Underbelly: The squiz on Squizzy

Actor Jarad Daperis as Squizzy Taylor. 

Despite being the star of Channel Nine’s latest instalment in the Underbelly franchise, Jarad Daperis admits to having never watched any of the previous series.

“I never really got around to it. I know enough of Underbelly and I know what it’s like, I didn’t really deem it relevant to watch prior series, because they’re so different. Totally different stories,” the Underbelly: Squizzy actor told IF. 

The sixth and rumoured final Underbelly series follows the story of Melbourne-born gangster Leslie ‘Squizzy’ Taylor, a character producer Peter Gawler describes as “a bit of an artful dodger type.” 

“As a kid he made a bit of money picking pockets and then he graduated to thieving of other types, and then he graduated to major robberies,” Grawler tells IF. “The thing about Squizzy that set him apart is that he had an imagination. He was very good at devising plans and strategies, probably better than any of his peers. He wasn’t always successful. In some ways he was too smart for his own good –his plans could become so bloody convoluted he would trip himself up.” 

Since airing on July 28 on Channel Nine, Squizzy has received mixed reviews. ran a piece entitled ‘Six reasons why Channel 9’s Underbelly:Squizzy sucked’ and SMH’s John Birmingham wrote, “It was just unfortunate that for a drama based on a real world villain with a generous surplus of villainy, the producers of Squizzy gave their Squizzy such a light touch and more than one line that could only have been delivered by someone born after the advent of PowerPoint. Seriously.”

The Australian’s Graeme Blundell was more forgiving, writing, “Aside from a few misgivings about casting here and there, and an occasional diversity of acting styles, this is still slick, astutely engineered commercial drama with the consistently ambiguous Underbelly mix of horror and fascination, attraction and repulsion. As always, it's easy to admire the overall craft, be seduced by the cinematic glamour, and fall in with the excitement.” 

Blundell also notes the massive undertaking for relative newcomer Daperis, who appears in nearly every scene. “…it will be fascinating to see how this talented young actor – he's in almost every scene – copes with the demands of this complex production,” he writes. “Underbelly shoots up to 10 minutes of footage a day and the stress on the actors is exhaustingly intense, the production often filming two episodes simultaneously.”

It is a sentiment echoed by Gawler, who praises the 23-year-old’s work ethic.

“We’ve never done a series about just one character before,” Gawler says. “The workload for Jared was astonishing. Time and time again he’d be shooting the last scene of the day and the first scene of the following day. It’s an incredible workload he took on. And Jared being the utter professional he is, and young and fit and dedicated, didn’t miss a beat. He delivered from start to finish and he arrived on set every day prepared, he knew his material.

“He spent time with the writers examining how the character changed in each episode and what changed him. He delivered a character journey. He starts out in the opening frame, a very young optimistic man with a sparkle in his eye, and by the end of his journey he’s a monster.”

For Daperis, it’s all part of the acting game.

“Well, I guess initially it was about researching the character and making sure I was going to represent him as accurately as I could, and from there, I think once you do all the relevant research, I think it’s about putting that aside, and focussing on the story we want to tell in those eight weeks.”

Underbelly:Squizzy airs on Channel Nine at 9pm on Sundays.