Wearing the cassock as costume was one thing. But wearing such off-set was a bit of an eye-opener, as peoples’ behaviour towards him changed.
“Wearing Catholic vestments, I was shocked at how many people endowed me and John (Noble) and Andrew (McFarlane) with a completely different attitude. That visual representation is the doctrine that the Church engages in to build this hierarchy,” he says.
“There was no-one who ever suspected I was in costume when I walked down the street or back to the (film) unit. It was fascinating how many people would say ‘Hello Father,’ and give me the briefest little nod as I walked past. No-one suspected it was a costume.”
Hany plays Bishop Quaid in the Foxtel miniseries, which picks up the story of young Tom Allen (Simon Burke) 35 years after he appeared in the 1976 movie The Devil’s Playground by director Fred Schepisi.
“There’s still something so kind about Simon. There are lots of things that change in 35 years but the best parts about that kid are still with Simon, I reckon. He’s a great guy, although I know this is sounding a little bit gushy,” he concedes.
“The film is often grouped together with Coming of Age movies for the treatment of clergy abuse that Fred consciously or unconsciously examined. But in talking to both Simon and Fred there was actually very little in the film about child abuse. It’s about conflicted people who have made the choice at the age of 12 or 13 to commit their lives to (religion) and ask ‘Is that the right choice?’ Simon’s character was at the beginning of that journey, potentially.
“So the one thing the two pieces have in common is that they present characters who are utterly conflicted about choices before them. Other than that, the movie has a real buoyancy about it but the TV show is pretty dark.
“(In the film) Simon’s reactions, even the times when he is sexually confused, have a comic undertone to them, that I only think Toni Collette found (in the series).”
While the Matchbox series dramatises the Church’s reaction to sexual abuse, Hany says it sought to remain truthful, showing how it created a dilemma to those of faith.
“We were all really passionate about being faithful to the Catholic life, from the Clergy to the Laity to the kids,” he says.
“I think we sought the blessing of the Church because we wanted them to be proud of it as well. I hope that there are many who will be because I think the one opportunity we had is that there are so many good things about Church that we’ve lost today. There are so many acts of charity and kindness that we just don’t have anymore because the Church struggles to shake this media salaciousness about things like the Royal Commission. The way the Church has responded to it I don’t think reflects the way a lot of them feel.
“And that, to me, just makes the whole thing worse: that some people would be leaving the Church. It’s like the judgment many members of the Islamic faith would feel (over) the acts of a very small group of people. The loudest is the squeakiest wheel, but suddenly people feel ashamed of their belief. That’s the real crime, in one sense.”
Joining him in the ranks of the Church in the 1980s are Jack Thompson, John Noble, Andrew McFarlane, Leon Ford and Max Cullen.
Despite being the youngest bishop in the series, Quaid adheres to tradition, as an anti-modernistic priest, who struggles with the changes of Vatican Council.
“Liberalism swept through the ‘60s when the Church tried to open its doors, but they were suffering heavy losses, and continues to. So the idea was to soften ideas about homosexuality, abortion and contraception. They could remain faithful and do that,” he explains.
“For Quaid, making the choice early in life that the most comfortable pillow to sleep on is a clear conscience, this was just unacceptable behaviour.
“So he provides the story with a moral investigation into how the Church has responded to what’s about to happen. But he just can’t understand the deviation from his little black book.
“When I read the script I thought ‘This is just a house of cards ready to fall.’”
But he was reminded by a close Catholic friend that the Church continues to add value to society, even if it is often overlooked.
“He said, ‘You don’t see many athiests at soup kitchens in city slums putting in the work for the community.’ So there’s something vital we’ve lost because of the way we’re painting these organisations,” says Hany.
“Were we to lose the good things about the Church we would really all feel that.
“There are so many great things we’ve lost because we don’t all go to Church anymore.”
Devil’s Playground airs 8:30pm Tuesdays on Showcase.