Fresh blood for Underbelly
Telemovie uncovers hot new talent, writes Colin Vickery
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.