Focus on the Television Nominees: Part 3 – The Acting Awards

By Simon Elchlepp & Rochelle Siemienowicz

In Part 1 of this series on the television nominees, we looked at the producers who stand to win the AACTA Awards for Best Television Drama Series, and Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series.

In Part 2, we took a closer look at the nominees for Direction and Screenplay in Television.

Now it’s time to learn a little more about those familiar (and sometimes unfamiliar) faces who appear in front of the camera and make watching the box essential and irresistible: the actors and actresses nominated for the television acting awards. Here they are, unpacked below. Make predictions if you will. All will be revealed when the winners are announced on 31 January at the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards Ceremony, which will be broadcast on the Nine Network.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Rob Carlton. Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo. ABC1
Alex Dimitriades. The Slap. ABC1
Don Hany. East West 101, Season 3 – The Heroes’ Journey. SBS
Jonathan LaPaglia. The Slap. ABC1

Rob Carlton has come a long way since his early bit roles in High Tide and John Duigan’s classic The Year My Voice Broke. Working steadily throughout the 1990s in Australian TV in acting roles, Carlton made the shift to writing and producing with 2006’s Tropfest-winning short Carmichael & Shane. Just two years later, Carlton proved his impressive multiple talents once more with comedy series Chandon Pictures, which brought him two AFI Award nominations for Best Television Comedy Series in 2008 and 2009 and another nomination for Best Performance in a Television Comedy in 2008. His award nomination run continues with the AACTA Award nomination for his role as publishing magnate Kerry Packer in Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. And Carlton’s star continues to rise, with his 2012 projects including P.J. Hogan’s Mental, Working Dog’s Any Questions for Ben? and big-budget family drama TV series Conspiracy 365. (Find out more about Conspiracy 365 here in our Quick Quiz with the series’ star, Harrison Gilbertson.)

Alex Dimitriades third AFI | AACTA Award nomination is evidence that he has established himself as a character actor who’s not afraid to tackle challenging roles. No matter if it’s his turn as the dominant, violence-prone alpha male in The Slap or his explosive performance as rebellious homosexual youth at odds with his Greek family in Head On, Dimitriades brings a fierce intensity to his roles. He burst on the scene opposite Claudia Karvan in 1993’s romantic comedy The Heartbreak Kid and went on to star in popular teen series Heartbreak High. Shedding his teen heartthrob image with his AFI Award-nominated performance as Best Actor in a Lead Role in 1998’s Head On, Dimitriades went on to earn another nomination, this time as Best Actor in a Supporting Role for La Spagnola in 2001. Dimitriades recently also starred in Summer Coda, one of this year’s 21 contending Feature Films.

Don Hany scores a hat trick this year with his third AFI | AACTA Award nomination. Once more, he’s in the run for an award with his consistently excellent work as Detective Zane Malik in SBS’s highly-decorated East West 101, which already netted him nominations as Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama in 2008 and 2009. Before his breakthrough in East West 101, Hany had already established himself through his work on another crime series, White Collar Blue. After starring in AFI Award winning series Underbelly, False Witness and Tangle, Hany shifted gears and displayed his comedic talents as romantic lead in Offspring opposite Asher Keddie, another of 2011’s AACTA Award nominees.

For Jonathan LaPaglia, The Slap is a premiere in more than one way. Not only has the role of Hector, a passive husband and father with a disintegrating marriage, brought LaPaglia his first AFI | AACTA Award nomination, but The Slap is also LaPaglia’s first Australia production. Born in Adelaide, Jonathan (who happens to be the brother of Anthony LaPaglia) moved to the USA in 1994. He quickly carved out a niche for himself, starring in a number of crime series including New York Undercover, Seven Days, The District, Windfall and Cold Case from the mid-1990 onwards. He also made his feature film debut in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Henry in 1997.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Essie Davis. Cloudstreet. FOXTEL – Showcase
Kerry Fox. Cloudstreet. FOXTEL – Showcase
Asher Keddie. Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo. ABC1
Sarah Snook. Sisters Of War. ABC1

