Strait into DRAMA

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Close Up - – Deb­bie Schipp and Maria Noakes

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.”

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