Fresh blood for Un­der­belly

Tele­movie un­cov­ers hot new tal­ent, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

WHO says doesn’t pay? Sul­li­van Sta­ple­ton can thank Aussie crime film An­i­mal King­dom for fast track­ing his ca­reer in the US and snag­ging the lead role in Un­der­belly: In­fil­tra­tion.

Jes­sica Napier scored her first TV role in Po­lice Res­cue when she was 10. She is us­ing Un­der­belly: In­fil­tra­tion to show peo­ple she can play a ma­ture char­ac­ter.

Sta­ple­ton played dis­turbed crim Craig Cody in An­i­mal King­dom, which shot Jacki Weaver into Os­car con­tention.

The film’s rous­ing re­cep­tion at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val made Sta­ple­ton ‘‘ hot’’.

Two weeks ago he landed the lead role in HBO’s big bud­get SAS-themed ac­tion drama se­ries Strike Back.

Aus­tralia came call­ing, too. Sta­ple­ton plays Vic­to­rian po­lice de­tec­tive Colin McLaren, who in­fil­trates the N’drangheta (Cal­abrian mafia), in the tele­movie Un­der­belly: In­fil­tra­tion.

In the mid-1990s, the N’drangheta con­trolled the pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of mar­i­juana in Aus­tralia. McLaren be­came shady art dealer Cole Good­win to bust their op­er­a­tion.

‘‘ Colin was a tena­cious bas­tard when he was a cop and went af­ter these guys,’’ Sta­ple­ton says. ‘‘ He was very driven and fo­cused. He said to me that the eas­i­est way to do it (go un­der­cover) was not stray too far from your­self.

‘‘ He liked art and that’s what he ran with when he saw the op­por­tu­nity.’’

Napier plays Jude, a sur­veil­lance ex­pert who posed as McLaren’s girl­friend for what was a gru­elling and risky 18-month op­er­a­tion.

It’s a very dif­fer­ent role for Napier, 31, who TV fans will re­mem­ber as Becky Howard

crime on three sea­sons of McLeod’s Daugh­ters.

‘‘ They’re (Colin and Jude) ei­ther very ballsy or naive,’’ Napier says. ‘‘ Ev­ery time you go into the sit­u­a­tion (un­der­cover) you’re putting your life at risk.

‘‘ With Jude, at the time she was young and fear­less. She was un­trained. She was just a ‘ squir­rel’, ba­si­cally there to shadow peo­ple, watch them and bug them.

‘‘ Colin grabbed her at Grif­fith and said, ‘ You’re my fi­ancee and this is why we’re here’. She went with it; she took to it like a duck to wa­ter.’’

Napier mar­ried busi­ness­man David Adler in late-2009 and worked on Sea Pa­trol and Res­cue Spe­cial Ops be­fore In­fil­tra­tion came along.

The Un­der­belly of­fer meant chil­dren had to wait.

‘‘ David and I were all about try­ing (to have kids) when this gig came up,’’ Napier says.

‘‘ Now I fig­ure it will hap­pen when it hap­pens. There will never be a right time, but it is cer­tainly on the agenda.’’ Un­der­belly: In­fil­tra­tion, Chan­nel 9, Mon­day, 8.30pm

Cop­pers: Jes­sica Napier and (be­low) An­i­mal King­dom’s Sul­li­van Sta­ple­ton and costar Kas­san­dra Cle­menti.

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