Cast­ing a dark net

The Code star Ash­ley Zuk­er­man says he is fright­ened by how tech­nol­ogy can be a sin­is­ter tool in the wrong hands, writes Shan­non Molloy

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY -

Whistle­blow­ers chased by govern­ments they em­bar­rass, crim­i­nals lurk­ing in the depths of the dark web, smart­phones that spy on us … some­times the best fic­tion is based on truth.

That’s the case with the new sea­son of hit Aus­tralian thriller The Code, about a bril­liant but com­plex young hacker Jesse and his brother Ned.

When we first met the pair two years ago, Jesse had stum­bled upon a deadly se­cret that jour­nal­ist Ned helped him ex­pose, claim­ing some very big scalps in the pro­cess.

“Im­me­di­ately in sea­son two, it’s time to deal with the ac­tual re­al­i­ties of that,” Ash­ley Zuk­er­man, who plays Jesse, says.

“In do­ing ar­guably right­eous acts, the char­ac­ters com­mit­ted crimes and au­thor­i­ties in both Aus­tralia and Amer­ica want their heads. That launches us into the new plot.”

In a bid to avoid ex­tra­di­tion, they agree to help na­tional se­cu­rity agen­cies here with an ex­plo­sive case they can’t crack, and so be­gins the com­pelling jour­ney.

From the mo­ment he took on the role, Zuk­er­man says he be­gan learn­ing a whole host of things about the real world of sur­veil­lance and tech­nol­ogy.

“The in­for­ma­tion I know now that I didn’t be­fore this show is very scary,” he ad­mits.

“It’s amaz­ing what these com­put­ers we carry around in our pock­ets can do. And if any­one wants to, they can know what we’re do­ing.

“I read some­thing re­cently about au­thor­i­ties us­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion in ci­ties to track peo­ple sim­ply walk­ing around. That’s kind of un­set­tling.”

Dan Spiel­man, who plays Ned, says el­e­ments of this new chap­ter feel like they’ve been ripped straight from the head­lines.

“It touches on free­dom of speech and whistle­blow­ing, it touches on the dark net, it touches on abuse of power … it’s very hard-hit­ting,” Spiel­man says.

The screen and the­atre ac­tor has al­ways taken his per­sonal pri­vacy very se­ri­ously — some­thing that’s not al­ways easy in his world.

While he en­joys a cer­tain sense of anonymity in New York, where he lives, his wife Yael Stone is a global star these days with a role in Or­ange Is The New Black.

“I had my first for real Amer­i­can per­son recog­nise me and come up to talk to me,” he says. “They’d seen The Code on Net­flix — it was amaz­ing.”

The days of not be­ing recognised could be over for both ac­tors. The show is a huge global hit and has been shown in 113 coun­tries. Zuk­er­man was also re­cently cast in the hit US show Mas­ters Of Sex.

For both ac­tors, this project has re­in­forced a close bond.

“My first ever gig was as a fea­tured ex­tra on a film called Tom White, in which Dan was part of the sup­port­ing cast,” Zuk­er­man re­veals.

“For me, it was a huge ex­pe­ri­ence but for him it ob­vi­ously wasn’t as defin­ing be­cause he doesn’t re­mem­ber me at all.”

Jokes aside, he says know­ing Spiel­man was play­ing the on­screen yin to his yang took away any nerves about the enor­mity of the task.

“It calmed me im­me­di­ately and things locked into place, imag­in­ing him be­ing my brother. I un­der­stood the re­la­tion­ship much more.”

There were no short­age of heavy things to “sift and wade through”, Spiel­man says.

Ruth­less char­ac­ters with no moral com­pass, death, de­struc­tion, un­com­pro­mis­ing gov­ern­ment forces and in­no­cent peo­ple caught in the crosshairs, to name a few.

“When you play some­thing this closely with some­one, you get to re­late on a level that’s very sep­a­rate and be­yond friend­ship. Hope­fully we’ll get to do it again.,” says Zuk­er­man.

“The in­for­ma­tion I know now that I didn’t be­fore this show is very scary”

ASH­LEY ZUK­ER­MAN ON TECH­NOL­OGY

THE CODE, ABC, THURS­DAY, 8.30PM

/ NIGEL LOUGH

Ash­ley Zuk­er­man, right, and Dan Spiel­man; (below) with An­thony Lapaglia in The Code.

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