then trying to create life, trying to keep the human race going, would become the most important thing. And [semen] becomes one of the most valuable commodities,” the trio say. “We call it white gold.”

After chaotic events in the first season (Bobby being kept hidden, betrayals within the group), the second season attempts to take a bigger picture.

“The end point of the first season was climactic, full of questions for the audience and for the characters. The second season is about how everything the characters thought the world has become is in fact completely different. They’ve got so many questions. The second season is much like a road trip, trying to figure out whether this [pandemic] just hit the valley where they live, or whether this is something bigger,” the trio say. That allows farm-yard jokes about semen to be elevated to the National Sperm Bank level.

“We’ve always had in mind a three-season arc. The first season was always going to be about the local town Hiro Valley. The second season was going to be on the national scale. And if we’re lucky to get a Season 3, we’d love to take these ladies and Bobby somewhere abroad. It’s like a zooming out effect that slowly illuminates what this world has become.”

And even in a world without men, globally-relevant issues of gender roles, societal stratification and power politics remain at the forefront.

“One thing that we talked about in the writers’ room while preparing Season 2 was the ability for power to cleanse and to distill who we truly are underneath. There’s that famous quote about how power corrupts. [Having] power also reveals who the person has always wanted to be,” they say. “The premise of [‘Creamerie’s’] world of humans with double X chromosomes is that women are in power. But are we going to create a better world? Or are we just going to let the patriarchy indoctrination take over? We’re women, but also human. And even if you take the men away, we’re still human. So, it’s not suddenly going to become utopia necessarily, just because the men aren’t there anymore.”

The show was substantially funded by New Zealand’s public sector support schemes, which seek to support local productions which operate on a substantially smaller scale than the giant overseas productions (“Lord of the Rings,” “Mulan,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”).

“Even though we’re a very small country, we have a government that supports the arts. The majority of our funding for this season came from the New Zealand Film Commission. And from New Zealand On Air, which is a taxpayer-funded body that funds local content. NZ On Air was where all our web series money came from too. So, you could say that the system has trained us to be here,” say the trio.

Other credits go to co-writer Dan Musgrove, producer Bronwynn Bakker, supervising producer Helen Panckhurst and executive producers Tony Ayres, Matt Vitins and Cam Baker.

This interview was conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike began.

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