Taking a walk on the wild side
Malcolm Kennard finds inspiration from a harrowing past for his latest character, writes Darren Devlyn
IT’S the stuff of nightmares — a scene that could easily have been torn from the pages of the most violent horror novel. Malcolm Kennard, as underworld figure Victor Peirce, has a vice-like grip on the ankles of a dead bikie, who is headfirst in a 44-gallon drum in the scruffy backyard of a house in Melbourne’s inner-suburban Richmond.
A clinical Peirce jolts downward on the body, but it simply won’t squeeze into the drum. Problem solved when his crazed brother Dennis Allen appears on the scene with a chainsaw.
Kennard is a knockout as Peirce in the TV1 channel’s crime drama Killing Time — centred on the colourful life of fallen lawyer Andrew Fraser.
Kennard’s take on Peirce is that the criminal, gunned down in his car in Port Melbourne in 2002, was a tightly coiled individual who, without warning, could explode in rage.
Kennard, who first made an impression as Harley in the soap E Street and has credits including Joh’s Jury and The Matrix Reloaded, says, ‘‘ I’m very proud of this . . . stoked to have a great character to play.
‘‘ When I read the script I just said, ‘ Please God let me be in this.’ Ian David (one of the show’s creators) penetrates the psyche of Australian characters so well.’’
Kennard has proven himself as an actor whose real persona is hidden, but he exposes the human heart — even at its most wretched — in the roles he plays. But he hasn’t always had a strong handle on his place in the acting business.
E Street was Kennard’s tele- vision launch-pad, but there have since been long absences from our screens.
After he appeared alongside Dannii Minogue in the Beatles-inspired movie Secrets, one reviewer said: ‘‘ Kennard gives the sort of performance which in Hollywood would have producers knocking one another over to slot him into their next teenage movie’’.
‘‘ I got a bit caught in America for a while,’’ Kennard explains. ‘‘ I had quite a dark time. That period was a bit of a horror story for me. Long journey: Malcolm Kennard (above) as Victor Peirce in
and (below) in with Melissa Bell.
‘‘ One of Australia’s biggest stars offered me a job as his driver out of the goodness of his heart. I was down and out and had too much pride at the time to take that, but I wish I had because it was a harrowing two years scrambling around various parts of America. There was a time that I was actually homeless, hustling around. But no matter what happened in my career, I will always be interested in telling Australian stories. And the older you get, the more stories you have in you.
‘‘ In hindsight those experiences (in the US) lead you to value the cost of what you are doing and enhance your ability to play dark characers like Victor Peirce. As an actor you do try to get inside the head of the character. There is a human inside there somewhere and you need to find it.
‘‘ I did a lot of research and the big thing for me to understand with criminals was that they are often given a lot of love by their mums. But there is an absence of fathers or fathers who come and go.
‘‘ The child becomes a man who does not want to conform and wants to take on the powers that be.’’
Former silvertail lawyer Andrew Fraser’s books, Court in the Middle and Lunatic Soup, inspired Killing Time.
The series has shown how the one-time $1000-a-day cocaine addict’s drug-fuelled fall from grace earned him a stretch in Victoria’s Port Phillip Prison.
Fraser, who defended the likes of Jimmy Krakouer and Alan Bond, says it’s been bizarre watching David Wenham playing him in the show.
‘‘ Have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch your life dissected before your eyes with every fault and foible exposed for all to see?’’ Fraser says.
‘‘ It is extraordinarily confronting yet exciting, all at once. I was under no misapprehension I was in for a fluffy, feel-good piece glossing over my total fall from grace.
‘‘ I spent many hours with the script-writing team and was impressed how fanatical they were to make sure the series was as accurate as possible even if it meant painting me in a less than favourable light.’’ Killing Time TV1, tonight, 8.30pm