Q&A

An­thony LaPaglia, ac­tor, 58

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - FRONT - By Me­gan Lehmann

You’ve lived in LA for more than three decades but have re­turned to Aus­tralia for films such as Lan­tana, Bal­ibo and A Month of Sun­days. What do you like about in­de­pen­dent film­mak­ing? The kind of thing that gets made in Aus­tralia prob­a­bly wouldn’t be made in the US. The ma­te­rial’s more in­ter­est­ing and gives me op­tions to stretch my­self as an ac­tor. When I was younger I’d judge projects on whether they’d be a suc­cess, but now it’s all about the ma­te­rial.

Do you have to work at re­cap­tur­ing your Aussie ac­cent? Hon­estly, when I get back there, two days in and a few beers and I’m [adopts ocker drawl] bloody right to go.

In the TV se­ries Sun­shine, you play a basketball coach along­side first-time ac­tors from Mel­bourne’s South Su­danese com­mu­nity. How well did you get to know the com­mu­nity dur­ing film­ing? When I got to Aus­tralia there were a bunch of sto­ries about the Su­danese gangs and the prob­lems they were hav­ing. At the same time I was work­ing with the com­mu­nity in outer-west Mel­bourne and watch­ing a very dif­fer­ent pic­ture un­fold. I found the Su­danese I worked with to be won­der­ful, gen­er­ous, beau­ti­ful peo­ple. Un­for­tu­nately, as with every group, there are peo­ple who rep­re­sent their group badly.

Had your home­land changed while you were away? The Aus­tralia I left was slightly more pro­gres­sive than the Aus­tralia I’d come back to. In be­tween the gay mar­riage de­bate and the stance on im­mi­gra­tion… it’s dis­turb­ing to see Aus­tralia be­ing so xeno­pho­bic and my­opic about im­mi­grants con­sid­er­ing the coun­try has been by and large based on im­mi­grants.

Your par­ents em­i­grated from Italy. Did they find it tough? Those who came to Aus­tralia in the 1950s – the Ital­ians, the Greeks, any­one from the Mediter­ranean – were on the bot­tom rung of the lad­der in so­ci­ety. I watched my fa­ther strug­gle with the lan­guage and the cul­ture. It was never pleas­ant and be­ing the son of an im­mi­grant wasn’t a tremen­dous amount bet­ter.

Your Golden Globe-win­ning role on the cop se­ries With­out a Trace lasted seven sea­sons. What are the pros and cons of work­ing on a long-run­ning show? You can­not ig­nore the fi­nan­cial as­pect of be­ing on a hit se­ries in the US; it’s very lu­cra­tive. The down­side is work­ing 13-hour days; it grinds you down. Also, they did too many episodes a sea­son and it’s not pos­si­ble for the writ­ers to main­tain the qual­ity. But it was an in­ter­na­tional fran­chise; it gave me so much ex­po­sure.

You won an Emmy for your guest role on the sit­com Frasier and re­cently ap­peared in the film Annabelle: Cre­ation. Which is more dif­fi­cult: com­edy or hor­ror? Com­edy, def­i­nitely. It’s about find­ing a tone and you have to re­ally un­der­stand the spe­cific genre: is it a farce, a black com­edy or a flat-out sit­com? Be­cause I’m Ital­ian, I can ac­cess drama quite eas­ily.

You’ve just played a mafia crime boss in the TV mini-se­ries Bad Blood… It’s the first time I’ve played a mafia guy in 15 years. I started out do­ing a lot of mob roles but then my ca­reer got routed in an­other di­rec­tion. It was in­ter­est­ing re­vis­it­ing it.

Do you have any tat­toos? Many. I’ve been get­ting them since I was in my 20s but I usu­ally cover them up. The first time I re­ally let them out was on [TV se­ries] The Code. Most of them re­volve around my 14-year-old daugh­ter, Brid­get.

Your brother Jonathan hosts Aus­tralian Sur­vivor. How long would you last on his show? Thirty-five sec­onds. I’d try to get voted off that is­land as fast as pos­si­ble.

be­cause i’m ital­ian, i can ac­cess drama quite eas­ily

Sun­shine pre­mieres on SBS on Oc­to­ber 18. LaPaglia also stars in the thriller se­ries Riviera, Wed­nes­days, 9.30pm on SBS.

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