Young Lions: articles

King of the jungle

Alex Dimitriades talks to KYLIE KEOGH about how much he has in common with his 'weirdo' character in a new police drama

There's probably a lot of similarities between actor Alex Dimitriades and his latest role as Detective Eddie Mercia on Nine's new drama Young Lions. They're mysterious, meticulous, at times serious and obviously handsome.

But one thing different is that Dimitriades doesn't iron his undies.

"Yeah, Eddie's a bit of a weirdo and I reckon he definitely irons his undies," Dimitriades says.

"In every character you have the luxury of playing, you always take elements of yourself, as well as what's written and you explore and exploit those traits, although you're not quoting me on what they are.

"But I guess what Mercia and I do share is that sense of mystery. Holding back and not giving much away."

Dimitriades' return to the small screen is as a cop who doesn't stray as far over the thin blue line as his last television character, Charlie, on the critically acclaimed Wildside.

And the restraint suits an older, and probably wiser, Dimitriades. He is teaming up again with the talented writer/producer Michael Jenkins, who discovered the Greek schoolboy in The Heartbreak Kid, then put him in Wildside as the loose-cannon detective and as crook Warren Lanfranchi in the superb mini-series Blue Murder, which only screened in NSW last year.

While Dimitriades is compelling once again, he shares the screen with three other characters in an ensemble cast.

Tom Long plays Guy "Guido" Martin, Alexandra Davies, from Nine's ill-fated sitcom Flat Chat, is Donna Parry, relative newcomer to television Anna Lise Phillips is Cameron Smart. Then there is veteran Penny Cook as Chief Inspector Sharon Kostas and Katherine Slattery as lawyer Madeleine Delaney.

It's a strong cast but what really separates it from other Australian police dramas is the focus on the private lives of these young cops.

"All the characters are extremities," says Dimitriades. "They're all cops but what lies beneath that exterior are individuals.

"The first episodes are a blast. The bomb drops, spreads and then settles, like Hiroshima. But you can only blow so many things up. People keep watching for the characters.

"Eddie's a cop for moral refinement of self. He understands his own character type. On the wrong side he could potentially be a liability to himself and others. So he keeps a lid on that by being meticulous and working within a system that allows him to keep himself safe and that spills on to keeping other people safe.

"He's completely different from Charlie [in Wildside], who can only be described as filthy. Charlie would steal the cash out of wallets on dead bodies. For Eddie the possibility of bending the rules is always there but it doesn't always work."

Dimitriades says that what all the actors have learnt from the police advisers on the show, who are detectives in the NSW Police Service, is that the job of a police officer is essentially about communication.

"We absorbed this from them that it's about sharing a rapport with people, whether they're good or bad. That's the common thread of the show and that's true to life," Dimitriades says.

"Cops and crims actually like each other but they are morally opposed. There's that great scene in Heat between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino -- two icons of mine in the acting world—when they're having this great man-to-man chat and if it wasn't for their professional lives they'd be best buddies."

When asked if he likes cops, Dimitriades admits that, with maturity, he is able to "now appreciate people from all walks of life, but if you had asked me that question 15 years ago…"

He agrees, however, that playing them has served him well.

"After Wildside I got out of parking tickets, speeding fines," he laughs.

"But no, I got a lot of feedback from a lot of people, such as lawyers and bouncers, because these shows attract a cult following and I think it's due to Mike's [Jenkins] sense of realism in everything he does. Not just in what it looks like but in content.

"I've been in everything they've done so I guess I must be doing something right."

Dimitriades has no idea how Young Lions will go. His job is done but his attitude is a little more relaxed than that of his perfectionist character.

"It doesn't matter how many times you iron your undies, they're still gonna crease," he says.

Young Lions, Wednesday, Nine, 8.30pm

Kylie Leogh
July 11, 2002
Daily Telegraph