2011 has been a banner year for Essie Davis, with roles in two of this year’s highest profile Australian television productions. In Cloudstreet, for which she is nominated, Davis plays the beautiful and wayward wife of Sam Pickles, while in The Slap, she plays Anouk, a sexy,straight-talking career woman with dreams of becoming a novelist. Davis has built an impressive local and international career in film, television and theatre, with credits in Girl With a Pearl Earring, Sweeney Todd, and The Matrix Reloaded, as well as local films like AustraliaSouth Solitary and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. She received her first AFI nomination in 1995 for Best Supporting Actress in Dad and Dave: On our Selection, and her second in 2000 for her work in television series Halifax f.p. In 2003 she won the AFI Award for Best Actress in a Supporting or Guest Role in a Television Drama or Comedy for telemovie After the Deluge. Davis will appear in the lead role of Phryne Fisher next year in television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Starting out more than twenty years ago, Kerry Fox is one of New Zealand’s most prominent character actresses. After Fox made her feature film debut in Jane Campion’s An Angel at My Table, her career quickly expanded continents with her roles in Gillian Armstrong’s The Last Days of Chez Nous, Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave and Michael Winterbottom’s Welcome to Sarajevo. After her first AFI Award nomination for Best Actress in a Lead Role for Country Life in 1994, Fox received further awards accolades for her unflinching performance in the British relationship drama Intimacy, which netted her a Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2001. Working mostly in the UK, Fox was reunited with Jane Campion for Bright Star for which she received her second AFI Award nomination in 2010, this time as Best Supporting Actress. In 2011, Fox co-starred with fellow nominee Essie Davis in Cloudstreet and Burning Man.

Through her work in Australian TV and theatre,  Asher Keddie has become one of this country’s most recognisable and intriguing actresses. Starting out as a child actress in 1985, Keddie returned to the small screen in the mid-90s after a break and quickly landed roles in critically acclaimed productions like Janus and Simone de Beauvoir’s Babies. After performances in TV series State Coroner and Stingers, Keddie’s breakthrough role was her portrayal of endearingly neurotic new mother and wife, Julia Jackson, in Foxtel’s Love My Way. Her star-making turn brought her an AFI Award nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama in 2006 and several Silver Logie nominations. Two more AFI Award nominations followed soon: in 2009 for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama for her role in Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities and in 2010 for her performance as Bob Hawke’s second wife Blanche D’Alpuguet in Hawke (Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama). In 2011, Keddie not only scored her third AFI Award nomination in a row, but also starred in two of this year’s highest-rating TV drama productions, Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo and Offspring. Her nomination recognises her fascinating and realistic portrayal of a real life wonder woman, editor extraordinaire Ita Buttrose.

In an awards category packed with seasoned veterans, Sarah Snook is the up-and-coming novice who represents Australia’s new acting talent. Snook graduated from NIDA in 2008 and appeared on the theatre stage in the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s production of King Lear. After a short foray into the film and TV industry via a guest role in All Saints in 2009, Snook has made her mark as one of Australia’s most promising new talents in 2011. Her roles this year included performances in controversial erotic drama Sleeping Beauty, AFI Award-nominated TV series Packed to the Rafters and Spirited and of course Sisters of War, which has already brought Snook her first AFI Award nomination. In this telemovie, Snook plays a beautiful young nurse captured by the Japanese in World War II Papua New Guinea and befriended by a young Australian nun (Claire van der Boom). There’s more to come in 2012, with Snook starring in TV movie Blood Brothers and opposite Ryan Kwanten in Not Suitable for Children.

 


AACTA AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Richard Cawthorne. Killing Time – Episode 2. FOXTEL – TV1
Aaron Fa’aoso. East West 101, Season 3 – The Heroes’ Journey – Episode 18 ‘The Price Of Salvation’. SBS
Jacek Koman. Spirited, Season 2 – Episode 2 ‘Time After Time’. FOXTEL – W
Todd Lasance. Cloudstreet – Part 3. FOXTEL – Showcase

An awards nomination can be a breakthrough success for a rising star, or it can be the confirmation of years of hard work. For Richard Cawthorne, it’s a bit of both. He’s been around on Australian TV screens since his debut role in 2000 in Eugenie Sandler P.I. More guest roles in crime dramas were to follow and over the following years, Cawthorne appeared in Stingers, Blue Heelers, Rush and AFI-award winning feature film Noise. Following his performance in mega-budget TV mini-series The Pacific, this year Cawthorne caught viewers’ attention with his scene-stealing portrayal of Melbourne crime boss Denis Allen in Killing Time, which brought him his well-deserved first AACTA Award nomination.

