Lucy: So you’re playing Tony Mokbel in Channel Nine’s Fat Tony & Co. How was transforming into Tony? You had to put on a lot of weight. You look completely different!
Robert: Yes – 25 kilos. A lot of being Tony required me to actually physicalize the role. Putting on the weight was part of getting into character. Funnily enough, I found it gave me the sort of stature of the man and did help with the mental side of things as well. You know, you research as much as you can and try and look up any footage of the people who you portray. In Tony’s case it was just footage from court appearances
Did you know much about Tony prior to taking on the role?
Yes, I did actually. I spent some time in Melbourne in the late '90s early 2000s, working on a couple of productions one after the other which was right at the height of the murderous rampage those guys went on. So yes, I was reading about them every day in the papers. I never believed for a minute that I would be portraying one of these gentlemen.
How did the role come about?
I was fortunate to have met with the producers some years ago when the first Underbelly series was created and from that experience they spoke to me some years later about being involved in an expanded storyline about Tony Mokbel. But, at that stage we had no idea when that would happen because the court cases were continuous. So they couldn’t actually say: ‘listen, in two thousand and whatever we plan to do this.’ It was a matter of when the legal stuff fell away and within a year of that being done and dusted we were in production.
You’re working with a great cast. How has that been?
The members of the cast are ladies and gentlemen that I consider my friends having worked with them before. There’s a real kinship; we were part of a show that pretty much set a new standard for Australian television so we feel pretty proud of our efforts previously. It was good [working together again]; it was wonderful - like a high school reunion. And we feel comfortable with each other. It came together so well and smoothly that it felt like it had only been a couple of months since we last worked together but in actual fact it had been about 7 or 8 years.
How long did it actually take to shoot and put together all the scenes?
We commenced shooting in July in Greece. We went over to Greece for a couple of weeks, and then we wrapped up on the 30th of October. And of course, I put the finishing touches to the last episode about a month ago so all up as far as production is concerned, we’re looking at about 6 or 7 months. And here we are; so it’s actually a pretty quick process.
What's next for you after Fat Tony & Co?
I am currently sitting at the cinemas here in Harbour Town staring at a poster of Russell Crowe because I’m working on [historical film] The Water Diviner at Finders Ranges - I was only there two days ago. And I go to Turkey in a few weeks to continue on with that. Also, I’m producing my own film called 1886; it’s a thriller, horror, drama that takes place on a train journey from Sydney to Newcastle overnight and will be announcing some pretty exciting cast members to join me on that soon.
Do you prefer mini-series, movies or producing or do you like having a mix of all three?
I like a nice mix of all three. The thing about feature films is what it allows you to do is be truthful to the moment and the art. Television has a few restrictions depending what time you’re on air - but that adds another layer of interest to it. So I like to mix them up!
What was your favourite part about getting into character as Fat Tony? Anything you particularly loved about the character?
Getting fat. Eating what you want, when you want, how much you want. That’s the obvious one. I wouldn’t say it was easy – it took a lot of work to get back in shape, but I’m there now so I’m happy.
See Robert in Fat Tony & Co at 8.40pm, Sunday on Channel 9.