The Underbelly: The Golden Mile actors look so flash it should be a felony.
Firass Dirani plays John Ibrahim
What's the show about?
It's about the rough, seedy, raw and sexy streets of Kings Cross between the years of 1988 and 1999. It's also the period of the Wood Royal Commission, which exposed corruption within the police force.
How did you come to be cast as John Ibrahim?
I had a role in a 2009 film called The Combination and the producers must have seen it. They contacted me to audition for the role and, in total, I went through four auditions before I won the part.
When they contacted me to advise that I'd won the role, I was on the verge of going to LA as there wasn't much happening here career wise. I had my visa application ready and had organised a sponsor, when I got the phone call. My agent tried calling me at home but I wasn't there, but my mother answered and asked him if it was "good news". "Yes, it is good, Mrs Dirani," he said. I was actually happy that she heard about it first as I know how proud she would have been.
How long did you have to prepare for the role of John Ibrahim?
Only about four days not long at all! I was bombarded with copious amounts of research and several initial episodes to read and work on. It was definitely a shock to the system. What do I do now? So I had to quickly get a grip on the whole process, but to be honest, I did enjoy the insanity of it all.
Did Ibrahim like your work as the red dude in Power Rangers Mystic Force?
He actually said, "You had better not wear any spandex in Underbelly or I'm gonna come after you." That's the next one Underbelly 4: Revenge of the Spandex.
What were the most challenging scenes to shoot?
Probably the sex scene as I've never shot one before and obviously I was butt naked. There was a moment during that scene where we're kind of up close and personal, against this wall, and there was a break in the movement and I actually paused and said, "Mum's going to be so proud of me!"
And your old man and uncles. Did you find the choreography for the physical scenes challenging?
No, because I did karate and taekwondo for five years.
Have you encountered any particular reaction from people since being cast as John Ibrahim?
Respect! I'll be walking down the street and there will be a bouncer and they'll call out, "Hey Firass, how are you doing?" He'll lean over to their friend, and they'll say, "that's Firass who's playing John and I'll be like, "What ... are they talking about me?" and then it will be "Yes they are, and I'm playing John and he's King of the Cross!" Bizarre! I should stay away from Kings Cross for the immediate future!
Salvatore Coco plays Hammer
What do you think motivates Hammer?
It's not power or money but respect, loyalty and the sense of brotherhood that he shares with his friends.
Is Hammer a fan of MC Hammer?
"Can't touch this! We got to pray! Pray!" He's too legit to quit. Don't forget that. You actually get to see him dance in the uncut version.
What's Hammer's relationship like with John Ibrahim?
He'll always be there, 100 percent for John. They'll fight everybody fights, but he'll always totally look out for him.
Did you undertake any particular physical training for this role?
I used to box, I still do. I was also a member of the Newtown Police Boys Club before it closed and used to box there, plus I sometimes go to the gym. But when I was cast as Hammer, I had to start going to the gym regularly and put in that extra, extra effort. I've actually put on five kilos for the role. I've been doing weights, cardio and had to go back to boxing to maintain the style, so hopefully it looks like I'm capable of doing it.
What was the most challenging aspect of playing Hammer?
It's when Hammer goes to the "dark" side and becomes involved with drugs. I found the scene where I was injecting myself quite hard, as was the on-screen cocaine snorting and all the rest. It's also difficult when you realise that my niece and nephew may watch me doing this.