Take a trip down Seran­goon Road

Don Hany takes Deb­bie Schipp on a trip down Seran­goon Road

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

HE learned mar­tial arts, Man­darin, mus­cled up and copped plenty of bruises for the role of Sam Cal­laghan, but Don Hany says no­body got through film­ing Seran­goon Road “with­out los­ing a bit of skin”.

A mam­moth shoot, lo­gis­tics cross­ing sev­eral cul­tures and stake­hold­ers, all with dif­fer­ent ideas on what the part­ner­ship was try­ing to achieve, stretched pre- pro­duc­tion and film­ing out to more than a year.

“It was a bit like the United Na­tions com­ing to­gether to make some­thing and ev­ery­one agree­ing, but no­body had the ex­pe­ri­ence of mak­ing this sort of drama,” says Hany, whose pre­vi­ous cred­its in­clude Off­spring and East West 101.

“It was like this epic jour­ney. It took some­thing out of ev­ery­one, but that’s the way you want it to be.”

The re­sult of that jour­ney is an ex­otic crime drama with bru­tal­ity, bite, his­tory and cul­ture clashes, at a time of po­lit­i­cal up­heaval in Sin­ga­pore. Sharp de­tec­tive work and fast­paced ac­tion scenes are un­der­pinned by com­plex per­sonal sto­ries.

It’s a happy first pro­duc­tion part­ner­ship for HBO Asia and the ABC.

Not so happy is the mar­riage of Maeve Der­mody’s Claire Simpson, who as the beau­ti­ful but bored wife of ex­pat com­pany ex­ec­u­tive Frank ( Jeremy Lind­say Tay­lor) is hav­ing an af­fair with Hany’s Sam.

As far as flawed anti- heroes go, Sam is a doozy.

He’s a some­time- de­tec­tive and a spo­radic im­porter/ ex­porter, who moved to Sin­ga­pore with his army ma­jor fa­ther and mother aged eight, spent his child­hood in a POW camp, worked in mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence in the Malayan Emer­gency and con­se­quently is a man filled with demons.

He doesn’t fit in with the ex­pat com­mu­nity, but is a for­eigner in a city at a cross­roads, filled with racial and po­lit­i­cal ten­sions and ter­ror­ist un­rest.

As an ac­tion man, Sam is sub­lime. But when he looks him­self in the mir­ror, there’s plenty of bag­gage.

He cuts a scruffy fig­ure among suited ex­pats and the CIA op­er­a­tives he comes into con­tact with via neigh­bour Pa­tri­cia Cheng ( Joan Chen) and her de­tec­tive agency. Sam’s per­sonal debt to her, it seems, is the guilt he feels for not be­ing able to stop her hus­band be­ing killed.

And it’s that work which brings Sam and Pa­tri­cia into con­flict with pow­er­ful and ruth­less fac­tions in Sin­ga­pore.

“Sam is kind of on the run. Life’s been a se­ries of traps for him,” Hany says.

“He has been ini­ti­ated in the cruel things of life. He lost his mum. He lost his best friend in Changi. He’s lost his dad.

“He won’t fully com­mit to his busi­ness, he doesn’t know if he wants to join forces with Pa­tri­cia and he knows he’s go­ing to let Claire down, so he’s a fail­ure in his re­la­tion­ship as well.”

Hany plays Sam with the no­ble re­mote­ness of a man who does good things but al­ways seems about to slip off the edge and take refuge in his opium habit.

“He is mo­ti­vated by the fear of fail­ure. He’s kind of an anti- hero in that he’s not mo­ti­vated to do good or have a sense of jus­tice, he’s just try­ing to ex­ist,” Hany says.

He says the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Sam and Claire is one of the sad­dest ele­ments of the show.

“They are both very lonely char­ac­ters. I don’t think any­one else un­der­stands them like they do each other, and yet that re­la­tion­ship is never go­ing to work,” he says.

“I don’t think Sam will ever have the emo­tional courage to re­ally com­mit to her be­cause he’s so un­reach­able. He’s just a coward, emo­tion­ally.

“That’s a shame, be­cause she could be such a turn­ing point in his life.” SERAN­GOON ROAD ABC1, tonight, 8.30pm

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