Aaron Fa’aoso didn’t have to wait long for his first taste of success in the TV business. His debut role in the multi-AFI Award winning RAN: Remote Area Nurse brought him a nomination as Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama in 2006. Fa’aoso’s biggest acting role on the silver screen since that early success has been his turn as Detective Sonny Koa in acclaimed crime series East West 101. However, Aaron’s talents extend beyond acting: he was the writer and director of Indigenous short film Sharpeye and is the executive producer on one of 2012’s most hotly anticipated TV series, The Straits– in which he will also play one of the main protagonists.

Not many nominees in this year’s TV acting categories can look back on a career as long and varied as Jacek Koman. Born in Poland, Koman debuted on Polish TV in the late 1970s before he moved to Australia. His impressive international portfolio includes numerous roles in Australian, British and Polish TV and feature films. Koman’s most prominent roles on the small screen include turns in multi-AFI Award winning The Secret Life of Us, East West 101,  and Simone de Beauvoir’s Babies. In cinemas, audiences have seen Koman in production like this year’s The Hunter, Australia, Romulus, My Father and Children of Men – but chances are you remember him best for his impassioned performance as the heartbroken, tangoing Argentinean in Moulin Rouge!

Although still relatively young in years, Todd Lasance is already a veteran of the small screen. Like so many young actors, he got his break on Home and Away, where he played the role of bad boy Aden Jeffries for several years. His performance brought him a Silver Logie for Most Popular Actor in 2009 and promised greater things to come. And 2011 seems to be the year when the promises have come true, with Lasance starring in some the year’s highest-profile TV production including Cloudstreet, Crownies, Rescue Special Ops and Underbelly Files: Tell Them Lucifer Was Here. Lasance is already lining up TV event movie Brothers in Arms for 2012, but it’s his turn as the troubled and sensitive Quick Lamb in Cloudstreet that sees Lasance nominated this year.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Diana Glenn. The Slap – Episode 3 ‘Harry’. ABC1
Rena Owen. East West 101, Season 3 – The Heroes’ Journey – Episode 18 ‘The Price Of Salvation’. SBS
Susie Porter. Sisters Of War. ABC1
Lara Robinson. Cloudstreet – Part 1. FOXTEL – Showcase

Diana Glenn’s quiet but sympathetic performance as the long-suffering wife of the unreconstructed Harry (Alex Dimitrades) in The Slap impressed juries this year, but she has a long film and television career behind her, stretching back to Neighbours in the late 90s, and progressing to top notch television drama series like The Secret Life of Us, Canal Road, Satisfaction, and Carla Cametti PD and film roles including performances in Somersault and Oyster Farmer. She was nominated for an AFI Award for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama for her work in Satisfaction, Series 1, and also nominated for a Silver Logie for that performance. This year, Glenn has also appeared in television series Killing Time.

After a string of TV appearances, New Zealand star Rena Owen shot to international prominence in 1994 through her roles in Kevin Costner’s Rapa Nui and international arthouse hit Once Were Warriors. Owen’s performance as Beth Heke in Once Were Warriors  propelled her into an international career that occasionally brings her to Australia, most memorably in Rolf de Heer’s Dance Me To My Song (for which she was nominated for an AFI Award in 1998). Most recently, Owen impressed juries with her AACTA nominated guest performance as a suffering mother of violent sons in an episode of East West 101, Season 3. A star in her native New Zealand, Owen has appeared in television series Adrenalin Junkies and Shortland Street, and will star in the upcoming Matchbox/ABC series set in northern Queensland, The Straits, alongside Aaron Fa’aoso, Brian Cox and Firass Dirani.

Susie Porter is one of Australia’s most decorated actresses, with a long string of memorable and award winning performances on her credit list. These include roles in Idiot Box, Amy, Better Than Sex, Teesh and Trude and Bootmen, and AFI Award winning turns in Caterpillar Wish (2006), Remote Area Nurse (RAN) (2006) and East West 101, Season 2 (2009). Most recently, Porter has been seen on screens in Richard Gray’s feature film Summer Coda, and as the hard-nosed Julia Wilson in comedy series The Jesters. Her nomination for an AACTA Award this year comes for her performance as the resilient Australian Army nurse in ABC telemovie Sisters of War opposite fellow nominee Sarah Snook.

