Broken Shore drama belies the backdrop

2014-01-24_0025Don Hany, last seen in Serangoon Road, is back on the ABC in a procedural drama, The Broken Shore, but this time there’s barely an action scene in sight.

Written by novelist Peter Temple (Jack Irish), the telemovie has a whodunit element, but is a complex, layered character piece as well.

“I do a lot of walking on my own on the beach!” says Hany.

“When the action does come up he’s definitely not the man he was. We make a real point of that.

“It’s definitely not an action piece.”

Hany plays Detective Joe Cashin, who has returned to the country town where he grew up.

But when a local philanthropist is brutally bashed and robbed in his home, it opens up a can of worms about what lays beneath the surface of this seemingly sleepy town.

“He’s a recovering detective who underwent a pretty nasty accident at work. He was hit by a car when they were staking out a crook and he’s been through about a year and a half of rehab. His boss Stephen Villani has posted him to a country town called Port Monro which neighbours a town called Cromarty.

“They’re loosely based on Port Fairy which is where Peter Temple wrote the book. It emulates the relationship Port Fairy and Portland have to each other. Although he may dispute that!”

While the thriller captures scenes filmed around the Twelve Apostles on the Victorian coastline, the story is driven by deeper social questions.

“It’s the story of a police cover up but it treats the Indigenous community with a country Australian towns in a really honest way. What I think is the power of the piece is you have this backdrop of quite a moody piece. We don’t try and set it in a moody place despite the fact it is incredibly beautiful on the coast,” Hany explains.

“I think what it does is it investigates torn places and people trying to work their way through and find the way to continue on.

“This guy has just returned to his hometown to rehabilitate himself but he’s faced with all this memory. His dad suicided in the town and he’s kind of on the search for why his dad did that and why he’s continuing –despite the fact he’s been injured in this way.

“So it’s sort of about fathers and sons and our relationship with Indigenous Australia and the way we thrown money at stuff in the hope that the problems will go away.”

Also featuring in the cast is Claudia Karvan, Anthony Hayes, Dan Wyllie, Erik Thomson, Catherine McClements, Noni Hazlehurst, Robyn Nevin, Wayne Blair and Damon Herriman.

Produced by Essential Media (Jack Irish, Rake, Saving Mr. Banks), the telemovie is adapted by Andrew Knight and directed by Rowan Woods.

But Hany believes audiences shouldn’t come to it expecting a typical whodunit with many of the scenes as mere ‘two-handers,’ most of which involve his character.

“It’s not typical of that genre but the narrative is a whodunit.

“On one level it’s kind of a Hamlet. Because you’re asking these questions and you’re with this guy so much.

“He’s not like his brother or his dad and that’s certainly where the book is very much a moody thing. You’re not so much concerned with the murder as you are with the town and the political and social pressures on all these people.”

The themes raised by Temple are also deliberately thought-provoking: police corruption, post-traumatic stress, fathers and sons, Indigenous community.

“It’s not a pretty piece,” Hany insists.

“They’re not light topics, not easy to treat and not topics we often discuss with honesty.

“Rohan and Marty (McGrath, Director of Photography) have a very slow-boil approach.  It’s not television language as far as letting scenes resonate with people. They’re not cutting in and out of stuff to force information.

“I think the residual of interaction between the characters stays with you throughout the piece.”

Hany says racism in regional towns is also presented differently to racism in the city, where the locals are left to deal with the repercussions of the problem all the time. But The Broken Shore portrays the issue with a brutal honesty.

“Cops and lawyers and social workers deal with the issues daily and there’s not the political correctness and distance that we have in the city to go ‘That’s the way it should be.’ They swim with the problems daily,” he says.

“Apart from The Circuit I can’t think of any other show that deals with that topic honestly.”

The Broken Shore premieres 8:30pm Sunday February 2 on ABC1.


  1. Wow, the ABC has Mystery Road on this Sunday, then The Broken Shore next Sunday. Both movies offer an unvarnished view of racism in Aboriginal communities.

    I guess the ABC’s Morose Drama Department has been in overdrive recently. Is there some logic to putting such, ahem, light summer fare on so close to each other?

  2. I’m looking forward to this, I love Peter Temple’s books. However I’ll have my finger ready to turn on the sub-titles for Don Hany. Great eye-candy, but a dreadful mumbler. I’m surprised no director seems to have tackled him about this.

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