Don Hany has come a long way since he played Alex Markham in forgotten 1990s soapie Breakers.
These days the 41-year-old calls Los Angeles home as he tries his hand in Hollywood — most recently opposite Melissa George in US hospital drama, Heartbeat.
But Hany — who shot to fame as Muslim detective Zane Malik on SBS’s East West 101 — is back in Australia for ABC drama, Janet King, playing former champion cricketer, Clay Nelson, in the sights of King (Marta Dusseldorp) and the National Crime Commission after a matchfixing scandal.
What does it feel like being back in Australia for Janet King? (It is) almost like I don’t deserve the welcome. It is a very unique thing that we’ve got here. In other places it is such a business. It quickly becomes a means of survival, in the US in particular where it is so expensive. It is do or die. You’ve got to work … just to stay afloat.
You and Marta have worked together, right? Very briefly. We were ships in the night on Jack Irish. We only shared the one scene on Devil’s Dust. We’ve never had the opportunity to craft something together until now.
What is she like to work with so closely? I think when you have to shoulder something you find your own rhythm. Someone who is able to do that and remain generous and still does it with a sense of humour – you always take your hat off to those people. Were you a Janet King fan before this job? I was actually a Crownies (forerunner of Janet King) fan. Legal drama is really important. I think when you have something like [ABC comedy series] Rake to contrast with, you can’t go wrong. This series in particular, because it centres around match fixing and the betting world, is timely. Are you a betting man? I went to Las Vegas once and had a go. And I felt completely ripped off so I’ve never done it since. It doesn’t appeal to me. I think it is Freud that said ‘you’re stupid if you never do it and you’re stupid if you do it more than once’.
You’ve played cops, priests, criminals, doctors. Is a sports star a new challenge for you? Strangely enough they are all defending some sort of ideology. Most people go to bat to prove that what they are doing is justified. I don’t think I’ve played someone this famous before. Like anything when you come to something too young, it is a difficult path to navigate.
Can you relate to that? You were quite young when you gained notoriety as an actor. It seems like I was, but my first job ( Breakers) I joined the cast where there were kids five or six years younger than me. I was really scared for them. I recognised how difficult it could be. They were getting paid a lot of money and being exposed to a whole lot of substance abuse and being told directly or indirectly that you’re famous. It is a slippery slope.
Has becoming a dad (Hany and wife Alin have a young daughter, Tilda) changed you? It is mainly logistics. In my job everything changes with a phone call and that doesn’t change when you become a parent (but) you’ve got other people to consider.
WATCH JANET KING, ABC, THURSDAY, 8.30PM