It’s rare for an actor or actress to be nominated as Best Young Actor as well as being nominated alongside their adult co-stars in a major acting category, but Lara Robinson, who has only just turned 14, has achieved this feat. The young actress starred in 2009 feature film Knowing (as Abby/Lucinda), and has also appeared in City Homicide, The Elephant Princess and had a brief but startling scene in the remake of Long Weekend, but it’s her touching vulnerability and maturity in Cloudstreet, as the ethereally beautiful young Rose Pickles, which impressed judges this year. She’ll also be seen next year in television’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, alongside Essie Davis.

So there they are, the nominees for the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards for Best Lead Actor and Actress in a Television Drama; and Best Guest or Supporting Actor and Actress in a Television Drama.

The winners in these categories will be revealed on Tuesday 31 January at the Samsung AACTA Awards Ceremony in Sydney, broadcast nationally on the Nine Network. Stay tuned to find out more…

You can click through to our Facebook page to see fun polls where you can let us know which of these nominees would be receiving the statuettes if it were up to you.

Why I Adore: East West 101 Series 3

by Lia McCrae-Moore

I was particularly excited when I found out that the third season of East West 101 was to be broadcast on SBS this April. And, no it wasn’t only because I wanted to watch Don Hany perfect his performance as the ever-manly Malik – though this was definitely an added bonus. It was more that the endless search for another gritty, thought-provoking political drama could finally come to a brief standstill. Once again, I could indulge my couch potato tendencies without feeling any twinge of guilt. My brain and body would not decompose during the viewing process. This series would be stimulating and polemic. It would be Australian crime drama at its best!

The ever-manly Malik - Don Hany (centre) in East West 101

The dramatic quality of East West 101 has remained consistently outstanding since its inception in 2007. Its delicate combination of strong script writing, direction, acting and production is everything you could expect from a collection of such seasoned professionals. The show’s prestige is reflected in its multiple AFI Award wins for Best Direction (Peter Andrikidis), Best Lead Actress (Susie Porter) and Best Television Drama (Krys Wyld and Steve Knapman). Filmed in and around Sydney, East West 101 continues to showcase the best of our local talent, both onscreen and off.

The first series of East West 101 was conceived during the post 9/11 era of terror and anti-Islam sentiment. It was a particularly intense period of heightened fear and resentment. Arguably then, the decision to make the show’s lead protagonist, Detective Zane Malik (Don Hany), a practicing Muslim, was politically as well as dramatically motivated. Producers and writers Krys Wyld and Steve Knapman clearly wanted to explore how Australia was responding to this new wave of racial and religious vilification.  Malik is the best kind of contemporary hero, one who wins over his audience with a genuine blend of vulnerability, compassion and conviction while remaining ardently aware of his cultural position as an outsider.

In the first series, Malik must navigate the internal tensions of the Major Crime Squad while simultaneously investigating a deeply personal and disturbing crime. Senior detective Crowley (William McInnes) continually questions Malik’s dedication and commitment to the Force but Malik remains determined to prove his loyalty and overcome Crowley’s unwarranted skepticism, without burning too many bridges.

In Season Two, the Major Crime Squad joins forces with the NSO (National Security Organisation). The team’s primary goal is to investigate the cause of a devastating car bomb attack. The Sydney media attributes the crime to a group of Muslim extremists but Malik remains doubtful. This negative media portrayal has detrimental consequences for the local Muslim community and Malik must position himself on the issue sensitively. He remains as impartial as possible though his new Inspector, Patricia White (Susie Porter), is paying close attention to him. Ultimately, her initial misgivings are disproved and she learns to trust Malik’s instinct, reinstating him as a positive role model in the Squad and in his local community.

