Question: What sort of research have you undertaken for your role?
Hollie Andrew: I read her biography, watched her documentary and luckily for me she's been in the public eye quite a bit so there was quite a lot of available information for me to use. I steered away from the version of Roberta in series one of Underbelly, even though I know Kat Stewart incredibly well and she's an amazing actress. I was actually away when the first series of Underbelly came out, so I hadn't seen a lot of it and I purposely didn't revisit it as I wanted to be authentic to my approach to the role, so that was something I didn't do. As far as the real Roberta goes, I just obtained as much information as I could. I watched interviews with her, including radio interviews where they had cameras in the room, and I tried to view obscure footage of her doing things like laughing, eating or drinking – the sort of mannerisms that inform. From there I was able to make my own choices as to how I was going to approach the role.
Question: How would you describe the on-screen rapport that you've established with Gyton Grantley who plays your husband, Carl?
Hollie Andrew: We've actually worked together previously, which was great, because not having a huge run-in to the show it was really nice to walk onto a set and work with a person whom I knew quite well. And ironically we've played opposite each other before so we've had prior on-camera experience. So when we filmed Carl and Roberta's wedding or had to kiss or that sort of thing, it was kind of like putting on an old, fabulous jumper that fits really well.
Question: In terms of the dramatised storyline, how would you describe the relationship that Carl and Roberta have?
Hollie Andrew: With this version of the story as portrayed in Fat Tony & Co., and through conversations with producers and directors as opposed to me having seen how it was conveyed in series one of Underbelly, I believe that this time around their relationship is rather different because -this' Roberta is quite different. As Gyton and I inherently have this beautiful chemistry, I feel that there's a lot of love between Carl and Roberta and I'm really excited about bringing that out because one of the big things that I came across during my research was that they were best friends. One of the things that was often said about them was that they kind of wished that they'd never actually married, but they got Dakota out of it, so that was fantastic and they had no regrets. But they were always best friends from the day dot to the end and I think that aspect of their relationship is pretty exciting to explore this time around.
Question: Have you had to make any physical changes to your appearance in order to portray Roberta?
Hollie Andrew: I wear about three bras and squeeze myself into things that I probably wouldn't normally. I was also able to put some luxurious long locks in my hair, which is one of the bonuses of the acting world as you get to be under the command of the make-up and wardrobe departments. I'm the sort of person who walks in and says, 'let's go, what are we going to do?" So whether it's shaving my head or giving me long hair or making it pink, I'm down for it, if it helps me prepare as an actor. This time I lucked out and got some really cool long hair! It was a win win!!!
Question: What are you enjoying most about working on this series? That would be discovering things about a woman who has been perceived in such a specific way. I'm excited about flipping the public perception on its head a little bit and showing a different side to her - delving into parts of her that I think may have been kept in the dark, such as her parenting skills and the love that she had for people. I'm really curious to head into the areas on which she's potentially been judged and bring out a different side to them. From what I gather, she's a very strong woman and some of the things that both Gyton and I get to do are pretty out there. Bringing a truth to it is what's really exciting for me – not making it feel like it's an Abbot and Costello show, which it could be perceived as. A lot of people could look at it and go, 'Oh it's funnier than fiction," but this is legit and bringing an authenticity to it is, I think, an exhilarating challenge.
Question: How does it feel to be portraying Alphonse again? Are you approaching your portrayal any differently for this brand-new series?
Vince Colosimo: It was a surprise when they asked me to reprise the role, although I did think that it might come up again one day. But it's sort of scary as there's been so much said about it all, post the first series of Underbelly that I wondered how they were going to dissect it and what they were going to say about it. There are so many cynics and judges out there and people who scrutinise and analyse what we do, so it has to be good. You also listen to what people said about the character as it's not so much about what you're doing, but what people are saying and how they're describing you, because that gives you a few hints too. It's about getting the -attitude' back - the feel and the mood of Alphonse Gangitano. And I didn't want anybody else to portray him in this show.
As it happened, the character came back to me a lot more quickly than I thought he would. I re-watched series one of Underbelly, had a little think about it, read some notes, and found it was a bit like when you learn to tie your shoelaces - you never forget. So the character returned to me a lot more easily than I had thought.
Question: As somebody who has portrayed people on both sides of the law, do you have a preference, and if so why?
Vince Colosimo: As long as a character has a few different dimensions it doesn't really matter. When you're playing the -good' guy there are many rules that you have to adhere to. You -can't say this' and you -can't say that' and you have to -do this' properly.
