What began as a university project for Josh O’Keefe back in 2014 has serendipitously taken on a life of its own. O’Keefe ended up starting a Kickstarter campaign on the back of his studies to create a pilot, which turned out to be a 13-minute iteration of “Doomlands.” He (appropriately) premiered the episode in a pub with a proper screening that included a rock band. With over 300 people crammed into the venue, the cartoon garnered national attention.

Before long, Canadian producer Josh Bowen caught wind of it. Bowen heads Look Mom! Productions and has taken on the role of “Doomlands” executive producer. Initially made for the now-defunct Quibi, the show ultimately found its home at The Roku Channel and premiered on Jan. 28.

The show is described as a mix between “Mad Max” and “Cheers,” which O’Keefe says is really an ode to the Ozploitation films of the ’70s and ’80s. “Doomlands” – based on the Australian landscape and some of the world’s scariest animals that reside there – follows Danny Doom (Mark Little) and aspiring bartender, Lhandi (Kayla Lorette), as they traverse across a hellish wasteland in their mobile pub called The Oasis.

Lorette and Little are also writers, along with Roger Bainbridge and Brandon Hackett. Lee Porter and O’Keefe are the series showrunners. O’Keefe is at the helm as creator, writer, and director.

“It has been a wild and serendipitous journey to get to where we are today,” O’Keefe tells Hollywood First Look. “It’s been almost an eight-year journey, so I’m just super excited about this moment.”

Hollywood First Look: It is such a wild show. The concepts are just out of this world. What was your initial inspiration? What were you going for when you created “Doomlands?”

Josh O’Keefe: It started with the world of Doomlands. Through my studies, I was exploring Australian national identity and Australian landscape and the bleak, red wasteland that can sometimes be perceived; it’s definitely a beautiful country if you get to know it. Everyone kind of associates Australia with the gnarly creatures that can kill you. So, that was primarily the original seed of the idea. Further through my studies at film school, I discovered the genre of Ozploitation cinema. “Mad Max” would be the pinnacle of that. There are plenty of other B-grade, horror, sci-fi films on that list that were all made in Australia, or films made in the ’70s and ’80s, like “Razorback,” and “The Cars That Ate Paris.” If you watch a handful of them, you’ll know that they all have something very much in common, and that’s just absolute bloody chaos. That’s what I wanted to inject into “Doomlands.”

HFL: How would you describe it in your own words? If you could sum it up?

JOK: It’s crazy, massive – filled with beer, blood, and dirt. On the surface, it’s obviously very chaotic and wild, especially dealing with a gnarly landscape and very limited resources. Beer is precious because it’s the number one way the characters hydrate in this world. There’s no other way to hydrate. Above all of that, we’re dealing with relatable stories. In The Oasis as well, there’s working with friends, living with friends, there are also themes of family, and for one episode, in particular, love. Above all else, I would describe “Doomlands” as a very optimistic story because it is. I feel like we’re all kind of living in a version of “Doomlands” right now. But, I think we can all look to brighter days ahead. Each of our crew members looks at the pint as half full rather than half empty.

HFL: What were you looking for when it came to casting the voices of these characters?

JOK: The first iteration of this was just my friends, all Australian accents, and all did a great job with it. Before we had partnered with Look Mom! Productions here in Canada, and also at Quibi, that would then be The Roku Channel, it was obvious that we needed to level up a little bit. We made a few changes to the story as well, but the number one thing we were looking for was just fun, creative minds who were willing to jump off the script a little bit. Our voice talent wrote for the show as well. They were already writing the scripts and were able to voice the characters, so it was an easy decision.

HFL: It all does sound very serendipitous. So, where do you see “Doomlands” headed in the future? What’s your ultimate goal with the show?

JOK: My ultimate goal would be getting 30 seasons [laughs]. My number one goal is to keep doing “Doomlands” for The Oasis to keep continuing and just trying to have as much fun in that world as we can. I’m hoping lots of people get to check it out on The Roku Channel and love it and enjoy it. Hopefully, we get to make many more seasons. Regardless, “Doomlands” is forever.

HFL: It’s such a fun show. What kind of audience do you think it appeals to?

JOK: Our main audience will be people who are already familiar with adult animated cartoons, such as “Rick and Morty” and “Big Mouth.” But I’m hoping that “Doomlands” kind of opens up that audience base to a wider community. I feel like in “Doomlands,” we’re exploring new approaches to stories and giving new voices a home as well. Hopefully, “Doomlands” is received as a new take on adult animated comedy, primarily because of the optimism that’s imbued through it.

HFL: Is there anything you can share about the show that people may not know?

JOK: There are so many little tidbits I can potentially say right now. I think maybe something we haven’t said before is there are these little koala characters in the show – I think on the poster, the green lizard character is carrying those little baby koalas – that character was actually designed by my little sister, who is a nurse back in Australia. She had sent me a birthday card with that little koala drawn on the front cover. I don’t think I could draw a koala cuter than that, so I was very thankful. We didn’t pay for it [laughs], but that definitely would be my favorite character just because of that story.

Published on Hollywood First Look