Underbelly role of a lifetime

Playing police informer Nicola Gobbo is the most demanding role Ella Scott Lynch has ever undertaken.

When Ella Scott Lynch’s father heard the Underbelly producers were writing a miniseries on ‘Lawyer X’ Nicola Gobbo he rang her up to tell her she would be perfect for the role.

Scott Lynch, whose credits include Love Child, Brock and Upright, had previously performed as Chopper Read’s wife in Underbelly Files: Chopper. But being Sydney-based she knew little about Melbourne’s gangland history when she sent off an audition tape to producers.

“I just read the scene and thought, ‘Wow this is going to be an incredible character.’ It’s an unusual opportunity because we know very little about the character personally. So it left a lot up to us creatively, to try and understand what motivated the character,” she tells TV Tonight.

“An opportunity like this rarely rarely comes along.”

“I really believed that I could do the role and I fought for it, I suppose. I just knew an opportunity like this rarely rarely comes along.”

She got the role, playing barrister-turned police informer Nicola Gobbo, code named Informer 3838. It was a demanding schedule, filmed with little network fanfare late last year.

“The workload was immense and it was a short shoot, relatively speaking, shooting four hours of television in just over five weeks.

“You run the gamut of emotions in something like this, so it was a very physical shoot as well.

“I’ve never had that kind of workload on a television show before.”

“But it was a great experience for me because I’ve never had that kind of workload on a television show before.

“I’m playing Nicola Gobbo from her uni days to present day really: so the Royal Commission and how we got to the quite dramatic situation that has unfolded in the last year or so. It’s a long period to play somebody, which has been a really interesting thing to do.”

No surprises that Lynch had no opportunity to speak with Gobbo in preparation for the role.

“No. A lot of it is based on research, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and there’s a lot of stuff on the public record. It’s been very helpful to hear about other people’s dealings with her and things like that,” she continues.

“Hey, we’re not making a documentary here”

“When we got caught up on little factual details, Geoff our director said to us, ‘Hey, we’re not making a documentary here, we’re making an interpretation of events.’ No-one knows exactly what happened in these situations. No-one knows the truth. All we can do is puzzle a few things together.”

It was the dialogue-heavy courtroom scenes she found most difficult, but performing scenes alongside Gyton Grantley as “bloody scary” Carl Williams were also unnerving. The cast also includes Robert Mammone back as Tony Mokbel plus Hollie Andrew, Rhys Muldoon, Stephen Peacocke, Jacquie Brennan, Richard Davies, Olympia Valance, Jane Harber and Les Hill.

But Scott Lynch doesn’t weigh in on what motivated someone from one side of the bar to turn police informant. Such was the fallout it has led to a Royal Commission in Victoria and talk of another miniseries in the pipeline for Foxtel.

“You never judge a character”

“Whether you’re playing Macbeth or Maleficent, you never judge a character,” she explains. “You always look at your character as a whole person and try and understand what could have happened to somebody when they were younger, that makes them behave a certain way.

“There’s so much stuff around obviously in the press, that it can distract from just trying to create a whole character. You don’t want to get caught up in thinking ‘That was good or that was bad.’ I don’t believe any humans are all good or bad. We are all pretty complicated beasts. There are parts of this story that are really tragic but it’s always good to find the lightness in the dark. I think that’s the same with exploring a character that’s so divisive and complex.

“Bad people do good things, good people do bad things.”

“She’s enigmatic in a lot of ways, and that’s a gift as an actor because we’re not making any moral judgments on any of these characters. Bad people do good things, good people do bad things. I think it’s always fraught when you’re playing real people, because there’s that sensitivity that they’re going to maybe watch it at some point and feel like we are judging the situation.

“Actors, writers, all creative people just want to understand how people tick.

“With this character in particular I loved trying to understand her and the situation and hopefully the audience is as intrigued as we all were in making it.”

Informer 3838 Part 1 airs 8:50pm Monday on Nine. Part 2 airs next Monday.