He’s arguably one of TV’s most respected actors, holding two Logies, an AFI Award, four published books and a formidable body of performing work.
So what on earth is William McInnes doing fronting a fly-on-the-wall series about council workers?
As the quick-witted actor explained to TV Tonight, he doesn’t mind being associated with a show that has a sense of humour and doesn’t end up harming anybody.
“This. Possibly. Is. The. Finest. Half. Hour. Of Television. You will ever see!” he cheekily insists.
And why is that?
“Because there’s a dog in it.”
Yes The Enforcers has a dog, and a dangerous one at that, running wild in the vicinity of kids in inner Sydney. It’s up to council workers to tell its owner she is breaking the law. But that won’t be easy.
Such are the small-time dramas on Nine’s new observational series. Cameras follow council workers and parking officers as they attempt to put out spotfires in local municipalities.
“This show has probably got its tongue in its cheek a little, but there are moving stories and startling stories,” says a pragmatic McInnes.
“It’s one of those shows that doesn’t have any pretension other than to entertain.
“It is what it is, but they’ve gone out and got some pretty interesting material and I lend my booming voice for narration. But it’s a show that’s quite humorous and has some touching moments. I’m sure people who like this kind of stuff will like it.”
McInnes, who has narrated The Making of Modern Australia for the ABC and acted in dramas such as Curtin, East West 101 and The Informant, is usually associated with projects about Australian history or meaty drama roles.
But despite its title The Enforcers doesn’t victimise its subjects, a key point for McInnes.
“This show is based squarely and fairly in Australia. It’s not like police chases or customs, kicking out boat people,” he says.
“In some ways, and it may be a bit of a stretch, it’s a little bit like a social history time capsule.”
The Enforcers also allowed him to remain with his family instead of having to travel and accept roles in the true crime dramas -a genre he has serious concerns with.
“I didn’t want to leave Melbourne and do things that I’ve done before which is mostly cop shows. I’m not really into that gangster folklore stuff,” he says.
“I did five years of Blue Heelers. But you get to a point where you can pick and choose and you don’t have to worry about it.
“There are some jobs I’ve turned down this year -and you don’t want to sound like you’ve got a stick up your a*se- but those true crime telemovies are beyond the pale. I don’t know how somebody who has got kids can make them. There’s a certain social responsibility you’ve got to have as a performer,” he insists.
“In one way I can understand their popularity because they tell Australian stories, and they reflect popular interest in Australian stories in the same way that Americans built up gangster movies as a genre.
“I know the people in them, but I shake my head and think ‘Man….’ But I guess some people might look at The Enforcers and think ‘What are you doing that for?'”
While he did star as a serial killer in 2003’s The Shark Net it was a period drama, based on an acclaimed book. The distance of time allowed some perspective.
Having a social conscience, a respect for Australian history and maintaining a sense of humour, are part of what makes McInnes the complex actor he is.
“My drama lecturer said to me once ‘Never believe you’re as good as people say you are or as bad.’ But more on the bad side than the good side, to get a real perspective of yourself,” he says.
“What people don’t want is to see people take themselves too seriously. You don’t want to disappear up your own a*se.”
Little wonder then, that The Enforcers looks to him to give the series a sense of gravitas. He has it in spades.
“There’s gravitas and a sense of pi**-taking,” he smiles.
The Enforcers airs 6:30pm Sunday on Nine.