The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - FRONT - By Penny Durham

Aaron Ped­er­sen, ac­tor, 47

You trained as a jour­nal­ist; what made you change course? I don’t know if I changed course or just branched out. Sto­ry­telling is sto­ry­telling. I wanted to get into tele­vi­sion so I took a jour­nal­ism cadet­ship at the ABC, and that was my way in. I was in Syd­ney and they were mak­ing Heart­land – Cate Blanchett’s first TV role – and I au­di­tioned. I didn’t get the part I wanted but I got a smaller role… and here I am to­day. I had a plan and it worked.

Was be­ing Cleo’s Bach­e­lor of the Year in 1994 part of that plan? [Au­di­ble cringe­ing] Well, I was a pioneer there; some­body had to be the first. Black men in this coun­try are im­por­tant and beau­ti­ful and rel­e­vant, as I said at the time. Some­one told me I should en­ter again … what, and [stuff] up my aver­age?!

You and Ivan Sen made the 2013 film Mys­tery Road to­gether, its se­quel and now the TV series. Is this a per­sonal project for you both? We’re in­dige­nous de­scen­dants who have taken the same jour­ney; there’s a con­nec­tion. We were de­vis­ing con­ver­sa­tions to have with the coun­try. Series di­rec­tor Rachel Perkins – it’s a mas­sive part of her too, and of all the in­dige­nous peo­ple at­tached to it.

Tell us about De­tec­tive Jay Swan, who you play op­po­site Judy Davis’s lo­cal cop. He’s a fan­tas­tic char­ac­ter dreamed up by Ivan. He’s a man who lives in the mid­dle ground. And while he’s a char­ac­ter de­signed for me, I think he’s half me and half Ivan. I’m the words and Ivan’s the si­lences.

The un­for­giv­ing East Kim­ber­ley land­scape plays such a big role, it’s al­most a char­ac­ter… It is. It’s so hot you want to jump in the wa­ter, but a croc will eat you – that’s real. And with­out the mod cons, we’re stuffed.

Ac­tress Jes­sica Falkholt’s death last sum­mer must have been dev­as­tat­ing for you all. The first scene I did was with Jess. The spirit of it started with her. It’s ridicu­lous – no­body should die in car crashes, it should be a thing of the past. We were so grate­ful to have her spirit and we’ll al­ways cher­ish that.

Thirty years ago, Ernie Dingo was just about the only Abo­rig­i­nal ac­tor on TV. How have things changed for in­dige­nous per­form­ers? We’ve al­ways been marginalised and I love the fact that it’s changed. Bob Maza, Jus­tine Saun­ders, Un­cle Jack Charles, Kevin Smith – there’s a long list of pi­o­neers who made this pos­si­ble. I have a ca­reer be­cause of their hard work. It comes from way back – it’s not us who have changed, but Aus­tralia.

Peo­ple know you from TV dra­mas like Wa­ter Rats, The Cir­cuit, The Code, Jack Ir­ish and A Place to Call Home but you also have loads of the­atre cred­its. Will you take to the stage again? If I’m work­ing as an ac­tor, I’m work­ing. Bud Ting­well said you never knock back a job. Even if you’re stereo­typed like me – I play a lot of cop­pers – I’m work­ing. Stereo­typ­ing doesn’t bother me, ex­cept in real life.

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