Robert Rabiah hits the ground running post-lockdown with ‘Irreverent’, ‘Double or Nothing’

Robert Rabiah.

For Robert Rabiah, Queensland’s Mission Beach is more than just the location where he is filming fish-out-of-water drama Irreverent – it’s also where he began his career.

The actor’s first professional job was appearing alongside Craig McLachlan, Nadine Garner, and Antonio Sabato Jr. in George Miller’s action/adventure mini-series Tribe, which was also based in the coastal town.

Speaking to IF, Rabiah said his role in the Matchbox Pictures/NBCUniversal International Studios’ series more than two decades later was a case of his journey coming full circle.

“To come back after all these years feels nostalgic and satisfying,” he said.

In Irreverent, Rabiah plays Farah, a menacing hitman sent by the Chicago Mob to settle the ledger with a criminal mediator (Colin Donnell) who has taken refuge in Far North Queensland and assumed the identity of a church reverend.

Created by Paddy Macrae, the 10-part series also stars fellow Australian actors Kylie Bracknell, Calen Tassone, Briallen Clarke, Tegan Stimson, Ed Oxenbould, Wayne Blair, Russell Dykstra, and Jason Wilder.

It is being directed by Jonathan Teplitzky and Lucy Gaffy, with Tom Hoffie producing.

Mission Beach isn’t the only familiar territory for Rabiah, who has also previously worked with executive producers Andrew Knight – also a writer on the series – and Debbie Lee.

He starred in the 2017 rom-com Ali’s Wedding, co-written by Knight, and also had a role in the 2018 mini-series Safe Harbour, on which Lee was executive producer.

The 47-year-old said an early highlight of production on Irreverent had been seeing the pair, along with their colleagues, adapt to the pandemic climate.

“We are less than halfway through shooting and what I have enjoyed most about the experience thus far is observing how the creative team and key players have navigated the challenges of filming a show during a pandemic.

“It’s such a Herculean task and what they have been able to achieve is truly commendable.”

Irreverent is one of two projects Rabiah is filming in the Sunshine State, having also signed up to appear in Dru Brown’s comedy/crime caper Double or Nothing alongside John Jarrett.

He plays Eric, a handler for a movie star, in the ’90s throwback that follows two cousins working in a mob-run Gold Coast workshop who have 48 hours to win back the money one of them has been skimming.

Shot on location in the Gold Coast and Brisbane, the film is being produced by Brown, the film is being produced by Nicole Payten-Betts, Erin Connor, Timothy Carr, Jason Van Hunnik, and Brown, who wrote and is directing the film. No release strategy has yet been cemented but submissions to film festivals and streaming platforms are being planned.

Rabiah said the project, which is nearing the end of its shooting schedule, had been a “joy to work on”.

“Dru sent me the script and I immediately recognised this character,” he said.

“I have a friend who is very much like this guy on the page I was reading and I had to say yes.

“That and the fact that I’m a fan of Dru, particularly his feature film The Suicide Theory.

“His voice is distinctly Australian and his narratives are unique and original.”

Rabiah’s own screenwriting voice may also be about to find a wider audience via a feature script he wrote during Melbourne’s lockdowns.

Robert Rabiah and Michael Rymer.

While details of the story are still under wraps, Michael Rymer is on board as a director and executive producer, with Chris Brown from Pictures In Paradise to produce. The project is in the process of being shopped around to buyers.

Rabiah first worked with Rymer on the 2011 ensemble film Face to Face, for which he received an AACTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His relationship with Brown extends further back to Evan Clarry’s 2004 comedy/thriller Under The Radar.

Having previously co-written screenplay Jericho, he said his newest project began as a way to “channel all that frustration that many Victorians became all too familiar with” and admitted that he “never imagined it would have legs”.

“I sent Michael the screenplay and within weeks he was on board,” he said.

“There are not enough superlatives to describe, Michael. He is a smart guy, fun, and he really wanted to do this project.

“Equally, Producer Chris Brown and I worked together on a film many years ago and he immediately responded to the script when I sent it to him.”

He said is looking forward to doing more writing going forward and is “working on a few projects” that are still in an early stage of development.

“All-in-all, it’s been a promising start as we all emerge from the COVID nightmare and I look forward to working on more bold and exciting projects in the near future,” he said.