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.

Burning Man: Jonathan Teplitzky

Writer-director Jonathan Teplitzky and 'Burning Man' lead actress Bojana Novakovic.

When Jonathan Teplitzky burst onto the scene with his first feature, Better Than Sex (2000), he was that rare phenomenon: an Australian writer-director unafraid of exploring the messy, funny and serious side of urban sexual relationships. For that film he was nominated for an AFI Award for Best Direction and Best Original Screenplay. Now, eleven years later, he’s pushing boundaries again with Burning Man, the story of Tom, a bad-boy Bondi chef played by Matthew Goode, who is  reckless, angry, promiscuous and slightly dangerous. As the father of an eight-year-old boy (a great performance by Jack Heanly), Tom is less than responsible, and the many women in his life aren’t at all pleased. The mystery behind the misbehaviour is slowly revealed through a skilfully fragmented narrative that is, again, sexy, funny, sad and honest.

Teplitzky proved he could do comedy and action with the hilarious Gettin’ Square (2003) – a film for which he was also nominated for an AFI Award for Best Direction, though that film was scripted by Chris Nyst. With Burning Man, however, Teplitzky is back to his own script, and mining his own life experiences for a story of grief, desire, memory and love.

Here Teplitzky talks about his creative decisions, including his choice to use a non-linear narrative structure and his striving to capture a ‘winter look’ Bondi. He also talks about his desire to create Australian films for intelligent grown-ups. On a lighter note, he also discusses the absence of dead kangaroos in his film!

Matthew Goode in 'Burning Man'.

Matthew Goode gives a searing performance in 'Burning Man'.

AFI: You’ve been doing a whole lot of Q&A screenings for Burning Man. What are the most common questions you get asked? Are there some surprises?

Jonathan Teplitzky: There have been some good questions. I mean, it’s not surprising, but because there’s a certain biographical element to the story, people are always intrigued and want to know how much is from my own life. Another good one someone asked me was: “If I saw someone behaving like Tom in real life, would I intervene?” My answer was: “I wouldn’t intervene unless they were about to hurt themselves.” But I would – hopefully – look at what they were going through with a lot of empathy and a lot of camaraderie.

AFI: The film throws the audience right into chaos at the very start of the film. Was that always the intention, to start like that and gradually let the audience work out why the central character is behaving that way?

Jonathan Teplitzky: Yes, I decided on that structure pretty early on. I wanted a structure that reflected Tom’s emotional and psychological state, you know, that kaleidoscope, that fractured life, that life turned upside down. That’s why it’s like it is. I think with films like this, it’s really important to throw the audience in at the deep end. You’ve got to lay out the world that they’re going to live in.

And look, I wanted to make an adult film, you know, for adults. And I think audiences have a great desire not to be led by the hand all the time and not to be spoonfed, but to actually come along and have a cinematic experience that they have to work at a little bit. Hopefully part of the pleasure of watching a film like this is to be part of the process of working it out.

The only rule I wrote to was that in cutting from scene to scene, there had to be an emotional reason in some way, or as often as possible, to go from one scene to another. Either there was an emotional payoff in the next scene, or one emotion led into another, so that they were linked.  The story’s quite straightforward, apart from the fact that it’s all jumbled up, but I really wanted it to be an emotional journey for the audience. And as a result, I felt that that would give the film not only a momentum, but would thrust the audience into the story rather than letting them observe Tom from an emotional distance.

AFI: When the character played by Bojana Novakovic appears, it’s actually quite disorienting. We don’t know who she is. Then there’s this revelations, which is a shock. Is this what you were aiming for?

Jonathan Teplitzky: Very much so. There’s a degree of autobiography in it, you know. My partner passed away 10 years ago. Six years had passed before I started writing the script. I started thinking that it would be great to respond to what I experienced in a creative way. So when I started writing it, I had to serve the fact that it’s a film, so I had to build into it a way of telling the story that would make it dramatic, would keep the audience guessing, would keep the audience engaged in a way. I had this idea that we’d be following this guy and to a certain extent, the audience are judging him, you know. “He’s an arsehole! Why is he behaving like this?” You know, he seems to have a real incendiary personality. And then suddenly, the whole ship seems to turn around and a character is revealed that starts to explain perhaps why he is the way he is.  I think this does a number of things, apart from contextualising his behaviour, but it also suggests that he’s not that unusual. It’s a kind of universal story.

Bojana Novakovic and Matthew Goode in 'Burning Man'.

Bojana Novakovic and Matthew Goode in 'Burning Man'.

AFI: The film has a lot of sex in it. It is adult, like you say, and it’s about a complex relationship between a man and a woman and an ongoing marriage really. That seems to be something we don’t do so much here in Australian cinema.

Jonathan Teplitzky: Yes. Sex and emotion. Margaret Pomeranz has spoken about this quite vocally recently, that we shirk away from sex and emotion, both collectively and individually in Australian cinema. And you know, those are both things that interest me. I mean, most of us in Australia are middle-class, we live in cities. But often, what we see on screen is the exact opposite of that. Rural stories set with sort of isolated characters. I’m very keen to explore the way that we actually live.

AFI: I was just looking through the top box office earners of Australian film today, because Red Dog has moved up the list. I was reading them out to my co-worker in the office and she says: “They’ve almost all got either dancing, singing or animals in them.” And this is true!

