Playing a pivotal fi gure in the Underbelly crime saga is a dream role for young actor Firass Dirani. Guy Davis gave the Golden Mile star the third degree.
to make a name for himself among the shady players in Sydney’s epicentre of vice, Oxford Street in Kings Cross.
His story runs parallel with those of others on both sides of the law around the Cross between 1987 and 1999, including Kim Hollingsworth ( played by Emma Booth), whose career path included stripper, prostitute, police cadet and informer.
Aligning himself with crime boss George Freeman ( Peter O’Brien), Ibrahim quickly learned the ropes and became pivotal in the Kings Cross landscape. But it didn’t come without a cost: as a teenager, he suff ered wounds in a knife attack that left him technically dead for three minutes, comatose for three weeks and hospitalised for three months.
It’s a dream role for a young actor, and it came at just the right time for Firass Dirani, whose credits include guest spots on the likes of Home and Away, All Saints and East West 101, as well as a lead role in the critically acclaimed fi lm The Combination.
Although he had almost a decade of work under his belt since his debut at the age of 14 in the US sci-fi movie Pitch Black ( which was shot in Australia), Dirani was getting frustrated with the lack of acting opportunities in Australia and was close to relocating to Los Angeles when he got a call.
“ I got this call saying ‘ You might want to put that on hold – there could be an ideal part for you’,” recalled Dirani with a laugh. “ And when they said John Ibrahim, I was all ‘ You mean King of the Cross John Ibrahim? Yeah, why not?’”
Calling The Golden Mile’s Ibrahim “ an underdog kind of character”, Dirani says the miniseries’ depiction of the man has him “ coming from nothing, trying to make his name, running into some heavy dudes along the way but always standing up for himself”.
And while he wasn’t short of research material that would allow himself an insight into his character’s background – “ you get a thousand pages on Friday and then you get told shooting starts on Monday,” he laughed – spending a couple of days with the man himself proved the best method for gaining an understanding of John Ibrahim.
“ He’s a very strong, powerful character,” said Dirani, who shares a Lebanese background with Ibrahim. “ Staunch is perhaps the best way to describe him. But he was really helpful and he gave me his blessing – he’d seen The Combination and was happy with it – so I felt much more comfortable after that.”
Of course, it may have helped that Dirani went into his encounter with Ibrahim displaying some of the same confi dence the man himself is renowned for.
“ I gave him some stick in the meeting,” Dirani admitted with a grin. “ He’s someone with a lot of drive and determination, so I wasn’t going to come across as someone all quiet and polite.”
King of the cross: John Ibrahim ( played by Firass Dirani) is carried by Oxford Street bouncer Hercules ( John Akurangi) after a violent run-in.