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.

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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.

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