Jonathan Teplitzky: It’s so true. And you know, the other thing, someone told me once: not only are an amazing percentage of scripts that get submitted for funding set in rural or outback situations – completely the opposite of the way we live –  but that 75% of them have someone running over a kangaroo! That’s what I heard. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but it’s quite funny really. So I feel a bit left out not having a dead kangaroo in it!

AFI: It would have been a bit hard in Bondi!

Cooking up a storm - Dan Wyllie and Matthew Goode in 'Burning Man'.

Cooking up a storm - Dan Wyllie and Matthew Goode in 'Burning Man'.

Jonathan Teplitzky: Yeah, exactly. It’s probably more likely to be on a menu somewhere in Bondi. But hopefully our industry is producing more complex films now. In the last two years or so there has been a good range of films. And that’s what’s great about something like Red Dog that can do $20 million, but that there’s still an interest in other films that do different things. Hopefully that’s a sign of a maturing culture. It remains to be seen, but hopefully that’s a good sign for our industry.

AFI: Can you talk about the ‘look’ of this film? It has a very particular colour palette. It’s not the traditional look of Bondi with the bright sun and blue sparkly beach.

Jonathan Teplitzky: No, I was really glad to shoot it in winter. I live in Bondi and it’s actually a really fascinating place, visually, in the winter. I wanted a sense of slightly heightened reality because that is what Tom is experiencing. Plus, he works in a kitchen, which is full of all that colourful food. I wanted to shift it away from being purely a naturalistic drama, and I didn’t want it to be overly sentimental. It needed to have colour palette that just was a bit more vibrant.

AFI: In terms of locking down the funding, how important was it to have an actor of international stature like Matthew Goode attached?

Jonathan Teplitzky: Look, it wasn’t the reason we cast him. You know, we cast him because I met him in London and as I got to know him, I realised he would do a great job, but also be committed to the film in a way that he had to be – I mean, he’s in 190 scenes or something, and there’s only three he’s not in. So we needed someone who was up for the physical and emotional challenge. I think we just caught him in a time in his life when he was really ready for that and wanting to do that. And you know, I liked the idea of someone who was an outsider;  it just added to his sense of isolation, without having to articulate that specifically in the script.

Obviously, because he’s becoming a well-known actor, that always helps sell the idea of the film to financiers – the fact that you can cite a bunch of big films that he’s been in. But in saying all that, both Screen Australian and Screen NSW supported the film at script stage very strongly before he was attached. But later, when we were putting the gap financing together, having a name actor certainly helps. And having people like Kerry Fox and Rachel Griffiths, then there’s something for investors to hang their hat on too. It’s about making people feel comfortable about what you’re getting into, financially.

AFI: From a realism perspective, there are a lot of English chefs in Sydney!

Jonathan Teplitzky: Yes! Chefing couldn’t be a more international profession, really. There’s every nationality in the kitchen, particularly here, where the food culture is so big and restaurant culture is so big. And you know, it’s just reflective of all the many cultures cooking food in this country.

AFI: What was the approximate budget of the film?

Jonathan Teplitzky: It was around $7 million.

Asking questions of the audience - the first film poster for 'Burning Man', designed by Jeremy Saunders.

AFI: Can you tell us about the film’s poster/key art? It changed from one design to the other. They’re both really beautiful. Why the change?

Jonathan Teplitzky: It didn’t change. We always had two posters. The first poster, the reflective one, in a sense asks questions of the viewer. And then with the second one, we wanted something that would feed that and be a bit more representative of the film. Also, we wanted it to really ping out of a lightbox in cinemas. And when you put a light behind this later one, it looks really great. They were both done by the same person, Jeremy Saunders, with that idea of being a stepping stone from one to the other.

AFI: Is it true you got your start as a photographer?

Jonathan Teplitzky: Well, I went overseas in the early ’80s and I did a lot of photography while I was traveling. I really got into it. And that sort of led on to being interested in film. By the time I got back to London, in the mid ’80s, I actually went to film school there.

AFI: How long has it been since you last directed a feature? Was the last one Better Than Sex?

Jonathan Teplitzky: Well, Better Than Sex was 2004, so it’s quite a while, six years, six, seven years. In the meantime I’ve done commercials, done a little bit of TV [including television series Spirited] and I had other scripts for features in development, but they never really got to a place that I was happy with.

The later poster for 'Burning Man', also designed by Saunders.

AFI: How do you think you’ve grown as a filmmaker from that last feature project to this one?

Jonathan Teplitzky: Well, I think you can chart a development from Better Than Sex to Gettin’ Square to this one, in terms of confidence and grasp of storytelling in the visual medium. From project to project you just learn so much about working with actors and working with crew.  You gain a great deal of understanding of what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you need to do to get a great performance out of someone – and that has to be tailored to individual actors. Also, I’ve learnt to find ways of enjoying the process as much as possible. That’s a really important part of it. We all spend a huge part of our lives doing this, so it’s great to be actually able to enjoy it!

AFI: Thanks for your time and best wishes with the film. It looks great.

Jonathan Teplitzky: Thank you.  I’m really proud of it, I have to say.

Burning Man is currently in national release.