Broth­ers, sis­ters and a con­trary un­cle

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - - DAR­REN DEVLYN

IN CHAN­NEL 7 drama Broth­ers & Sis­ters, Kevin Walker is out and proud. The same can’t be said of Kevin’s un­cle Saul, played by stage-and-screen vet­eran Ron Rifkin.

Saul strug­gles with his sex­u­al­ity and that’s just fine by Rifkin (right) be­cause the plot­line has thrown him a wel­come curve ball.

Asked if he’d pre­fer to play Saul as straight or gay, for­mer Alias star Rifkin says: ‘‘Well, I think it’s much more in­ter­est­ing for a guy like me and a 65-year-old guy (Saul) to strug­gle with this dilemma and fig­ure out some way to work it out.

‘‘It wasn’t un­til the end of sea­son one that one of the writ­ers said, ‘Who is Saul? Does he fit? He’s sort of the pa­tri­arch of the fam­ily now, but why isn’t he mar­ried?’

‘‘One of the writ­ers said, ‘Maybe he’s gay’.

‘‘And I got a phone call from the writ­ers ask­ing how I felt about that, and I was, you know, very turned on and very ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­plor­ing the world of a guy like that. That’s chal­leng­ing for the writ­ers, it’s chal­leng­ing for an au­di­ence and it’s also chal­leng­ing to me as an ac­tor.’’

The show has won awards and crit­i­cal ac­claim for the cast’s slick, emo­tion-charged per­for­mances. It comes as a sur­prise to learn the show is pro­duced at a crack­ing pace and plots and di­a­logue are some­times con­structed on the run.

Rifkin says the cast is of­ten in the dark about the di­rec­tion of the show.

‘‘It’s a very liv­ing, breath­ing process, and we as ac­tors need to stay open to the pos­si­bil­ity (of un­ex­pected sto­ry­lines) be­cause they as writ­ers need to stay open to what we feel and how we see our char­ac­ters are chang­ing.’’

It’s hard to be­lieve that a show so suc­cess­ful had such trou­bled be­gin­nings. The orig­i­nal Broth­ers & Sis­ters pi­lot was con­sid­ered so flawed that some roles were re­cast and it was re-shot.

On the eve of the show’s launch in the US, few crit­ics ex­pected it to find an au­di­ence, let alone sur­vive be­yond a sin­gle sea­son.

Rifkin says he’s amazed by the show’s wide de­mo­graphic ap­peal.

‘‘Last night I had to do a char­ity thing and there were peo­ple there who were like 80 and 70 and 60, and then there were young Hol­ly­wood and rich peo­ple and poor peo­ple. I have to tell you that I got asked like 50 times am I gay,’’ Rifkin says.

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