Shed­ding good-guy im­age

Lapaglia gets in touch with bad­ness for his new show, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY -

ARARE chance to play the hunted and not the hunter drew Jonathan LaPaglia into ac­cept­ing a lead role in Un­der­belly: Bad­ness. LaPaglia is mostly known for his good-guy roles – he’s played a de­tec­tive, lieu­tenant, a spe­cial agent, an ex-CIA op­er­a­tive and an exNavy SEAL on US tele­vi­sion.

Rarely has the Ade­laide na­tive had an op­por­tu­nity to por­tray a char­ac­ter on the wrong side of the law.

So be­ing asked to play un­der­world fig­ure An­thony ‘‘Bad­ness’’ Per­ish in the lat­est Un­der­belly in­stal­ment was enough in­cen­tive for LaPaglia to sign on.

‘‘They had me au­di­tion for the cop role and then a month later they came back and asked me how I felt about play­ing the bad guy,’’ LaPaglia says.

‘‘I was kind of torn to be hon­est . . . but in the end I fell on the bad guy’s side be­cause I hadn’t played one for so long.’’

LaPaglia’s TV act­ing ca­reer started in 1996 when he played de­tec­tive Tommy McNa­mara in New York Un­der­cover. Yet in all that time he only ever made one Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion, The Slap, be­fore he re­cently started shoot­ing Un­der­belly in Sydney.

‘‘The ap­peal of com­ing home to work in Aus­tralia had a lot to do with (ac­cept­ing the role) too,’’ says LaPaglia.

‘‘To be able to shoot in Sydney, it doesn’t get much bet­ter than that.’’

LaPaglia lives in LA with his wife Ur­sula Brooks and their daugh­ter Tilly, close to his older brother An­thony. He says he reg­u­larly catches up with An­thony when they are both at home, be­tween jobs or not on lo­ca­tion.

Be­fore head­ing to the US in the midnineties to study act­ing, LaPaglia gained a medicine de­gree and worked in an emer­gency room at an Ade­laide hospi­tal.

‘‘My de­sire was to keep the two go­ing, act­ing and medicine, and I have my med­i­cal boards for the States,’’ he says.

De­spite hav­ing not worked in medicine for more than 15 years and com­pil­ing an im­pres­sive showreel, his par­ents some­how over­look his act­ing ca­reer.

‘‘My par­ents still in­tro­duce me as the doc­tor,’’ he says.

‘‘Both of my par­ents are Euro­pean so in their world, be­ing doc­tor is sec­ond to God and I don’t think ac­tor gets on the list.’’

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