Zac Garred in 'Australian Gangster'. (Photo: Lisa Tomasetti)

For actor Zac Garred, starring in the long-awaited and much-delayed Australian Gangster was like “going to a really cool party and not being able to tell anyone about it”.

The Roadshow Rough Diamond series, written and directed by Gregor Jordan, premieres tonight on the Seven Network some three years after it was shot, with delays due to legal reasons.

Inspired by true events, Alexander Bertrand leads the show as Pasquale “Pas” Barbaro, who grew up in an organised crime family. He is released from jail, but not before making an enemy of fellow inmate and Brothers For Life member, Mohammed “Little Crazy” Hamzy (Rahel Romahn). 

The newly-freed Barbaro is not concerned about playing it safe or hiding in the shadows. He is, however, concerned about looking good on Instagram.

The supporting cast includes Steve Bestoni, Louisa Mignone, Karla Tonkich and Salvatore Coco.

Given legal sensitivities, when he speaks to IF, Garred is still not allowed to name publicly his character.

However, he can say he is “a second generation gangster from a particularly colourful Sydney family”, and that the role involved many tattoos that had to be waxed off at the end of each day with sticky tape.

John and Dan Edwards produce the series with Seven head of drama Julie McGauran, while Fadia Abboud directs with Jordan.

For Garred, working on the series was a thrill. He is effusive about both directors, noting they were able to bring out the humanity in the characters and that there was a creative vibe on set.

While a huge fan of Jordan, he did not know he was attached until later in the audition process, after which he tried his best to channel a Two Hands-vibe, sensing a similar tone to the project.

“I love Gregor’s films. He’s a luminary of contemporary Australian cinema,” he says.

“These characters, for all intents and purposes, are sometimes anti-heroes; down on their luck people who either want notoriety, materialism or to get by. That’s a very relatable Australian value, that notion of just wanting to get by and make a living. That’s what Jimmy was in Two Hands; he was just a bloke trying to get his start in Sydney.”

Jordan shot the series in an unusual style, with long-running A and B camera takes.

“By doing that, it gave life to the entire scene; the background was constantly moving,” Garred says.

“You might not have had any lines in the scene, but you were present there, in the moment, to be seen. That creates a lively world; you’ve got an environment that has every character living in it at the same time.

“That creates a nice energy, particularly in this show as well, which is central to one character, Pasquale Barbaro, and all the people who ran off him, who used him, who manipulated him, and ultimately, who killed him.”

Originally from Newcastle, Garred is based in LA and has kept as busy as he could during the pandemic in America. Just before COVID hit he wrapped on horror film Seance in Pennsylvania, and in May, completed indie film Zero Road in Casper, Wyoming following a delay.

In Zero Road, from first-time director/producer Chance Sanchez, he plays Josh, a fat drug dealer described as a 1990s boy band reject; a role that required a prosthetic belly. The semi-autobiographical tale centres on a gifted teen who struggles to survive poverty while supporting his mother who suffers from a meth addiction.

Chris Cramer’s The Seance follows Nate (Michael Minto), an infamous medium who claims it is scientifically possible to contact the dead through seances. Garred plays Sean his frat boy roommate who eggs him on, thinking it’s a joke.

Closer to home, Zac is set to continue his collaboration with writer-director Luke Sparke, following on from roles in Occupation and Occupation: Rainfall, including acting as associate producer on the sequel. He will be one of the producers on Weapon of Choice, Sparke’s TV adaptation of John Birmingham novel series Axis of Time.

In addition to acting, producing is something Garred is keen to continue to explore; he has bought the screen rights and developed a script based on Peter Fitzsimons book The Ballad of Les Darcy, the true story of the iconic boxer from Maitland.

But for now, Garred is keen to see what Australian audiences will make of Australian Gangster.

“It’s a different type of criminal tale. This is one where the police don’t really feature. This is just about one bloke’s complete and utter implosion, and of course, people like my character, who use him essentially to their benefit.

“It’s a very interesting exploration, beautifully told, with a strong sense of humanity and family.”

Australian Gangster premieres tonight on Seven, 9pm.

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