But when you're playing somebody on the wrong side of the law, you're given -pats on the back' about doing something extremely right out of left centre. But when you're playing the good guy it's like, 'that was great, but you actually can't do that," so you have to go back and do it again - so if there were a preference, I'd have to say guys who operate from the wrong side of the law.
Question: What impact, if any, did your previous portrayal of Alphonse have on your career?
Vince Colosimo: The show was so popular that for a while in Melbourne – and it even happened a couple of times overseas – I'd get a, 'Hey Alphonse!" People did love the show and love the portrayal, and they'd say to me, 'You went too early," and my answer to that was, 'It's better to leave the audience wanting more than to outstay your welcome." People still remember it today and when you tell them that it was actually six or seven years ago, they're quite surprised. So yes, it had a big impact and it's something that people remember, because it happened in our hometown (Melbourne). It was also a really good series, so I think that it left them wanting more.
Question: How do you clear your head after an intense day of filming?
Vince Colosimo: Well, you go home and see the dishes and realise that life hasn't really changed! Then the next day you're being massaged by beautiful women and robbing armoured vans, but then you're back to taking your little girl to school. So you hit reality again quite quickly. It's not like I have to go home and start breathing or meditating - it's all there for me. That's the way I approach it. And sometimes a drink or a nice hot shower cleanses you - then you get back into your own clothes and feel like yourself again. I don't actually have any particular routine that I go through to get rid of a character.
Question: What are you enjoying most about this experience?
Vince Colosimo: I'm loving the fact that the -group' are together again, although I've seen them lots of times since then and have worked with some of them. But to return and hop into these characters again and have the knowledge of what happened over the intervening years - and to look at each other and know that - is really funny. And on day one we walked onto the set and everyone's relationships clicked right in. It was like, 'I know what I'm like with you and you know what you're like with me," and it all just merged and that was actually fascinating. It was nice to see the boys again and great that we could slip into the same characters again after so many years.
Question: Why do you think that audiences are so drawn towards crime stories?
Vince Colosimo: It's the familiarity of where they came from. So many people feel that they had a -relationship' with these people – whether it was Alphonse, Mick Gatto, the Morans, or whoever. It's six degrees of separation, as somewhere down the line, someone knew him, or he lived in that street, or I sold him that suit, or he came into my café or whatever. There's a relationship and it's all about their hometown. So there's a familiarity, especially when we're doing a story that connects with people who were born during that era, or they knew about it because their parents did. It's that familiarity that makes you want to switch-on to verify everything that happened, and also have an opinion - everyone has an opinion. You could write it thirty-five different ways and it still wouldn't be right for everyone – but it won't be wrong for everyone either. So this is our dramatised interpretation of what happened and I think it's a good one.
Question: What do you think audiences are going to enjoy most about this brand-new series?
Vince Colosimo: I'm sure that audiences are going to love this because the characters are familiar and Robert who plays Tony Mokbel is fantastic. And the fact that we've actually done some filming abroad in Greece so that audiences can see exactly where this person went to, and the length to which he went to try and get away with something, will engage them. Sometimes you can pretend with that sort of stuff, but we actually did film scenes in Greece and I think that it was a brave move that audiences will gain from.
Question: How does it feel to be reprising the role of Carl Williams?
Gyton Grantley: It's very exciting to be back in the skin of the character of Carl Williams – it's been a while. I'm nervous but also very excited about the challenges in terms of finishing the story.
Question: Have you had any discussions with Hollie Andrew as to how you want to depict the on-screen relationship between Carl and Roberta?
Gyton Grantley: Hollie and I have known each other for a while - she's a wonderful actress and I think that the terrific thing about having some of the characters played by new actors is that it just shows a different portrayal. At the end of the day, these are characters and Hollie has brought some wonderful new dimensions to Roberta. I'm really enjoying our process so far.
Question: Have you had to change your appearance physically in any way to portray Carl?
Gyton Grantley: Yes! It's been a bit harder this time around – six or seven years later – but it's the same old stop moving, stop exercising and eat as much as you can. It sounds quite exciting but you get lethargic, and also a little depressed, because you're not developing endorphins, but you remind yourself why you are doing it and it's worth it all in the end.
Question: Tell me about your wardrobe as Carl?
Gyton Grantley: Carl has a wonderful wardrobe – he's quite the stylish man. His attire ranges from the stone acid-wash jeans with the white sneakers to a nice range of hoodies and of course the -bling'. Then there's the manicures, the eyelash tinting and of course the tips – you can't go past the late 90s tips. He was a real fashionista, for sure!
Question: How did your initial portrayal of Carl Williams impact upon your career?
