Hungry Ghosts is a suspenseful, character-driven ghost story with heart, humour and scares. Set in contemporary Melbourne during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival, when the Vietnamese community venerate their dead, four families find themselves haunted by ghosts from the past. As these hauntings intensify, they threaten to unleash their deepest fears and expose secrets long buried.
Through an ensemble of characters, both Vietnamese and Anglo, Hungry Ghosts explores the concept of the inherent trauma we pass down from one generation to the next, and how notions of displacement impact human identity - long after the events themselves. Can you ever really leave behind the trauma of your past? Is it possible to abandon both spiritual and physical culture, or does it form part of your fundamental DNA?
To free themselves and those they love, each character in Hungry Ghosts must atone for their sins and confront their deepest fears or risk being swallowed by the shadows of their past.
Here is a look at the incredible ensemble cast.
CATHERINE VĂN-DAVIES plays May Le
The show’s protagonist, May Le tried to get a food truck up and running but was swindled by her ex-boyfriend and lost everything. She dives into a slump until she discovers she has special powers that she will need to use to overcome the evil spirit, Quang. Her journey is one of discovery and redemption as she must fight a malevolent spirit who seeks to corrupt her and torment the community. Only by discovering her true heritage and genuine self can May Le help heal a community still afflicted by the anguish of a lost homeland.
Catherine Văn-Davies is an established Vietnamese Australian stage and screen actor who has worked both nationally and internationally. She has worked regularly with Playwriting Australia as an actor and facilitator for their Outreach and Lotus (Contemporary Asian Australian Performance) programs working to foster emerging culturally and linguistically diverse voices. She also has extensive experience developing new Australian work and was an Associate Artist of Milk Crate Theatre, the only national theatre company dedicated to working with and for marginalised and/or homeless adults.
JILLIAN NGUYEN plays Sophie Tran
Sophie is the youngest daughter of the Tran family. She is a fastidious hard worker, studying to be a doctor like her father. But for the Trans, still battling survivors’ guilt many years after escaping their homeland, a single, terrible moment in time during the exodus returns to haunt them. With three generations living under one roof they must reconcile the inherent trauma of war that has cursed their family, threatening to tear it apart.
You might recognise Jillian Nguyen from her most recent work in Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang where she starred alongside Russell Crowe. Jillian was born as Huyen Dieu at a Sungai Besi refugee camp in Malaysia and immigrated to Australia with her family when she was 14 months old. Apart from Hungry Ghosts you will next see her as the female lead in upcoming romantic US/Australian sci-fi feature Loveland directed by Mystery Road’s Ivan Sen and co-starring Ryan Kwanten and Hugo Weaving.
BRYAN BROWN plays Neil Stockton
Neil Stockton is a famed war correspondent now struggling with his retirement and the meaning of his once prestigious career. A retrospective exhibition of his work dredges up ghosts from his years covering the war in Vietnam, and exposes a personal secret shame from the Fall of Saigon.
Iconic Australian actor Bryan Brown became an international success in the early eighties gaining critical acclaim for performances in Breaker Morant and TV series A Town Like Alice and more recently big-screen hits Palm Beach and Sweet Country. Bryan’s passion for storytelling behind the camera emerged in the formation of film and television production company, New Town Films. New Town projects include Dead Heart and 12-part series Twisted Tales, featuring some of Australia’s most prolific actors and exciting new directors which screened in over 100 countries.
CLARE BOWEN plays Liz Stockton
Liz is Neil’s daughter and a travel photographer. She has been estranged from Neil for many years until she turns up out of the blue.
Clare Bowen is an accomplished actor, singer and songwriter, beloved by audiences worldwide for both her iconic role as Scarlett O’Connor on TV series Nashville, and her original music, which she tours live globally. Nashville opened a door for Clare’s solo music career, which has flourished. Clare has played to sold-out crowds in iconic venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Ryman Auditorium and the O2 Arena. She released her debut self-titled album, ‘CLARE BOWEN’ in 2018.
FERDINAND HOANG plays Anh Nguyen
Anh was a reluctant South Vietnamese soldier and later prisoner of the Communists who suffered terribly in the re-education camps. When his best friend Khoa was killed in battle, Anh married Khoa’s wife, Lien and had a son Paul. Lien and Paul escaped to Australia while Anh was locked up and he joined them a few years later, broken and a stranger to them.
Ferdinand Hoang is a versatile and chameleonic actor. He has worked with some of the world’s most highly acclaimed directors and actors, including Gregory Peck, Michael Caine, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, Bruce Beresford and Phillip Noyce. His feature film credits include appearances in The Quiet American, Mao’s Last Dancer, Little Fish, The Home Song Stories and Jasper Jones. He has also appeared in theatre plays, short films and miniseries, including Chris Lilley’s cult TV mockumentary We Can Be Heroes.
GABRIELLE CHAN plays Lien Nguyen
Lien married Anh after her first husband was killed in battle. Even though Anh and Lien had a child and went on to have a life together in Australia, she still feels guilty about it today. A recent fall and resulting hip injury has reminded her of her mortality and memories of youth have come flooding back.
Gabrielle Chan is an Australian actor of Vietnamese descent. At the age of 15, she left Vietnam and completed her high school education in Hong Kong, finishing her tertiary studies in Australia. Gabrielle has performed in Chinese opera, short films, television series and in various theatrical productions. Her last short film The Egg was nominated for a Best Short Film award after premiering at the Sydney Film Festival in 2019.