By the third series of East West 101, the Major Crime Squad have become involved in an international military investigation that has connections to the war in Afghanistan. This case has personal ramifications for Malik but he must temper his own anger and hurt in order to reveal the truth. The new volatile and disconcerting presence of Detective Neil Travis (Matt Nable) proves to be difficult and compromising. Malik discovers that Travis’s hostile attitude towards Islam is largely due to his military service in Iraq. In tracking down the case’s savage perpetrators Malik and Travis must negotiate their differences, but unforeseeable consequences arise, further complicating their fragile relationship.

In the episode The Price of Salvation Detective Sonny Koa (Aaron Fa’aosa) assists Mere Hahunga to reign in her wayward son, Sam. Sam has been involved in a brutal robbery led by the notorious Ned Reweti, the local Maori gangster. Koa feels it is his duty to ensure that Sam does the right thing by testifying against Reweti but Sam is not so easily convinced. His reluctance jeopardizes Koa’s own position within the investigation and ultimately leads to dire circumstances. Meanwhile, Malik is hell bent on seeking justice for the death of his only son by ruthlessly tracking down the killers. When the case claims another victim, Malik is determined to reveal the truth. But this proves to be more difficult and frustrating than Malik expects and he rapidly loses patience.

The episode cuts between these two storylines cleverly; interweaving the threads in a complex fashion that keeps you biting your fingernails and gasping at the television screen with anticipation. Each shot is framed with class and conviction, the camera honing in on important details but not lingering too long on the extraneous. The editing is quick and snappy so that the storyline steams along at a decent pace. After watching the last couple of series, I am now quite fond of the cast’s familiar faces. Their well-developed characters have become hyper-real extensions of my furtive imagination as they join me in my lounge room while I sip on a peppermint tea or toast my toes in front of the heater. Each season has built upon the last, adding layers of complexity to the narrative and solidifying its storytelling rigour.

But perhaps, what I appreciate most about this series is its willingness to engage with current socio-political issues and debates. It is not afraid to dissect the very real cultural divisions and racist opinions that exist in contemporary Australia, today. Rather, it courageously confronts these “difficult” issues by demonstrating the very real ramifications they have on the people involved. Both explicit and implicit racism is still prevalent within our society. East West 101 acknowledges this and encourages us as audience members to open up these displays of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour to a broader cultural analysis and criticism. It prompts us to question our immediate, often unthinking, emotional reactions and identify them as either warranted responses or irrational prejudices.

Tasneem Roc and Don Hany play a modern Muslim couple in East West 101

Tasneem Roc and Don Hany play a modern Muslim couple in East West 101

As the series has only just finished airing, I am reluctant to divulge too much more information. I would prefer to encourage you to watch it online or on DVD, your bum on the edge of your seat and your eyes glued to your screen. If you’re anything like me then you will watch with unabated enthusiasm, one episode after the other, as the team grapples with the next installment of corruption, rape or murder. Remember, this is Australian crime drama at its best. You won’t be disappointed.

All three series of East West 101 are now available on DVD.


East West 101
: AFI Award Wins

▪  Best Television Drama Series (2009)
▪  Best Direction in Television – Peter Andrikidis (2009)
▪  Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama – Susie Porter (2009)
▪  Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series (2008)

East West 101: AFI Award Nominations

▪  Best Screenplay in Television – Michael Miller and Kristen Dunphy (2009)
▪  Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama – Don Hany (2009)
▪  Best Direction in Television – Peter Andrikidis (2008)
▪  Best Screenplay in Television – Kris Wyld (2008)
▪  Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama – Don Hany (2008)
▪  Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama – William McInnes (2008)
▪  Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama – Taffy Hany (2008)


Read Previous ‘Why I Adore’ Posts
:

Paul Anthony Nelson (the ‘Why I Adore’ godfather and founder) introduces the concept, and rhapsodises about Mad Max. AFI Membership Administrator Lia McCrae-Moore revisits the lyrical beauty of One Night the Moon and Clem Bastow reminisces about a childhood spent watching the television show Round the Twist. Or you can read Anthony Morris flirting with disaster in his adoration of Romper Stomper, Annie Stevens going bridal with Muriel’s Wedding, or Popzilla bowing down before the altar of literary screen adaptations.

Contribute: We’re currently looking for more ’Why I Adore’ articles devoted to Australian film and television. Send a one paragraph summary to editor[at] afi.org.au and we’ll get back to you with more details.