After playing a crook on Underbelly, Les Hill is on the right side of the law in Nine’s Rescue Special Ops. Guy Davis spoke with Australian TV’s new action man.
Back in the early ’ 90s, there was no escaping Les Hill. Cast as rebellious teenager Blake Dean on Seven’s popular soapie Home and Away, Hill – still a teenager himself at that stage – quickly became one of the show’s most high-profi le performers.
Leaving the series after three years, however, Hill found his acting career stalling somewhat – a few guest appearances on various programs aside, he pretty much disappeared from the public eye for a while.
“ Things might have been quiet acting-wise but I wasn’t sitting idle,” said Hill, who tackled various diff erent challenges while away from the spotlight – among other jobs, he worked as a chef, a landscape gardener and a bouncer, not to mention a stint in the Australian Defence Force.
But a couple of years ago, Hill came blazing back with his complex, compelling performance as Melbourne mobster Jason Moran in Nine’s massively successful crime drama Underbelly. The intensity he brought to the role made him hot property again, and he’s now landed a lead role in Nine’s action-packed new drama Rescue Special Ops.
Focusing on the work of a rescue special operations team that is called upon to undertake searches, rescues and salvage operations or basically contend with the aftermath of any natural or man-made disaster, it’s white-knuckle stuff .
Hill’s character Dean Gallagher is the leader of the team in the fi eld, overseeing the likes of Gigi Edgley, Hill’s Underbelly co-star Daniel Amalm and Katherine Hicks as his colleagues. Recent NIDA graduate Andrew Lees plays Chase Gallagher, Dean’s younger brother and another member of the team.
While the on-screen relationship between the two brothers can get combative at times, Hill points out that off - screen he and Lees bonded quickly.
“ I think people will see that Andrew and I get along very well,” he said. “ He’s a good guy and I’ve got a lot of time for him. It wasn’t really necessary for me to take him under my wing, so to speak, because he has a grounded, professional approach to what’s he’s doing.”
Impressed with the ensemble cast assembled for Rescue Special Ops ( which also includes Libby Tanner and Peter Phelps), Hill was mostly taken with the quality of the scripts and the nature of his role as Dean.
“ I’d never really played the typical hero, so that was something I took into consideration,” he said. “ But initially what attracted me was when I read the fi rst two scripts and I found myself interested by the approach the writers were taking to the storylines and where they were taking things. For episodic television, it’s very well-written.”
Hill’s understated performance goes a long way towards making Dean a believable team leader, someone his colleagues would immediately trust and follow into any situation. And the actor didn’t fi nd it diffi cult capturing the character’s quiet confi dence.
“ The reality is that you either know what you’re doing or you don’t,” he said. “ And Dean is someone who knows what he’s doing. There’s no need for him to stake his claim or mark his territory.”
Of course, the fact that Hill enjoyed a little rock-climbing and abseiling during his downtime also helped in making his portrayal of Dean a little more authentic. “ I’m a reasonably active individual, so a lot of this wasn’t a big step for me,” he smiled.
Hill also drew inspiration from a real-life rescue offi cer who works as a consultant on Rescue Special Ops. “ He strikes me as the epitome of what these people are like – they are patient and selfl ess, an amazing bunch of people,” he said. “ To go to work every day and deal with what they have to deal with, while maintaining a good and positive outlook on life, is something that really deserves praise. It’s a hard job.”
Acting is not exactly an easy job either, with someone who’s the centre of attention one moment out in the cold the next.
“ I’ve tried to walk away a number of times but it never really ends up that way,” laughed Hill, who has worked on fi lm crews and established his own production company.
Right side of the law: Les Hill has gone from playing gangland fi gure Jason Moran in Underbelly ( inset)
to good guy Dean Gallagher in Rescue Special Ops, alongside costars, from left, Daniel Amalm, Gigi Edgley, Libby Tanner, Andrew Lees,
Peter Phelps and Katherine Hicks.