Martin Sacks, actor

Value each day and embrace it ...

You may know him as the loveable Detective PJ Hasham from Blue Heelers, but if Martin Sacks’ latest role as infamous inmate Jimmy Cove is anything to go by, he can certainly turn on the nasty when he needs to. Speaking with the actor and director from his home in Byron Bay this week, it’s clear Martin is far closer to PJ than prisoner. Humble and down to earth, the award-winning actor is a household name across Australia, appearing on our television screens in many different guises over the past few decades. His latest project, RISE, is based on the true story of Gold Coast local Mack Lindon, who was wrongly accused and charged with rape and drink spiking following a one-night stand. The 25-year-old nurse’s arrest and subsequent charges led to him spending almost two years in a maximum-security prison, during which time he began penning his story. After successfully clearing his name in 2011, Mack rallied cast and crew to create this deeply moving film inspired by his hardship and ultimate triumph. Following the Brisbane premiere of RISE this month, The Weekend Edition took the opportunity to chat with Martin about hope, family and standing tall.

Congratulations on your role in RISE! What’s the response been like so far, particular at the recent Brisbane premiere?
We’ve had a terrific response to the film! We’re just thrilled with the way people have taken to it and, with its limited release, it’s been getting some great audiences. The Brisbane screening was great, we had two cinemas which were virtually full, so that was really lovely. There was a lot of crew and cast and people who worked on the film as well as friends and family, so it was a great night.

How did you first hear about this true story?
Mack Lindon came to me and presented the role of Jimmy Cove. I thought it was a phenomenal role and it wasn’t something you get offered every day, so I jumped on board and thought I’d have a crack!

What was the most challenging part of the role?
Just trying to find the truth of who Jimmy is and trying to get inside his skin and really make it as authentic as possible. Jimmy had spent the majority of his life in jail, so it was a matter of getting inside his head and being as truthful I could.

How did you get into that mindset of being in prison; what kind of research did you have to do?
Well you can do a lot of research in terms of speaking to people who may have spent time incarcerated but I developed a lot of it through my imagination and talking to the odd person who had had experiences.

What do you hope the audience will take away from this film; what do you believe is the key message?
Hopefully it’s a story of hope and about turning a negative into a positive.

Let’s rewind a bit, what were you like as a child – were you always interested in performing?
I was a fairly sporty kid, I enjoyed soccer and surfing; I didn’t get in to drama until later on in life, in my late teens and 20s. My brother was involved in drama and he encouraged me. It wasn’t something I’d thought about, but I got an opportunity and went from there.

If acting wasn’t on the agenda as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was really just searching to be honest, I didn’t know. I thought about various things, like possibly being a chef, but it probably wasn’t my strong suit so luckily the acting came up!

If you could give your teenage self any advice, what would it would be?
I’ve got two boys now, so I think ‘stand tall and be proud of who you are’.

You’ve worked in film, TV and theatre for more than 30 years, but what do you consider to be your career highlight so far?
They’ve all been different jobs and different experiences, and they all have their merits. But I loved doing the first Underbelly, I loved Rake and Wentworth, and obviously I was grateful for Blue Heelers as it gave me a great opportunity to get out there. I spent ten years of my life working on that show and I just loved it.

What do you remember from that time?
It was just a great time generally, technology hadn’t taken off at that point and everybody was watching television – it was one of those shows people would make a point of going home for.

What would be your ultimate acting role – is there a particular medium you enjoy working in most?
I enjoy film and television because I enjoy working with the crew and travelling to different locations. That’s where I’ve had most of my experience, I haven’t done theatre for years.

And you’ve done a bit of directing too – is that a direction you’d like to continue working in?
Yes, I left acting on Blue Heelers and directed that show for a while, then I also directed a bit of All Saints. It was great being able to work with the actors on those shows.

Was it hard to change roles and transition from being in front of the camera to behind it?
I made a point of being very prepared and I was surrounded by a lot of great technicians, so if I found myself unsure of something, they were all terrific in terms of me asking a silly question and being supported!

What’s your idea of complete happiness – what are the prerequisites?
Family – it’s that simple.

You’re now a dad to two sons, what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt as a parent?
Just to value each day and embrace it.

What’s your personal definition of success?
To stand by who you are. Success for me is having a family who is happy and healthy – if that happens, then job done.

What’s next for you?
I have a small role in a film called Truth, which is being shot in and around Sydney next week. Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett are the stars of the film; I have a small role but I’m thrilled to be there. 

FAVOURITE SPOT TO:
Perk up … The Roadhouse, Byron Bay.
Relax … on a surfboard anywhere in the ocean.
Be inspired … by the sea and coming home to see the kids.

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