Underbelly: articles

Living the life of a gangster

Vince Colosimo

Kate Stewart and Gyton Grantley

For a Brisbane boy, Gyton Grantley is very much at home in Melbourne, says LIZ WALSH PLAYING the integral role of underworld gangster Carl Williams in one of the best dramas to grace Aussie TV in 2008 has been a blessing for Gyton Grantley.

His pivotal role in Underbelly — an absolute ratings bonanza for Ch 9 — has not only meant exposure for the upcoming actor, but has provided a perfect role for him.

Grantley says he was “thrilled and excited” to learn he had the part, and is sure his uncanny likeness to Carl had a bit to do with him winning the role.

“Oh, yeah, I look a bit like him and I’ve certainly tried hard to match his appearance,” he explains. “I’ve dyed my hair, studied his walk and his mannerisms and production has tried to match his wardrobe as much as possible. But I got the job in the same way I’d get any job…I auditioned, had a recall and then they called and told me I got it.”

Grantley says he often gets asked whether he was scared about taking on the role of one of Melbourne’s most infamous underworld leaders.

“I wasn’t ever really too scared (about taking the part),” he says. “This is art imitating life — it’s not real. It’s a drama and I think Carl will be very happy when he sees it.”

Grantley says one of the upsides of being in Underbelly has been getting to know the city of Melbourne. “I’m a Brissy boy, so this was the first time I’d ever lived in this city and it was absolutely fabulous — every day of last four months,” he explains.

And he says the feeling on set has been nothing short of brilliant.

“Not being from Melbourne, it’s been wonderful being on this job. We’ve all become like a family,” Grantley says.

“It’s such a huge cast — there were 200 roles — so I’ve been working with some of our greatest talent, learning a lot from them and forming friendships and bonds. I’ve shared stories and learned little pearls of wisdom along the way, which has been fabulous.”

In many ways, Underbelly has been rewriting Aussie drama and Grantley attributes much of that to the scripts.

“It definitely has its own style. It’s beautifully written, it’s fast, pacey, gritty, raw in a sense and it kind of matches the tone of what we’re trying to present. There is a lot of great music is this as well to replicate the moods and themes of the show as well, but some great Australian music.”

Grantley says the connection of Melburnians with the underworld is real.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that everybody in this city has a story about the Melbourne underworld. Everybody is connected to it in some way and everybody has an opinion or a little piece of information to give me…the passion for it all is really quite amazing.”

While most TV viewers have no experience in the underworld, Grantley says that hasn’t prevented them from connecting with the characters.

“I think the most interesting thing about the Australian gangster is how normal or how similar he really is. They refer to us as ‘square heads’ because they obviously live a lot more warped lifestyle, but I think the audience will be able to connect to that fact that Carl and (his ex-wife) Roberta eat fried chicken and drink West Coast coolers while watching the TV. It’s when their door is blown in with a shot gun — that’s when the reality changes.”

By Liz Walsh
April 25, 2008
The Advertiser