Feeling at home
Despite the constant call of Hollywood, Rachel Griffiths is back for another Aussie TV series. By COLIN VICKERY
COMING home can be good for the soul. This is true on a personal level, but what about professionally?
For actor Rachel Griffiths, it seems keeping one foot in her home camp, as well as her American one, continues to reinvigorate her career.
Despite remaining in demand in Hollywood – where she is currently filming her latest big-budget TV project alongside Guy Pearce and Mary Louise Parker – the veteran performer returned to Australia for another local project. This time it was for hotly anticipated drama Barracuda, the small-screen adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name from Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap).
The ABC series centres on Danny Kelly, a talented teenage swimmer who has an obsession with winning and a deep fear of losing.
Griffiths plays snooty well-to-do mother Samantha Taylor, whose son Martin is a schoolboy swimming champion and Danny’s rival.
“I absolutely loved the book,” Griffiths says of why she accepted the role. “It also helped that I love the producers and the director, Robert Connolly, too.”
It is the latest local production to fit among Griffiths’ foreign endeavours, and one of her six roles across TV and film due out this year, with another two slated for 2017.
“I’ve had an amazing experience in Hollywood and I’ve worked with some incredible people,” she says.
“I’ve only ever been empowered and celebrated and rewarded.”
Despite that, coming home – whether for work or to “chill out” – is a frequent activity, one which many have credited with being behind her latest string of successful jobs.
While Griffiths was a big catch for the drama, it was the first acting role for the star of the series.
Elias Anton is the young rookie actor chosen to play Danny, and he admits it was a difficult part to grasp.
“He has a lot of doubt,” Anton says of his character. “There’s social class … he’s Greek and there are these posh white boys, so he’s a fish out of water. He’s at a new school. They’re more popular and confident.”
Anton had to convincingly swim at an Olympic level.
“I did swimming training when I was a kid and my brother has been a swim teacher,” he says.
“We had [Olympic silver medallist] Nicole Livingstone and [dual Olympian] Kenrick Monk and some of the other swimmers available to train me up. I was going to swim training three or four days a week before we started shooting. I had to get my form right.”
The dominant theme is pursuit of athletic excellence and the sacrifices it requires, but Anton says that’s all underpinned by his character’s deep yearning for acceptance.
“Being accepted in a rich area when you’re not rich, going to a school where you’re one of the very few Greek boys, being gay when everyone’s straight … there’s a lot of stuff going on,” he says.
Acclaimed actor Matt Nable plays the revered swim coach at the school where Danny lands a scholarship.
He’s an immigrant and former young champ who’s determined to get the best out of his boys.
“He commands respect but he’s also got a sense of humour,” Nable says. “He’s a hardliner but he has a good heart. He’s looking for a champion … he recognises Danny’s talent and he takes a punt.”