The Strip: articles

Frankie J Holden on playing differently in The Strip

FRANKIE J Holden is used to playing men of the law in roles from Blue Heelers to Underbelly, but he's happy to be pushing the envelope in his latest role.

Some actors were just born to play particular roles.

Colin Firth is Mr Darcy, Martin Sheen's Josiah Bartlet is one of the best presidents to occupy the Oval Office and there's no one else who could have played Scarlett O'Hara like Vivien Leigh.

When it comes to playing Aussie coppers, Frankie J. Holden's your man.

Holden, the 1970s rocker who has forged a successful career on stage and screen, has played more than his fair share of policemen since landing his first acting gig almost 30 years ago.

He played Sgt Jack Woodley in Blue Heelers, Sen-Sgt Glenn "Spider" Webb in Police Rescue, and Sen-Sgt Garry Butterworth in this year's hugely successful gangland drama Underbelly.

No surprise producers came knocking on Holden's door in their search for an actor to play Insp Max Nelson in 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 real-life policeman who was the heart and soul of the Purana task force," Holden says of Garry Butterworth.

"He was well respected by both sides, he was 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."

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

"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," he says. "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."

October 29, 2008
Herald Sun