When John Jarratt began acting on screen in the mid-70s, he was thrust into a golden-era of film and television: Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, The Odd Angry Shot, Matlock Police, The Young Doctors, The Last Outlaw, Bluey.
Now nearly 40 years later and aged 60, it’s as if things have come full circle. He’s just starred in Wolf Creek 2 and has a role in ABC1’s Jack Irish: Dead Point.
“When I came into the business in the 70s and 80s it was all miniseries and telemovies. I love them. In those years I did 7 or 8 miniseries and I don’t know how many telemovies. The Last Outlaw, Fields of Fire I, II and III, Palace of Dreams,” he recalls.
“I think they’ve suddenly realised having good actors doing meaty stuff is a lot less boring than those reality, crappy, terrible shows that took over the world for a while.
“Thank God we’ve come back to drama, all over the world. People really like good drama, and that’s great for us.”
While he had done guest roles in TV Drama, he says his first ongoing role on television was in Nine’s McLeod’s Daughters in the early 2000s.
“I did that because I’d come out of a marriage, and I didn’t come out of it all that well-off financially –which I didn’t mind, because I wanted my children to have as much as they could have. I don’t think a bloke needs that much. But I needed to earn a quid, basically, so I did McLeod’s Daughters for 4 or 5 years but that’s the only long-term television I’ve ever done,” he explains.
“Before there was Better Homes and Gardens, of course, which is a different kettle of fish. But I’d never been in any TV series in my life. It’s always been movies, miniseries and telemovies. Short-lived stuff. It’s a lot less-boring and you can do a variety of stuff.
“I got terribly bored with McLeod’s but god love ‘em…
“You’re playing the same character over and over again. The first year was fun and then I just wanted to move on. I needed to re-establish my life. It’s good for that.”
For the third Jack Irish telemovie he plays Snr. Sgt Laurie Olsen, based on the award-winning thriller by author, Peter Temple. Jack Irish (Guy Pearce) is thrown into a world of sexy club owners, dodgy drug dealers, bisexual blackmailers, and unhinged killers.
“He’s an old school rogue detective getting a bit of money on the sly, he just thinks from his era it’s acceptable. But he comes undone of course,” he says.
“He’s a pretty harmless bent cop, really.
“This guy is pretty straight up and the script pretty well describes him, so I know who he is. He’s almost the cliché crook cop and they all do it for the reasons that they do it. So it’s not a huge back story.”
Jarratt joins an all-star cast for the ABC telemovie, which includes Barry Humphries, Marta Dusseldorp, Deborah Mailman, Kat Stewart, Aaron Pederson, Roy Billing, though he does most of his scenes with Vince Colosimo, Shane Jacobson and star Guy Pearce.
He’s never worked with any of the trio before.
“I haven’t and I am a huge admirer of all bloody three. It’s a really top cast and a good bunch of people to work with. So that excited me more than anything. I’ve been around for nearly 39 years and not having bounced into any of these guys, from a work perspective, it’s very nice to be trading dialogue with them,” he admits.
I ask if Jarratt considers himself a character-actor?
“I don’t know. I played the lead in Wolf Creek 2 recently, so what is a ‘character actor?’ If you’re always getting co-leads and cameos, I think they call those people character actors. But every part plays a character,” he answers.
“I don’t even think about it. I just think about the next human being I have to play and try to give it some truth. So if that’s character-acting, that’s character-acting.”
Jack Irish premieres 8:30pm Sunday April 13 on ABC1.