With their two daughters, Finn (14) and Abbie (10), well into school, it hardly comes as a surprise that St Kilda East husband/wife-writer/actors Fiona Harris and Mike McLeish have taken school yard banter and turned it into comedy gold in their clever web series called The Drop Off. Don’t be fooled, The Drop Off might be set in the playground, but it is definitely adults-only viewing!

Season one features plenty of flirting, Tinder mishaps, a hot sports teacher, a nasty principal and kids watching inappropriate YouTube clips. The series is based around a bunch of parents chatting at school drop off each morning and is so relatable and guaranteed to make you laugh. With series two launching in February we chat to this creative duo about working together, juggling family life in the entertainment business and what makes them tick as a family.

Obviously you’ve been inspired by your own time doing the school drop off, but how did the idea for the series first come about?

One day we noticed that we’d become part of the school community and had accidentally made these new friends. Fiona and I often send each other ideas to see if the other thinks it’s worth pursuing and Fiona sent me an email in late 2014 with the subject heading: Show idea – The Drop Off. I replied something like “HELL YES”.

Tell us a little bit about the four main characters in the Drop Off.

Fiona: They’re an amalgamation of ourselves, as well as our real-life friends. The main characters are an odd quartet. They don’t have a lot in common, apart from their love of coffee and the art of talking shit, but somehow the friendship works.

Be honest, are any of the characters based on people you’ve had real school yard banter with in your own playground? We won’t make you name names!

Mike: Of course! And some of those-who-shall-not-be-named know full well that we’ve ripped off their mannerisms, speech patterns and fashion choices…and they LOVE IT!

What new fun can we expect from series 2 of The Drop Off?

Fiona: We received funding from Screen Australia for series 2, so had more time to work on the scripts and bring together an incredible cast and crew. We feel like series 2 takes our characters and stories to a whole new level of crazy which we can’t wait to share with you.

No doubt you guys met in the entertainment industry. Tell us more…  

Mike: We actually met at a property investment seminar… 

Fiona: Yeah. No. We met doing an amateur theatre show (sometime after Indecent Obsession and before The Backstreet Boys Reunion Tour). We played a couple in it and continued to do so in three or four more shows after that before deciding to give it a go for real.

Mike you have a background in musicals as well. What has been your favourite show to perform in?

Keating! The Musical still wins. It started so small, then became the little show that could. Casey Bennetto created something so brilliant and joyous and I remain incredibly proud to have been a part of it. Eddie Perfect’s Shane Warne The Musical is a close second.

It must mean there is plenty of time when you are away from home. How do you both manage this?

Mike: I don’t cope very well. Although when I’m touring, the diet of vodka and loneliness does wonders for the waistline.

Fiona: It’s definitely exhausting, but I do okay most of the time because ultimately, I’m a control freak.

Fiona, I heard you actually went into labour with Abbie while Mike was on stage in Keating! The Musical playing ex-prime minister Paul Keating. Tell us what happened?

Fiona: Exactly that! I had the stage manager’s mobile number and she knew it was a possibility. I called during Act 1 and made them promise not to tell Mike until the show had finished. They told him during Act 2. Mike announced it at the start of the encore and apologised to the audience before running off stage a bit quicker than usual.

Fiona, you also have quite a few children’s books under your belt. Is there no end to your creative talent? Tell us more about them.

Fiona: I’ve written a series of books called The Super Moopers, illustrated by Scott Edgar (The Drop Off’s very own Dave) and we’re releasing two more in 2019. I’ve also written numerous books in the Trolls and Miraculous series’ for Five Mile Press. And Mike and I are also adapting The Drop Off into a novel, due for release in 2020.

Do you think your girls will be following you down the acting path? Or do they have their eyes set on other things?

Mike: We’re hoping they end up running a series of highly successful property investment seminars.

Speaking of the girls, what’s your favourite thing to do together as a family?

Fiona: Head down to the Classic Cinema in Elsternwick for a family movie date, then stuff ourselves with dumplings at Panda Mama afterwards. We also love beach outings in summer and a house full of friends, food, music and mirth. 

And finally, what’s the funniest thing you’ve heard in the playground?

Mike: From a parent: “Sweetie, what would the Octonauts do?” From a kid: “Your apple looks like a bum.”

Fiona: It’s not fit to print!

The Drop Off stars, Fiona Harris, Mike McLeish, Christie Whelan Browne and Scott Edgar and Series 2 is directed by Tori Garrett. The series was filmed at Ripponlea Primary School. 

Visit facebook.com/thedropoffshow to view season one and keep up to date with the launch of season 2. Photo: Shannon Morris.