Underbelly: articles

Underbelly cops tell secrets

THE criminals have come and gone, but two coppers have been around since the first episode of Underbelly to witness the whole story unfold.

Detective Senior Sergeant Steve Owen and Detective Constable Jacqui James - played by Rodger Corser, from Last Man Standing and Caroline Craig of Blue Heelers - were wearing uniforms in the first episode but rose through the ranks during the 13-part series to become senior members of the Victoria Police gang-busting Purana Taskforce.

Corser said that both Owen and James were "an amalgamation" of real Victoria Police members who had worked on stopping Melbourne's bloody gangland war.

"There were 50 to 60 people on the Purana Taskforce in real life. The investigation went on for years and people would come and go," Corser said. "It's too hard, in a 13-part drama, to portray all of those people and give the audience a sense of who they were.

"The audience needs to get to know a handful of characters so they can identify with them over the series. So what the writers did was amalgamate a lot of police members and put them into a couple of characters that the audience could identify with. "But you could probably draw a line between my character and certain people, because Steve was based on the experiences of four or five different guys."

While the actors who played Underbelly's underworld figures didn't get to meet people who know the characters in real life, Corser did spend time with police who worked for Purana.

"I was lucky that I worked very closely with people who were there - Purana Taskforce and Victoria Police members and detectives," he said.

"I became very good friends with some of those guys and girls, and they gave me a real insight into what had happened because they were the people who were dealing with the real guys on a daily basis.

"I asked questions until they were pretty much sick of me."

Corser said that while he loved working with the other actors in Underbelly's all-star cast, it was the story that was the highlight of the project for him. "We all lifted as actors because it was based on truth, and there was always that authenticity about the narrative," he said.

"You couldn't write it, you could not write this story, and there were so many twists and turns that you would never see what was coming.

"It's easily the best thing I have done and it will be up there with some of the best television we have seen in Australia."

By Sarah Nicholson
May 07, 2008
The Daily Telegraph