Tak­ing a walk on the wild side

Mal­colm Ken­nard finds in­spi­ra­tion from a har­row­ing past for his lat­est char­ac­ter, writes Dar­ren Dev­lyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

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

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