‘Les Norton’ brings out the funny side of Hunter Page-Lochard

Hunter Page-Lochard in Les Norton (Photo credit: Tony Mott).

Hunter Page-Lochard has a ready answer when people ask why he speaks with an Ocker accent as Billy Dunne, the former pro boxer turned Kings Cross casino doorman in the ABC’s Les Norton.

While he is proud of his Aboriginal and American heritage, he says: “I don’t want to be labelled as an Indigenous character. I want to fit in the group of the people that I’m appearing with.”

From his first day on the set of the Roadshow Rough Diamond crime caper with Alexander Bertrand, Justin Rosniak and Steve Le Marquand, he sensed this show was going to be special.

“We found our groove and our characters by watching and flowing off each other,” he tells IF. “As someone who had never done comedy before, I needed that confidence. Once we got together it was like, ‘Oh my God, where has that been?’.

“As an Indigenous actor in Australia there are not a lot of fun-loving roles; there are more down-and-out roles. Billy is quite sure of himself, he’s strong and funny, a breath of fresh air.

“No one had seen that side of me. So many friends and other actors had told me I was funny and should do comedy but I never really believed it myself.”

It was joy to collaborate with David Wenham, who plays the casino kingpin Price Galese (“such a calm, kind and open person”), and Rebel Wilson as brothel owner Doreen.

He also got a buzz from working for the first time with the directors Jocelyn Moorhouse, Fadia Abboud, David Caesar and Morgan O’Neill, who created the show.

The actor signed with US talent agency Paradigm in 2013 after he starred in Sarah Spillane’s Around the Block. While he has happily worked in dramas including the ABC’s Harrow, Tidelands and Cleverman, he aims to crack the US market in the next couple of years.

Broadening his craft, he and Carter Fred Simpkin (son of Bunya Productions’ Greer Simpkin) wrote, produced and directed Closed Doors, funded by Screen Australia’s Short Blacks initiative.

Produced by Mitchell Gordo Stanley, the psychological thriller centres on a paranoid young couple (Rhimi Johnson Page, Tasia Zalar) whose car crashes in the bush, after which they discover their infant daughter is missing. Wayne Blair and Tessa Rose play the young woman’s parents.

The duo hope to use the short as a stepping stone to directing TV drama and features. “I will always have a love for acting but I am a storyteller and there are other avenues where I can tell stories,” Hunter says.