You’d think that by the early to mid 2000s, when he was the top male model alive, he was plastered all over billboards wearing nothing but his Calvins and had made his way viking and Warcraft and close danger and Raised by wolves In the years since, Travis Fimmel may have been used to being the guy you can’t take your eyes off. But you would be wrong.
“In real life, I can’t stand having anything around me. I really chose the wrong profession,” says the 43-year-old actor from Echuca, in rural Victoria, with a self-deprecating laugh and a nervous tug at the peak of his baseball cap. “I never sang and danced in front of my parents. I never wanted to be the only person speaking in a room and I still don’t want to. English is my mother tongue but I really struggle with it.”
We chat on Zoom and Fimmel is in Los Angeles enjoying a short break before flying to Europe to start work dune spin-off series The Sisterhood. It’s one of half a dozen projects we’ll see him in over the next year or two; His struggle is clearly not finding work but knowing what to make of it.
“I have no idea why I became an actor, honestly it’s not my thing,” he says. “But I like trying to be good at something. Whatever you do, you have to do your best, so I’m trying to make amends that way, you know, and I’m trying to have a conversation at the same time.”
Fimmel’s latest attempt is in the Stan series black snow, in which he plays detective James Cormack. Part of the appeal of the project, he says, is that it was filmed in Proserpine and Airlie Beach on Queensland’s central coast, parts of Australia he had never seen before.
“Airlie Beach is now by far one of my favorite places on earth,” he says. “Cities are fine, they’re great, but I like nature, I like being outdoors, especially in Australia.”
For much of the six-part crime thriller, Cormack seems just as intent on being a thorn in the side of the local police sergeant (Kim Gyngell) as he is on solving the murder of high school student Isabel Baker (Talijah Blackman-Corowa) on the night of her formal 25 years ago. But there is method in his madness, even if there is a good deal of madness in his method.
How did you get into the character? I ask him.
“Get in,” he asks, rubbing his goatee. “I’m not that elevated an actor to have a ‘way in.’ What intrigued me about him is that he’s a very flawed character. He has a lot of issues, childhood issues that he’s still dealing with, parent figures, and I think that’s why he became a cold case investigator.
“There are a few things unraveling in the story that he went through that are very similar to things in the main story. I think maybe it’s cathartic for him to do what he’s doing, but at the same time it brings back a lot of painful memories. So yes, the flawed aspect of the character drew me in. And the scripts are great, it’s a true crime story.”
Although the basic elements of black snow are well known, the show is set in a setting that will be entirely new to most viewers: the South Sea Islander community of north Queensland, where more than 60,000 people were employed as laborers to work in the sugar cane fields of the mid-19th early 20th century. Century.
Many were tricked, some captured, few came both knowingly and willingly in a slavery-like practice known as blackbirds.
The opening title of the show indirectly refers to this story, with stylized blackbirds and flakes of ash from the fields that are burned after the sugar harvest (the black snow of the title). The show itself quickly makes it clear that there are echoes of that shameful past in today’s seedy foreign job market. Undocumented workers are paid below-average wages, often with exorbitant rent and food costs deducted. The ability to complain or report abuse is simply non-existent.
Like most Australians, Fimmel had no idea before the show’s scripts landed on his desk. “We never learned that in school, did we?” he says. “It was such a great learning curve. I love that black snow will showcase the community out there and represent it in some way that enlightens people because I’ve been amazed by some of what I’ve read and learned and been told.”
Jemmason Power needed no introduction to this story. The 28-year-old social worker, former netballer, occasional model and first-time actor grew up feeling like a part of this world.
“I’m a proud South Sea Islander and my family on both sides is from far north Queensland,” she says. Her lineage goes back to a chief of Tanna – but that doesn’t mean she’s the next heir to the throne. “It’s complicated because when our men and boys were kidnapped, the rights on the main line were disrupted,” she says. Their ancestor was kidnapped and taken to Australia to work in the fields, meaning his brother became chief of Tanna. “Of course it’s not the same because we’re on the mainland and not connected to our islands in that way. But that lineage remains.”
A show like black snow can’t really grasp the full complexity of the continuous and broken lines of blood and culture. But it can, and does, offer a fascinating glimpse into a community where family, faith (Power grew up in the Pentecostal Church but says her relationship with religion is “evolving”) and duty play a big part – and how that can sometimes be uncomfortable against the modern world. It also suggests cross-generational trauma — on both sides of the racial line.
While the white cast is full of household names – Brooke Satchwell, Kim Gyngell, Rob Carlton, Alexander England, Erik Thomson and more play prominent supporting roles – the Australian South Sea Islanders were all new to acting.
It was a risk, but one that paid off on screen.
“Obviously there was a reason they had to go with South Sea Islanders to bring this story to life, because we carry lived experiences with us that no one else could have carried,” says Power.
“A big reason I felt so safe walking into this space was that the production invested in a dramaturge who stayed with us and worked with us for a few weeks before we started filming. It wasn’t a crash course, it was this beautiful tailored and tailored approach.”
Power acknowledges that she and Blackman-Corowa and the others were “a whole bunch of fresh and very green actors” who had “a big part of this story to carry.” It was, she says, “a huge piece of work, and we were all like, ‘Are we crazy to do this?'”
There are moments when the inexperience shows, but the bottom line is no, they weren’t crazy. black snow works as a crime drama and is as important as a slice of Australiana that feels rich in history and utterly fresh at the same time.
“It’s not a true story,” says Power, “but it contains truth and divination, which is beautiful, creative, and very clever.”
https://www.smh.com.au/culture/tv-and-radio/i-really-chose-the-wrong-career-why-travis-fimmel-hates-being-the-guy-you-can-t-take-your-eyes-off-20221222-p5c88p.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture Black Snow, Vikings and Raised By Wolves star Travis Fimmel on acting, shyness and why he’ll never live in a city