Gyton Grantley: When the first series of Underbelly Came out, obviously the success was wonderful, but I guess that the popularity of the character of Carl really did change my life. I'd been acting for seven or eight years but never really had any recognition for my work, but suddenly I couldn't walk down the street without cameras in my face or people wanting to say -hello' – which is terrific. Obviously you start realising what fame is like and the negatives that can accompany it, such as the intrusion on your lifestyle. But by the same token you have to realise that it's what you signed up for and, most importantly, people are only hassling you because they love what you did. So you just have to look at the positives and move on.
Question: As an actor, how do you clear your headspace after an intense day of filming?
Gyton Grantley: Working with this particular subject matter, you can have some pretty rough days and get involved in some pretty dark ideas, but it's different for everybody. In coming home, I just like to wind-down with my friends or family or watch some TV. I can't really do much at the moment, as I have to keep still so that I don't lose any weight. Normally, I'd go for a walk or surf or do a little exercise, as you just try to distract yourself from anything that is the show. But at the end of the day, we really enjoy it and everyone gets along very well, so after a day's shooting you will often find yourself having a meal or a drink with some of the cast and reflecting on the day.
Question: What do you think audiences are going to like about Fat Tony & Co.?
Gyton Grantley: I think the reason that the first series of Underbelly was such a success, and why this brand-new series will attract audiences, is because it's an Australian story – it's a Melbourne story. Victorians lived with it being on their front doorstep, in their newspapers, every day for ten years. Being in the city of Melbourne, it's amazing how much people respond and relate to the story. So I think that having it retold and then, as the story progresses, journeying to the parts we haven't explored previously, will close the book for a lot of people. I think everyone will look forward to getting involved in the gossip again – it's going to be very exciting!
Cast: Robert Mammone, Hollie Andrew, Steve Bastoni, Nicholas Bishop, Craig Blumeris, John Brumpton, Tawni Bryant, Debra Byrne, Dean Cartmel, Richard Cawthorne, Vince Colosimo, Zoe Cramond, Matthew Crosby, Stephen Curry, Lester Ellis, Nick Farnell, Rowan Francis, Gyton Grantley, Kevin Harrington, Les Hill, Shane Jacobson, Odette Joannidis, Gerard Kennedy, Christine Keogh, Simone Kessell, Jeremy Kewley, Antonio Lancuba, Louise Mandylor, Maria Mercedes, Louisa Mignone, Dan Mor, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Ben Noble, Ryan O'Kane, Vince Poletto, Robert Rabiah, Jake Ryan, Frank Sweet, Samantha Tolj, Alex Tsitsopoulos, Kym Valentine, Brian Vriends, Madeleine West, Simon Westaway, Tom Wren
Directors: Peter Andrikidis, Andrew Prowse, Karl Zwicky
Genre: Crime, Drama
Running Time: 385 minutes
Fat Tony & Co., the brand-new production from Screentime, tells the story of Australia's most successful drug baron, from the day he quit cooking pizza in favour of cooking drugs, to the heyday of his $140 million dollar drug empire, all the way through to his arrest in an Athens café and his whopping 22-year sentence in Victoria's maximum security prison.
Already a key player on the Australian drug scene in his own right, Fat Tony becomes more deeply embroiled in the underworld as he joins forces with up-andcoming drug dealer Carl Williams. He strikes an uneasy truce with the Carlton Crew, the territorial and dangerous royalty of the Melbourne underworld, even doing business from time to time with the Moran family. With his three brothers and Carl Williams, Tony expands his drug empire into a multi-million dollar industry, all the while investing his profits in honest bricks and mortar, determined to leave a legacy for the family and the city that he loves.
However, the burning tension between Carl and the Carlton Crew is quickly devolving into all-out war – the Melbourne Gangland War that would eventually claim some thirty lives. Tony is losing control of his well-ordered operation, and is finding it harder and harder to remain a neutral businessman. But Tony isn't like other underworld figures - he always has a plan and an eye to the future, even when it seems like the police have closed every door to him.
The ambition and drive that it took for Tony Mokbel to rise from a suburban milkbar owner to Australia's most wanted man was matched only by the sheer determination of the police in their ten-year battle to shut Fat Tony down. The Victorian and Federal police undertook a marathon attempt to bring him to justice, spanning countless arrests, legal battles and the downfall of more than one corrupt officer.
Fat Tony & Co. is the true story of Tony Mokbel; how he grew entangled with the country's most notorious underworld figures, how he built his massive fortune, and how he became a fugitive on a yacht bound for Greece, desperate to escape mounting criminal law battles.
Fat Tony & Co.