Fish out of water plucked for lead role


Elias An­ton was thrown in at the deep end when he was picked to play Danny Kelly (right) in Bar­racuda. The teen, who is also jug­gling his HSC, was plucked from ob­scu­rity for the lead role in the ABC swim drama.

Direc­tor Robert Con­nolly ( The Slap, Gal­lipoli) au­di­tioned more than 100 young ac­tors for Danny and called An­ton back four times be­fore he gave him the part.

The ac­tor had to have the right physique, be be­liev­able as a po­ten­tial Olympic cham­pion swim­mer, and be able to age con­vinc­ingly from teens to early twen­ties.

There was also the gru­elling film­ing sched­ule to con­sider. Danny is in ev­ery scene but two of the four-hour minis­eries which is based on Chris­tos Tsi­olkas’ ( The Slap) best­seller.

Con­nolly took a risk and chose new­comer An­ton be­cause “he’s an amaz­ingly in­stinc­tual ac­tor”. Olympic sil­ver medal­list Ni­cole Liv­ing­stone was hired as An­ton’s swim coach. Greg Saun­ders ( Glitch) was drama coach.

“It’s a mas­sive role,” Con­nolly says. “Elias not only has to swim to Olympic stan­dard but go on this huge emo­tional jour­ney. I was look­ing for au­then­tic­ity.”

Danny is con­sumed with be­com­ing a cham­pion Olympic swim­mer. When he is awarded a schol­ar­ship to an elite pri­vate school and the chance to be trained by renowned coach Frank Torma (Matt Nable) it looks like his dream is com­ing true.

But Danny is of Greek de­scent and a mid­dle class up­bring­ing and strug­gles to fit into this new world of An­glo wealth and priv­i­lege.

Team champ Martin Tay­lor (Ben­jamin Kin­don) be­lit­tles Danny. Frank’s coach­ing is se­vere. Danny’s truck driver dad Neal (Jeremy Lind­say Tay­lor) re­sents his son’s achieve­ments.

And Danny’s mum Stephanie (Vic­to­ria Har­al­abidou) is treated with dis­dain by the snob­bish swim mums, par­tic­u­larly Sa­man­tha Tay­lor (Rachel Grif­fiths).

An­ton saw par­al­lels be­tween con­tro­ver­sial Aussie tennis star Nick Kyr­gios and Danny which he used to shape the char­ac­ter.

“Danny doesn’t talk much. It’s more about what’s go­ing on in­side his head.

“Be­ing ac­cepted in a rich area when you’re not rich, go­ing to a school where you’re one of the few Greek boys, and be­ing gay when every­one’s straight — there are a lot of prob­lems go­ing on.”


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