The new Wellington-based series ‘Little Apocalypse’ is breaking the stigma of how queer characters are portrayed on screen.
With a vibrant cast of queer characters and allies, the show follows siblings Cole and teenage witch Leith, and their cheeky paranormal pal Sunny.
“Finding content that reflects the queer experience is rare. Often our stories are told by straight people, and they’re told with a limited perspective, often around coming out," says Tomorrow, Rain producer and creator Thomas Coppell. “Or queer people are represented as side characters to progress someone else’s character journey.”
“In ‘Little Apocalypse’, kids don’t come out. They just exist as the main characters in a magical world and also happen to be queer.”
Funded by NZ On Air and airing on TVNZ+, the show is aimed at eight to 12-year-olds. While taking young audiences on a supernatural journey with witches and poltergeists, the trio learn the power of accepting our loved ones — and unexpected ghost mates — even in their messiest and moodiest.
“In ‘Little Apocalypse’, our characters are just being young people. They just exist, and that’s our truth. It’s why we need plentiful content about our community that represents all shades and sides of ourselves.”
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The series launched on the back of Schools’ Pride Week, which aims to support rainbow ākonga and staff in schools/kura, highlighting values such as inclusion, diversity and acceptance. Like 20% of learners in Aotearoa, Thomas identifies as a member of the rainbow community. With evidence showing the community experiences significantly higher rates of bullying, most also don’t feel they belong or are supported at school.
The series was co-created with and directed by sisters Elsie and Sally Bollinger. It was inspired by Thomas’ own experiences growing up, their struggles at school and their relationship with their younger sister.
“The 2000s weren’t a great time to be a queer kid, and while it’s better now, there are still many problems our community faces because of in-built stigma, and there’s still so much work to be done,” says Thomas. “For me, because of the of this project, if I make one queer kid feel validated and affirmed that they can be the complicated, messy main character of their own story, then I’ve won. I’ve done my job.”
Wellington Girls’ College, Year 11 student Jenny Mingxi Easton played mischievous poltergeist Sunny (she/her). “Sunny has bursts of energy. She gets really excited over things and always wants to have fun. I’m the same — I don’t like staying at home or doing quiet activities. I’m always into doing energetic things.”
Fellow Rata Studios drama school student Linus Lloyd played Leith (they/them), a self-assured boy-witch who proudly embraces their masculine and feminine energy. The former Onslow College student now studying hairdressing at WelTec Petone can also relate to their character. “Leith is very short-tempered, but also caring, loving, someone who acts first and thinks about what they did later but always does it with good intention.”
Leith’s sibling Cole (she/her) is played by Year 9 Taita College student Roshaniah Leo’o, who also likens herself to her on-screen character. “Cole puts others before herself. She’s caring. She worries about her brother. Cole connects to me because I worry about others, and I have brothers in real life too.”
All three teenagers hope ‘Little Apocalypse’ portrays the message that “it’s all going to be okay”.
Filming took place in Wellington, a UNESCO City of Film, at Truby King House and Gardens in Melrose. With a local cast and crew made up of 80% women and gender-diverse people, the series took two years from the original idea to completion.
Filming entirely in Truby King House, the front porch and adjacent gardens meant no massive studio set costs. “Truby King is beautiful, it has texture, it has life. We’d been looking for somewhere special within budget, and it was the perfect location,” says Thomas.
As a Wellingtonian, Thomas is deeply invested in the capital and its film industry, and he believes it’s a great destination for a range of productions. “As a low-budget kids’ drama with huge time and money constraints, it is a simple, accessible and affordable place to film.
“Wellington is such a compact region, it means we can manoeuvre quickly and smoothly, and working with the likes of Screen Wellington and Wellington City Council is both easy and cost-effective.”