Last year it was revealed that Australian comedian Chris Lilley had a new comedy series in the works with Netflix; now, the streaming network has dropped the trailer and premiere date. Titled Lunatics, the ten-episode series looks very similar to Lilley’s past work like Summer Heights High, with the comedian playing a lineup of “six characters coming to terms with themselves and the world around them — be it a haunting past or a pressurising future, finding love or chasing dreams.” As the trailer reveals, the characters include a pet psychic, a young Instagrammer, a Realtor with a big ass, a former porn star and current hoarder, a fashion designer with a sexuality disorder, and a YouTuber who also happens to be seven-foot-three.
Lilley has been called out before for cultural appropriation on his previous shows (he played a black rapper in blackface and a Japanese woman on Angry Boys, as well as Tongan boy Jonah on Summer Heights High), and he’s already drawing criticism online for one of his new characters, Jana, the pet psychic with an afro described as a South African lesbian, who initially appears to be either another blackface role or Lilley’s spin on a Rachel Dolezal–like character. When reached for clarification, a Netflix rep pointed to a tweet from Lilley’s producer Laura Waters addressing the criticism. “Correcting some confusion — in the new show Lunatics, Chris Lilley is not portraying a woman of colour,” she said. “When the series is released you will see that Jana is a white woman with huge 70s style curly hair.”
“I’m more interested in the character in the story and I know that most fans ignore the negative stuff that’s written,” Lilley told Splitsider back in 2012 in response to blackface criticism. “My whole thing is that I do multiple characters and surprise people with these very different types of characters, so why is it offensive for me to do anything other than a white Australian? It’d be very limiting.”
Catch the Lunatics trailer above, then watch the rest when the series heads to Netflix on Friday, April 19.