Strait into DRAMA
It was an offer Firass Dirani didn’t need to think twice about – a role in the ABC’S first big drama of 2012, and the chance to spend 15 weeks on location around the turquoise waters of Cairns in Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait.
“It was an absolute dream, I could have almost done it for free,” says Dirani, who shot to prominence playing colourful nightclub identity John Ibrahim in Underbelly: The Golden Mile.
In The Straits, he is Gary Montebello, one of three adopted sons of Harry ( Brian Cox) – a drug runner and smuggler who heads up his small empire with the help of Gary and his brothers.
Set against a stunning back drop, The Straits is a crime series which is as much about family and loyalty as it is about drug running and smuggling.
Family patriarch Harry and wife Kitty Montebello ( Rena Owen), and their adopted children Noel (Aaron Fa’aoso), Marou (Jimi Gela), Gary ( Dirani) and Sissi ( Suzannah BayesMorton) are just like any other family – except they live off the profits of organised crime.
They are modern day smugglers – they bring drugs into the country and guns and exotic wildlife out through the Torres Strait Islands.
When Harry reveals he is looking for a successor, a complex and bitter sibling power struggle unfolds.
Dirani’s Gary is a far cry from the actor himself.
“First of all, he’s not very ambitious,” says Dirani. “He’s the youngest of the three boys and he’s not really cut out for the family business.
“He’s not a killer, he almost avoids the situation. When the shit hits the fan he would rather run, which I enjoyed playing for a change instead of the powerful characters.”
Securing Cox was a huge coup for the ABC. Having never worked in Australia before, the acclaimed Braveheart star says he took a risk and was “thrown in the deep end”.
“There were no guarantees,” Cox says. “For me it was new territory. I have friends who I’ve worked with internationally like Hugo Weaving but I’d not really spent any time in Australia.”
The BAFTA award winner was drawn to the strength of the scripts – by Nick Parsons, Blake Ayshford, Kristen Dunphy and Jaime Browne.
“There’s a very strong sense of reality, it’s not as far fetched as one would think,” Cox says.
“It’s something which is very fresh and very new and there’s something dynamic about it.
“I liked that it’s very up front multiculturally. They’re all trying to be who they are and at the same time deal with things that are Australian.”