Multicultural rising star makes his mark
Rahel Romahn is 22 but he’s carving out quite a career playing high school students of various ethnic origins, mostly rebellious or with a dark side.
Since quitting his full-time bank job a year ago, the Kurdish-born, Australian-raised actor’s career has accelerated.
Currently on screen in SBS’s The Principal and ABC3’s Ready for This, Romahn appears in Peter Andrikidis’ comedy Alex + Eve, which opens in cinemas on October 22.
Next year he will be seen in writer-director Abe Forsythe’s black comedy Down Under and in the ABC series Cleverman.
This week he started filming a recurring role in the second series of Screentime’s ABC legal drama Janet King.
And he belongs to Blunt Gorilla, a filmmaker collective which makes TVCs and music videos and aims to produce its first feature next year.
That’s quite a resume for an actor who had been considering moving to the US to try his luck after finding “there were no roles for my type.”
Essential Media and Entertainment's head of fiction Ian Collie, who produced The Principal, is mentoring Blunt Gorilla. The collective's members include his daughter Alice Zahalka (who plays Lucinda in The Principal), producer Sharath Ravishankar and director M. P. Wills.
Collie tells IF, "Essential Media take great pride in identifying and nurturing new emerging talent in the Australian film and TV industry. With Blunt Gorilla we have been very impressed with their skill, verve and style they have brought to their short films to date and their slate of film and TV factual projects in development.”
Rahel, who started acting at 13, immigrated to Australia in 1996, when he was three, with his parents as they fled Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime. Two older half-brothers followed later.
After small roles in Underbelly: The Golden Mile and David Field’s drama The Combination, he got his first big break in Alex + Eve, the tale of a Greek school teacher (Richard Brancatisano) who is expected to marry a good Greek girl but falls hopelessly in love with a lawyer ( Andrea Demetriades) whose parents are Lebanese Muslim. He plays Shadi, Eve’s protective brother.
Rahel hit it off with Andrikidis, who subsequently asked him to play Sam, a young Iranian student in Janet King.
He found it easy to relate to the high school in The Principal as he attended Arthur Phillip High in Parramatta, which hit the news after one of its students shot a NSW police employee.
He plays the rebellious Tarek Ahmad, whose brother was killed in episode 2. He praised the scripts by Kristen Dunphy and Alice Addison as perfectly capturing the way teenagers talk and behave and he relished working with director Kriv Stenders.
“Kriv is a visionary,” he says. “He puts complete faith in his actors and there is a lot of freedom on the set.”
Down Under is set in the aftermath of the aftermath of the ugly Cronulla race riots in southern Sydney in 2005 as two carloads of hotheads from both sides of the fight seem destined to collide.
He plays Nick, an angry young Middle Eastern guy who is bent on going back to Cronulla to exact revenge. He describes the film as confronting and laced with humour, and predicts, “It will be very controversial.”
He has a brief role in Wayne Blair’s Cleverman, a six-part futuristic action drama, an Australian/New Zealand co-production between Goalpost Pictures and Pukeko Pictures.
The first production from Big Chance Films, a joint venture between Blackfella Films and Werner Film Productions, Ready for This follows five Indigenous kids who come to the city to pursue their dreams.
Rahel is Ryan, a music student who is a bad influence on an aspiring violinist played by newcomer Liam Talty, who studied at the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts in Brisbane.
Blunt Gorilla’s debut feature is The Delusionist, a thriller set in a Dystopian Australia, from writer-director Wills and producer Sharath Ravishankar.
Rahel is set to play the lead, a guy named Dennis, whom he describes as a “broken man with a malevolent side.”