Behind the Scenes of The Tribe

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The Series

The Tribe began with a core cast of around 16 young actors from all across New Zealand. Many were joining the show as a main cast member for the first time, a lot of them having generally just had guest spots on shows such as Xena Warrior Princess, Hercules: the Legendary Journeys and native soap Shortland Street prior to The Tribe.

With its premise of all adults having died because of a virus, The Tribe was classified as a science-fiction program. However particularly in the earlier seasons, the show focused heavily on more dramatic storylines, with sci-fi elements used primarily as a backdrop to further the plot. The focus was on how the kids and teenagers would survive without adults, without laws, without safety, without regular meals, but with most of the same problems that had been present before: drug and alcohol addiction, teen pregnancy, rape, violence, troubled relationships and responsibility.

With the complete fall of civilisation as they knew it, the kids banded together in tribes. Tribes all have their own separate names, dress codes, beliefs and attitudes. Some tribes are power-hungry and malevolent, others are simply trying to get by.

The Mallrats are the main tribe focused on in the series. Their struggles and triumphs are shown on the mundane scale (chores, in-fighting, back-stabbing, marriages, friendships) and on the epic scale (finding the antidote to the virus, bringing peace to the city, defeating power-hungry tribes trying to establish dictatorships such as the Chosen and the Technos).

The Making of The Tribe

The Tribe has been said to have had one of the highest budgets for a teenage show at the time. The set of the Phoenix Mall was the largest in the southern hemisphere as the time of its construction. It was built just as it appeared on screen - with all rooms, corridors and levels joined as a real mall would be. Set decoration was meticulous, not only within the different areas of the Mall, but also on location.

Much of New Zealand's expansive, untouched landscape was made use of in the filming of scenes out in the country, for example in the town of Liberty, on Alice's farm, during the Tribal Gathering on the beach and on the Mallrat's trek through the mountains to the Eagle Mountain Observatory. To achieve the abandoned, lonely feeling that has overtaken the city, many Wellington streets were closed off and filmed in the early hours of the morning, with the streets being covered in burnt out cars, graffiti, burning barrels and trash.

The Tribe's costume design and make-up are wholly unique to the show, and indeed, the show is often identified by its ambitious costumes and hairstyles. While the costumes of Series 1 were generally muted and low-key, Series 2 had frequent costume changes and bright colours. This trend would continue for the remainder of the show.

Life on The Tribe

The cast members of the show live together in a boarding house with strict rules, one of them being no inter-cast dating.


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