Underbelly in the flesh

A South Yarra nightspot was looking more like a Manila go-go bar when TV Tonight recently dropped by the filming of The Man Who Got Away, the third ‘Underbelly Files’ telemovie.

There were semi-naked girls, leering tourists in gaudy tropical shirts stuffing dollar bills into G-strings. Yep, must be an Underbelly shoot.

Watching on was actress Claire van der Boom (The Pacific, Rush), who plays Clelia Vigano, girlfriend of Australian drug smuggler David McMillan (Toby Schmitz, pictured). As the central character in the true life crime, McMillan is the only westerner to ever escape Thailand’s Klong Prem prison. Joining both for the rowdy scene was actor Jeremy Sims, as Lord Tony Moynihan.

Van der Boom described the telemovie is one of the scariest jobs she has ever done. Portraying a real person, for whom there is limited research material available, in a frenetic 3 week shoot is a tall order for even the most experienced of actors.

And then there are the demands the Underbelly brand asks of its female performers.

But Van der Boom declined to say if she had to appear in any nude scenes.

“I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about it!” she admitted.

Underbelly is often surrounded in such secrecy. But she did admit there were confronting scenes.

“Absolutely. I have had to push through some uncomfortable moments,” she said.

“You’ve got amazing actors and crew around you who are very supportive. These characters are bold and they do bold things, so you have to be very brave and try and jump in, even though a lot of you is screaming out and you’re terrified. But you do it.”

Confronting scenes are nothing new to Van der Boom. In The Pacific she also had to appear in nude scenes.

“There’s nothing worse than holding back too much with something that requires you to be brave.

“But if you believe in it and the characters are fleshed out, for want of a better word, it’s part of the gig. It’s part of being human too, so you explore it.”

The role in The Man Who Got Away follows on from a role in ABC’s upcoming telemovie Sisters of War. Van der Boom has been able to join both productions while she is on hold for a US project awaiting approval, Tough Trade executive produced by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. She has completed the Pilot for Lionsgate’s cable channel, Epix.

Sisters of War and Underbelly have slipped in nicely, so I am really lucky. They (Epix) have the right to say no. In a way they kind of own you,” she said.

“It’s a wild ride. I play a country-folk singer who has problems with drugs and sexuality, so it’s a really fleshed-out cable show, where anything goes! Some of it was directed by Gavin Hood who is an Oscar winner and Sam Shephard. I loved every second of it.

“My fingers are cross that there will be an answer soon. When you’re on hold like that you can’t attach yourself to any other long-running projects.”

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