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