Cross pur­pose

Aaron Jef­fery draws on his trou­bled past to bring hu­mil­ity to his on-screen per­for­mance, writes Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

IT’S BEEN sug­gested the ac­tors who make the job look the eas­i­est are of­ten those who work the hard­est. Per­haps Aaron Jef­fery per­form­ers.

He might be a man of bear-like pro­por­tions, but part of Jef­fery’s ap­peal is that he bares his soul on screen. He tack­les roles through a process of vig­or­ous prepa­ra­tion and im­plicit faith in his in­stincts, but Jef­fery is so un­pre­ten­tious that you never sense he’s work­ing.

There is lit­tle doubt Jef­fery’s life ex­pe­ri­ences — good and bad — have added an el­e­ment of hu­mil­ity to his act­ing.

New Zealand-born Jef­fery had a trou­bled ado­les­cence and was pen­ni­less when he ar­rived in Aus­tralia 22 years ago. He slept on the streets or on fac­tory floors be­fore find­ing his feet in Syd­ney.

Jef­fery grad­u­ated from the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Dra­matic Art in 1993, then scored roles in Wa­ter Rats, Fire and Blue Mur­der— the lat­ter top­ping a Guide poll of the great­est Aussie TV shows ever in 2006.

He has shown his depth and range in fea­ture films The In­ter­view and Strange Planet.

But be­fore agree­ing to play the ‘‘meat in the chick-flick sand­wich’’ — Alex Ryan — in the long-run­ning Chan­nel 9 drama McLeod’s Daugh­ters, Jef­fery had walked away from act­ing to study the­ol­ogy and work as a farm­hand in Cul­cairn.

He felt he needed time in the bush to rec­on­cile a dif­fi­cult past, in­clud­ing child­hood abuse. By his teenage years, Jef­fery was liv­ing in a car­a­van. He’d been an an­gry young man hang­ing with a ‘‘very rough crowd’’.

‘‘Sex­ual abuse is quite preva­lent in so­ci­ety,’’ he has pre­vi­ously told the Guide.

is one of those ‘‘I think it needs to be talked about. ‘‘If some­one out there gains some in­spi­ra­tion from me ex­pe­ri­enc­ing that then achiev­ing a level of ful­fil­ment in life, I think that’s great.

‘‘The only rea­son I talk about what hap­pened to me in the past is to give other peo­ple hope, even if it’s in a small way.’’

Of the break he took from act­ing, he now says: ‘‘I wasn’t dis­il­lu­sioned with the busi­ness, I just needed to take time out for my­self.’’

Speak­ing from the Gold Coast set of new Chan­nel 9 cop drama The Strip, he adds: ‘‘I love be­ing on film sets. I’m hap­pi­est when I’m work­ing and I love be­ing a part of a team when that team clicks. It’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing.’’

Af­ter six years on McLeod’s Daugh­ters, Jef­fery di­vided his time be­tween Syd­ney and Auck­land, where he filmed a role in Kiwi drama Ou­tra­geous For­tune. He also has filmed roles in the new X-Men fea­ture X-Men Ori­gins: Wolver­ine and fea­ture film Beau­ti­ful.

‘‘I feel blessed that I’ve been able to go from job to job,’’ Jef­fery says. ‘‘I don’t know the an­swer as to whether the show (The Strip) will be a hit or not, but if you find a true en­sem­ble cast, which we have here, I think nine times out of 10 the re­sult is go­ing to be great.’’

The Strip, which fol­lows the suc­cess­ful launches of City Homi­cide and Un­der­belly, aims to trade on a proven au­di­ence ap­petite for lo­cal crime drama.

What sets The Strip apart from the oth­ers, Jef­fery says, is a style and pace in­spired by its set­ting.

‘‘I love work­ing hard and fast. This is an en­vi­ron­ment that suits me,’’ he says.

Jef­fery plays Det-Sen-Const Jack Cross, a tough cop who has moved to the Gold Coast in the hope of patch­ing up a bro­ken mar­riage.

Cross is joined on the beat by Det Frances Tully (Vanessa Gray), a lo­cal with in­sight into all that’s bad on the coast.

Si­mone McAul­lay, Frank Holden and Bob Mor­ley com­plete the cast.

‘‘The Gold Cost is a great char­ac­ter in it­self and this is a unique slice of Aus­tralian cul­ture as op­posed to film­ing in Syd­ney or Mel­bourne,’’ Jef­fery says.

‘‘This gives us a real ad­van­tage. It has its own to­pog­ra­phy, weather, and there’s a lot of money here. That lends it­self to a cer­tain life­style. It can be a tran­sient kind of town and an at­trac­tive place to live.

‘‘Then there’s the strip it­self and the fact there’s a lot of li­censed premises. There is a bit of dodgy be­hav­iour go­ing on.’’

Jef­fery’s main chal­lenge is bal­anc­ing his ca­reer with his pri­vate life.

He has a four-year-old daugh­ter, Ella-Blu, with his ex-wife, Melinda, and strives to spend week­ends with his daugh­ter.

‘‘She’s a bless­ing in my life,’’ he says.

JEF­FERY says he’s moved on from a 2006 court case that re­sulted in him re­ceiv­ing a 12-month good-be­hav­iour bond for as­sault. It was tough, he says, see­ing his pri­vate life played out in the me­dia.

‘‘It’s dif­fi­cult, but you learn that you can’t con­trol it,’’ he says of the at­ten­tion.

‘‘I’m not one to read pa­pers and I don’t let that stuff af­fect what I do (as an ac­tor).

‘‘Every­one goes through things like that in life and I’m no dif­fer­ent.’’

Cop it sweet: (far left) Aaron Jef­fery with his co-star Vanessa Gray, and with the cast of new Gold Coast drama, left.

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