Jonathon LaPaglia stars in the TV series Underbelly: Badness.
Jonathon LaPaglia stars in the TV series Underbelly: Badness. Contributed - Channel 9

Underbelly ghost

JONATHAN LaPaglia has the challenging role of playing a figurative ghost in the new Underbelly series.

Career criminal Anthony Perish kept such a low profile that even police had trouble tracking down the elusive underworld identity during their investigation into the murder of Terry Falconer.

Underbelly: Badness - Nine/WIN - Monday at 8.30pm, 9pm NSW

Despite portraying a living person, unlike the actors in the previous Underbelly: Razor series, LaPaglia had very little on which to base his performance.

Perish had an almost non-existent public profile, and went to great lengths to keep it that way despite his criminal activities.

"We had the basic events that happened during the investigation - we got that information from the court transcripts - but as to who he is, we really don't know," he said.

"There's no video footage of him, no audio. I was unable to meet with friends or family and I couldn't meet with his legal counsel.

"I basically have two photographs of Anthony and that's it. There's almost nothing to go on apart from basic events."

LaPaglia hopes Perish, who is serving an 18-year prison sentence after he and his brother Andrew were convicted of Falconer's murder in April, takes the show for what it is - a drama.

"We had to extrapolate from what little we did have and create something," he said.

"My portrayal is really a dramatisation of who he is.

"Hopefully, he likes what he sees and if he doesn't then I hope he understands I was a guy employed to fill the gaps."

He said he tried to find the human elements of Perish and the motivations behind the murder he committed.

"I think all of us, when we've done something that's bad or horrible in our lives, at the end of the day there's still a human there," he said.

"So we tried to find that. It's been kind of tricky from that point of view, trying to figure out who he is."

Court transcripts did uncover Perish's meticulous nature.

"I found that a fascinating part of his makeup, that there was so much time invested in counter intelligence," LaPaglia said.

"He almost fancied himself as a spy. He was constantly trying to work out ways to stay a step ahead of the people who were trying to track him down."

LaPaglia said he had always been keen to act in an Underbelly series.

"Several years ago my agent sent me the box set of the first series and I loved it," he said.

Also starring in Badness are Matt Nable as Detective Inspector Jubelin, Aaron Jeffery as Frank O'Rourke, Jodi Gordon as Kylie Keogh and Josh Quong Tart as Andrew Perish.

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