GARETH YUEN plays Paul Nguyen
Paul escaped from Vietnam with his mother and was forced to grow up overnight. As they found a new life in Australia, he became the ‘man of the house’ which was then seemingly usurped when his father Anh turned up a few years later. Along with his own trauma from the war years and the escape, Paul has always struggled to have a relationship with his father.
Gareth Yuen’s career has spanned theatre, film, radio and television across Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He played Loc Minh Vu in Headstart and appeared in Ponderosa (US Cable TV’s prequel to Bonanza) and Round the Twist. A NIDA graduate, Gareth has been seen on our TV screens more recently in Underbelly and globally by generations of kids in his role as Dax, the Blue Ranger in the 15th season of the inimitable US action adventure series, Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive.
JUSTINE CLARKE plays Clare Nguyen
Clare fell in love with Paul at university. They married and have two children, but Clare grew dismayed as the young carefree Paul matured into an overly worried and often domineering husband. While Paul wants to leave his past (and culture) behind, Clare has worked hard to ensure her children know their roots and learn Vietnamese.
Justine Clarke is one of film and television’s most familiar faces for Australians of all ages. Her credits include Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Bootmen, Japanese Story, Red Dog: True Blue, Rake, Love My Way and Tangle. For her 2005 performance in the Australian feature Look Both Ways alongside William McInnes, Justine earned nominations for the AFIs, the IF Awards and the Film Critics Circle of Australia Award for Best Actress in a Lead Role. A Playschool regular, Justine has also won her way into the hearts of many young TV viewers.
RYAN CORR plays Dr Ben Williams
An intern doctor, Ben struggles with the fact that he can’t always prevent patients from dying. His path crosses and becomes intertwined with May Le’s when he treats her dying grandmother.
Ryan Corr is a NIDA graduate and star of the stage and screen. You'll recognise him from TV hits like Love Child, Underbelly: The Golden Mile, Tangle, Redfern Now and Packed to the Rafters, plus Australian films like Holding the Man. Ryan was named the GQ Breakthrough Actor of 2015 and he has been the recipient of the Australians in Film Heath Ledger Scholarship and the IF Out of the Box award. A favourite among audiences he has received Logie nominations in the categories of Most Outstanding New Talent and Most Popular New Male Talent.
SUSIE PORTER plays Catherine Taylor
Catherine Taylor is a worker in a minesweeping NGO in Vietnam who inadvertently uncovers Quang’s tomb.
Nominated for multiple AFIs, Logies and AACTA awards, Susie Porter has built a reputation as one of Australia’s most outstanding actors. Her remarkable list of credits include feature films Summer Coda, Bootman, Better Than Sex, Paradise Road, Two Hands and the award-winning Little Fish. You may have seen Susie in critically acclaimed film Ladies in Black, Cargo, Don’t Tell and Hounds of Love. On the small screen, she played the lead role in East West 101, Love My Way, The Secret Life of Us, Sisters of War and has most recently appeared in international hit Wentworth.
SUZY WRONG plays Roxy Ling
Roxy is May Le’s closest friend. She is also a clairvoyant of sorts, which in this situation may come in very handy.
Suzy Wrong started her acting career with the Singapore Armed Forces Music & Drama Company, where she received formal training and intensive stage experience all over Singapore and in neighbouring countries, culminating in a Best Performance of the Year Life Theatre Award for the play Purple in 1998. Aside from performing, Suzy is also a theatre critic and blogger for the Sydney main stage and independent scenes, publishing at ‘Suzy Goes See’ and also at the Europe-based ‘Auditorium Mag’.
OAKLEY KWON plays Diane Tran
Diane is the mother of Sophie, a successful woman who busies herself with charity work. She carries a terrible secret from when, as a young girl, she escaped from Vietnam by boat.
Melbourne local Oakley Kwon graduated with a law degree before moving into acting. Oakley completed her actor’s training through NIDA, and since formally commencing her acting career in 2017, Oakley has appeared in several Australian productions, including Homecoming Queens, Harrow, Neighbours and Danger Close: Battle of Long Tan. Oakley’s portrayal of Diane Tran in Hungry Ghosts is her first major supporting role in a television miniseries.
LAP PHAN plays Dr Sang Tran
Sang Tran is a successful, hard-working doctor who lost his mother when his village in Vietnam was bombed and has carried this unspoken trauma his whole life.
Queensland actor Lap Phan has a lengthy list of screen and stage credits, including TV shows Sea Patrol, Wildside and Maximum Choppage, and movies including Phillip Noyce’s The Quiet American and Abe Forsythe’s Down Under. When not on screen, Lap is a stand-up comedian and keen filmmaker, who won an audience award for his Tropfest short film, Bird Therapy.
HAIHA LE plays Tracy Tran
Tracy is the eldest daughter in the Tran family. She is a tiger mum to 6-year-old Ethan and a massive over-achiever.
HaiHa Le has worked extensively in theatre and TV since 2003. HaiHa received a Green Room Award nomination for her performance in Shrimp and was a regular cast member of Bed of Roses and Kick. You may also have seen HaiHa in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Neighbours, Sea Patrol, Rake, City Homicide, The Elephant Princess or The Code or most recently in Mr Inbetween 2 directed by Nash Edgerton.
Hungry Ghosts premieres on SBS at 9:30pm Monday 24 August and airs over four consecutive nights till Thursday 27 August. Episodes will be available at SBS On Demand each day at the same time as broadcast.