Blackjack: articles


GOOD cop… journeyman Australian actor Colin Friels is Det Jack Kempson in Blackjack.

Top brass on the case

The Blackjack team hit the jackpot in casting Colin Friels, writes Sarah Nicholson

COLIN Friels calls himself “Number Six”. That’s because the veteran Australian actor believes five other people will have turned a part down before those casting a new show get to his name on the list of potential stars.

If that’s the case, creators of the Blackjack telemovies hit the jackpot when five other actors refused the role of Detective Jack Kempson.

Friels was born to play the pivotal role of seasoned cop Kempson in the Australian production which airs periodically on Channel 10.

The actor’s salt-and-pepper hair and well-lined face are just what you would expect of an officer who had been around the block a few times and wrestled with his own moral dilemmas.

Friels’ enigmatic nature, which comes from being a private man who shields his personal life from the media, also washes on to Kempson, making the audience appreciate there’s more to this complicated character than just the issues given voice by dialogue.

While Friels brings so many unspoken qualities to the role, the actor says it was simply the character’s human side that attracted him to the part.

“I need a character who has something to say, or who believes in something, and that’s what attracted me to Kempson in the first place,” he says.

“As an actor I want to give an audience a feel for the human being I am playing so they are able to reflect on the values of that person, and when I am offered a part that lets me do that I grab it.

“The fact he’s a middle-aged guy who has been put down in the archives, and that he is such an outsider, put such a different twist on it for me.”

In The Money, which is the third telemovie in the series, will premiere on Ten this Sunday with Friels’ character binding the transient Blackjack cast together.

He plays a copper relegated to the records section after informing on a fellow policeman and, while things are tough at work, they are also complicated at home with a disabled daughter to support and the memory of a wife who committed suicide many years ago.

“I think characters have to be damaged to be more interesting,” Friels says.

“We are all damaged in some way, we are all used goods, and I never get over the constant wrecked quality of human beings.”

Playing a cop is nothing new to the journeyman of Australian film and TV who filled the role of Frank Holloway on Nine’s Water Rats in the late ‘90s and more recently took the role of real-life policeman Bob Inkster in Ten’s My Husband, My Killer.

While Friels jokes that he gets “demoted” every time he accepts the role of a policeman he actually finds it intriguing to play a detective.

“I find detectives fascinating and I have met a couple of brilliant ones doing this work,” he says.

“The fellow my character was based on in My Husband, My Killer, Bob Inkster, was a remarkable man and I learnt so much from just meeting people like him.

“I remember when I did Water Rats the coppers I spoke to, a couple of the detectives I worked with, said they believed I was a cop and that was the greatest compliment.

“But Jack Kempson is one of my favourite characters and I am looking forward to doing him again because I still have some things I want to bring to him.”

There are three new telemovies in the series to come and In the Money screens on Sunday night.

Friels says the team was confident of a good showing after the first two movies, Ace Point Game and Sweet Science, rated well when they aired in 2003 and 2004.

“If you give people quality and keep them engaged it will work,” he says. “I think everyone likes a crime show and they work in Australia for the same reason they work in other parts of the world.

“The audience likes a thriller and they enjoy wondering about what’s going to happen next and what the twist in the story will be.

“If you look at every good movie you’ve seen, and every good book you’ve read, they are all thrillers and they are intriguing because you never know where it’s going to go.

“It’s a genre we love because it fascinates us.”

Blackjack: In the Money, Ten, Sunday 9.30pm

By Sarah Nicholson
September 08, 2005
The Courier Mail