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