IT is one of those stereotypical, postcard days on Sydney’s Bondi Beach. The sun is high in the sky, burning its rays onto the golden sands of one of the world’s most famous beaches.
It is an idyllic day, but it is also really, bloody hot, despite it being in the later ends of April and summer long gone.
Tourists and locals are out in their masses swimming, surfing and trying to finish their newly purchased ice creams before they melt down their arms.
But there is one distinct group who stand out from the revellers basking in the warm weather.
They are dressed in full suits, one woman is even in a leather jacket and jeans, and this bunch have just run down the ramp at the Bondi Baths end of the beach and hundreds of metres across the sand for what seems like the 50th time in the past hour.
But the heat does not seem to faze them, they are unflinchingly focused on the task at hand.
On closer inspection the faces in this group are familiar. They include Melbourne actress Yael Stone, known for her breakout performance as Lorna Morello in Orange is the New Black, Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones, He Died With a Felafel In His Hand) and AFI award winning actor William McInnes (Blue Heelers, My Brother Jack).
Stone and Taylor are playing police officers on the hunt for a brutal murderer who may be connected to a spate of unexplained deaths and disappearances of gay men throughout the 80s and 90s, loosely based on the real life disappearances in Sydney around that time, for SBS’ upcoming crime drama series Deep Water.
From Blackfella Films, the producers of the awarding-winning drama Redfern Now, Deep Water will be SBS’s first cross-genre, cross-platform event which includes the four-part drama series, a feature documentary and unique online web series and content.
The scene Stone and Taylor are filming is a pivotal part of the story where the police believe they have tracked down the killer and confront him in a tense stand-off on the beach.
The suspect is played by emerging Aussie actor George H Xanthis, who has the tough job of playing the misunderstood, gay Iranian refugee, Rohan Asad, whose former lover has just been found murdered.
“I’m the prime suspect,” Xanthis tells Star Observer.
“My character doesn’t paint himself in a great light, he’s on edge always and he’s from Iran… and he’s always afraid of getting let down.
“He’s just constantly running it seems, and it’s all sort of caught up with him.”
Xanthis immersed himself in the role, not only researching the persecution Asad would have escaped from in Iran for being gay, but also has written a character history from the age of zero to help understand him better. He carries his extensive notes with him on set and they’ve proved vital for helping him get into the headspace of Asad.
“When I actually read this (the script), I thought ‘I have to do this project’,” he remembers.
“I’ve really fallen in love with the journey. It’s a tragic character, it’s a tragic story. The project (Deep Water) will show how evil and toxic it is to discriminate against someone.”
Deep Water brings together a stellar cast of talented actors including this month’s cover girl Danielle Cormack, Craig McLachlan, Simon Burke and Renee Lim among others.
An Australian acting veteran, Ben Oxenbould (Hey Dad…!, The Code) has the tough task of playing revered rugby league player Chris Toohey, who may have had links to some of the past crimes.
But getting into character as a macho, league playing Aussie affected by the attacks on gay men wasn’t too much of a stretch for Oxenbould who grew up in Sydney’s north shore and whose high school was near an infamous gay beat where some men had been assaulted.
“Toohey was at a point in his life where he was fairly caught up in what was happening around him, which you do as a young guy,” he explains.
“In the suburbs where they were growing up… your life was either surf club, surfing, footy and that was a way out for a lot of guys. Toohey was walking that fine line.
“Perhaps he was a little more conscious than the other guys, a little bit more aware.
“It was quite bizarre, it wasn’t just isolated to Bondi, there was a lot of stuff happening where my father and I used to fish. It got so prevalent that an assembly was called to say it was happening in the park across the road… it was frightening.
“They (the crimes) were hideous, they were just hideous. Why is it that those incidents were never addressed properly?”
Deep Water airs on SBS on October 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 8.30pm.