The Strip: articles


HARD edge... The Strip's Aaron Jeffery, Vanessa Gray, Frankie J Holden, Simone McAullay and Bob Morley.

Frankie J Holden on a roll with The Strip on Channel 9

FRANKIE J. Holden has swapped his policeman part in Underbelly for one on the Gold Coast underworld.

Like actors who were born to play particular roles, Holden has the part of an Australian copper down pat.

The part fits him like Colin Firth fits Mr Darcy, Martin Sheen does of president Josiah Bartlet from The West Wing and Vivien Leigh of Scarlett O'Hara.

Holden, the 1970s rocker who has forged a successful career on stage and screen, has played a string of police roles in nearly three decades of acting.

He played Det-Sgt Jack Woodley in Blue Heelers, Sen-Sgt Glenn "Spider" Webb in Police Rescue and Det. Sen-Sgt Garry Butterworth in this year's factional hit Underbelly.

Holden's next television project will be as yet another policeman.

The 55-year-old will play Det-Insp Max Nelson on Channel 9's new drama The Strip.

"There are a couple of reasons I play so many coppers, and having a head like a robber's dog doesn't hurt," Holden jokes.

"But that's what gets written in Australia.

"In this country you get to play either a cop or a doctor.

"In America it's either a cop or a lawyer, but that's about it.

"That's the way things are.

"I also believe that I am not just playing a policeman.

"I am playing men who happen to be policemen — 50 per cent of the character is what they do for a living and the other 50 per cent is up to me."

Holden is always careful to make sure that while many of his characters do the same job, they are very different people.

"My character (in Underbelly) was based on one policeman who was the heart and soul of the Purana taskforce," Holden says of Garry Butterworth.

"He was well respected by both sides, very hard-working and diligent.

"He was a bit of a loner and didn't have a life outside the police force.

"He is still alive, but my character died at the end of Underbelly to signal that police did die during the course of that episode (the Melbourne gangland war); that the investigation broke up families and brought incredible stress.

"But in The Strip I was given a lot more leeway. I was told to take him anywhere I wanted, and because the character in Underbelly was so straitlaced, and so one-dimensional in many ways, I decided to go the opposite way with Max Nelson.

"He is a very gregarious character who is prone to losing his temper, but he's just as prone to forgiveness and he forgets quickly.

"He loves a laugh.

"He loves a punt.

"He's a sports fan and a bit of a fan of the Gold Coast Titans, a real Queenslander.

"He grew up in Queensland, he has all the Queensland attitudes.

"He thinks that those in the southern states don't know anything, and he is great fun to play.

"Because he is fictional I am given a fair bit of leeway. He can do anything and say anything."

Holden says that when he was considering the role in The Strip, it did not hurt that the project was being produced in Queensland.

"When I first heard about it being set on the Gold Coast I thought that was a great idea," he says.

"It's an iconic Australian location, and that sort of cop show hasn't been done using that location — the beach, the bright lights in the daytime and the bright lights in the night time.

"When we started working up there we decided it was a really good place to set a crime show.

"I imagine there's a lot of big money floating around and it's the sort of money that people come into quickly.

"It's high stakes everywhere; in (property) developments or in the nightlife area, gambling at the casino.

"You also have schoolies coming in and people going to conventions.

"It's fertile ground for a police drama and you do hear police sirens a lot."

Holden, who lives in the hamlet of Pambula on the southern coast of NSW, said The Strip's cast and crew spent most of its time filming outside and around many of the more recognisable Gold Coast locations.

"That helped the actors," he said.

"When we were first starting to work it helped the actors to think about that," Holden says of working on location rather than in a studio.

"It gives you more of a sense of reality as opposed to, for example, Blue Heelers, which was set in a small country town but had more crime than New York City.

"It helps the actors think, 'Hey, this could actually have happened'."

As a veteran of the Australian entertainment industry, Holden says he's at a stage in his career where he has the freedom to pick and choose the jobs he will do.

So what made him take Underbelly and then follow that up with another cop role?

"Underbelly was the show that every actor in the country wanted to be involved in," he says.

"With this one (The Strip), I initially wasn't interested because it was another cop show.

"But Channel 9 persisted and made the offer very attractive."

The Strip, Channel 9, Thursday, 8.30pm

By Sarah Nicholson
September 03, 2008
The Courier-Mail