THE bloodthirsty razor gangs of 1920s Sydney continue to throw long shadows and have nearly claimed a new victim.
Actor Jeremy Lindsay Taylor ( inset) said the intense process of bringing the role of notorious gangster Norman Bruhn to life for the upcoming series Underbelly: Razor left him an empty shell, unable to move and ‘‘ struggling’’.
‘‘ It takes its toll; nightmares and not sleeping, breakdowns, but it’s worth it, completely worth it,’’ he said on set in Sydney recently, running a hand through his cropped and dyed period-style haircut.
Lindsay Taylor has invested, in his words, ‘‘ 150 per cent’’ in the role of Bruhn, a Melbourne-based father-of-two sent by underworld figure Squizzy Taylor to Sydney in 1927, where he takes on brothel queens Kate Leigh ( Danielle Cormack) and Tilly Devine ( Chelsie PrestonCrayford, pictured).
It was Bruhn – a loving family man at home and vicious evil strategist in the criminal underworld – who struck on the idea of using razors as weapons.
In a time when being found guilty of murder meant you were hanged, and locked up for carrying a gun, the cold steel blade of a razor could either disfigure or kill and instil abject terror.
If you were found with one, you told the coppers you were just on your way home for a shave.
‘‘ It’s the role of a lifetime,’’ said 37-year-old Lindsay Taylor, best known for his stint as ‘‘ Buffer’’ on Sea Patrol.
‘‘ It’s the break I’ve been waiting for for 20 years. The writers have given me material that I just never would have believed possible.’’
But the evil deeds and dichotomy of the role messed with his head. And it was only the grounding of his family and fiancee, high school teacher Marnie Pleffer, that kept him going.
‘‘ We had Easter break. I did the first block, first two episodes and I couldn’t have gone on and done this block [ without them],’’ he said.
‘‘ I literally couldn’t move. I had nothing. I physically was an empty shell and we had a week off, thank God. And that week gave me a little bit of strength back to get through this. Had that not been there I honestly think it all could have gone to s---for me. I didn’t have anything left in the tank.’’
At one stage it was suggested he have counselling.
‘‘ Yeah some people suggested talking to someone, but I talk to my fiancee and she’s incredibly grounding,’’ he said of Pleffer, whom he will marry in November.
‘‘ I wouldn’t have been able to do this role as well as I have if I hadn’t met her three years ago. She’s really put my feet firmly on the ground.
‘‘ If I’d rung it in, it wouldn’t be good. If you protect yourself as an actor it wouldn’t be good and so I did everything you see emotionally and physically.’’
Lindsay Taylor moves on to shooting a role in Southern Cross’s drama Wild Boys next week. Again he will play another ‘‘ evil bastard’’.
‘‘ Once I have a rest I’ll be good to go. They won’t know what hit ’ em,’’ he laughs.
It’s the break I’ve been waiting for for 20 years. The writers have given me material that I just never would have believed possible