The Circuit: articles

Justice for the bush


IN SOME ways, Aaron Pedersen is the polar opposite of the character he plays in The Circuit.

In the new SBS drama co-starring Gary Sweet and shot near Broome, Pedersen plays Ellis, a kid from the city who goes bush to do a brief stint with the Aboriginal Legal Service just to get a step-up. He has a plan, and that plan is to get back to the city as soon as he can.

In life, Pedersen may be a city-dweller, but he remains very much a person connected to Alice Springs and the country he grew up in.

"It was nice to head back into desert. Broome's got the beautiful blue ocean too so it was a little bit different. But it's got the same kind of feel. The country is always strong in Australia," he says.

"It wouldn't take me long to get used to living in the bush again, I love it."

One area where Pedersen and his character Ellis come together is in their sense of justice. When push comes to shove, the fictional lawyer stands up for his people. It's a role that the actor identifies with, having been attracted first to working in the media and then acting, out of a desire to see more indigenous people represented in popular culture.

"What really interested me in the role in The Circuit was just the simple fact that indigenous issues are paramount in this country," Pedersen says, on the phone from the Melbourne set of City Homicide, the new cop drama he's working on, which has a strong cast led by AFI Award-winning actor Shane Bourne.

"If we don't sort them out, then we never move forward as a unified country, we'll always just crawl forward in a divided manner.

"So something like The Circuit was brought to my attention and it empowered me because it's brave television. There's not a lot of people making television like this in this country.

"Just every now and then we end up with the indigenous storylines, or the odd film, the odd episode in a TV series. What's great about The Circuit is that it's pretty much about the lives of Australians black and white, and it's set in a remote area, which highlights the issue of living in remote circumstances."

Pedersen was first approached about the role several years ago, but the timing of the show couldn't be better, with the handling of indigenous affairs squarely back in the news headlines.

"(The issues) are pertinent at the moment, but they've always been there. This is not something that's just popped up," he says.

"It's a time bomb that's been ticking because governments and Australia in general have been turning a blind eye to it. It's been part of the Government's psyche for the last two weeks because John Howard's jumped up and realised he hasn't got enough votes any more.

"The people who know it's been going on for a long time are the people who live in this world, the indigenous people and also the non-indigenous people who are on the right side of the fence, who understand what's going on in the indigenous community."

With a career that's included shows such as Wildside, Water Rats, MDA and The Secret Life of Us, Pedersen has been in the public eye for a long time. But he opened up a private side of his life to the world in writing the documentary My Brother Vinnie which debuted last year at the Melbourne International Film Festival and will screen on SBS this month.

Vinnie has cerebral palsy, and the two brothers grew up being shuffled between foster homes. When their grandmother died in 1997, the 27-year-old Aaron became his brother's carer, taking Vinnie with him to work on the set of Water Rats.

He admits he struggled handling the role of full-time carer, and had considered sending his brother to an institution before his mother-in-law took over the role of Vinnie's carer.

"I thought it was time to celebrate the life my brother and I live," Pedersen says of the documentary.

"What I learnt in making the documentary is that it's allowed me to share it, and sharing is an amazing healing process.

"It's just about what life deals you. You get dealt a particular hand and I think the most important thing is how you play it."

Pedersen is not sure if there will be another series of The Circuit. As always, it depends on the ratings. Meanwhile, he's enjoying pretending to be back on the beat.

"I love watching crime shows," Pedersen says.

"It's an intriguing life. If you work in homicide, there's a particular make-up of a person who does that.

"So it's been an interesting journey as an actor to delve into the life of a person working in homicide.

"I think it's one of the hardest jobs that anyone could do, having to deal with death all the time but also having to get a

By Rodney Chester
July 04, 2007
The Courier-Mail