At least Firass Dirani sees the lighter side of having to get starkers in another TV series.
In our interview he jokes like a TV executive.
“When you have the Firass’ ass’ you can’t lose…!” he laughs.
It takes all of two episodes for Dirani to be caught in the buff, in a scene from the occasionally-awkward House Husbands on Nine. Having done similar naked scenes in Underbelly: The Golden Mile and The Straits (for the ABC no less), I can’t help but ask if this is becoming a trend and whether he’s about to knock off Lincoln Lewis in the TV flesh stakes.
“Do I feel objectified?” he asks.
“I did at the beginning, but it’s part and parcel I guess. Part of the job.
“I thought it was a funny gag. It’s a nice little element and injection to the scene. I’ll take the piss, I’m a light-hearted bloke. I don’t believe in being embarrassed, I believe in exposing myself, quote unquote!”
You just know it will make the network promo, right?
Dirani plays Justin, a former AFL star player who works as a bouncer and whose wife has left him for his manager. He has 3 kids at stake and is fighting a custody battle with his separated wife (Leah de Niese).
If nudity is a common trend amongst his work, then what about bad boys? He acknowledges the theme, but there’s another side to Justin that appealed to him as an actor.
“He’s a bad boy full of heart but he’s slipped up a few times. He had a lot of success thrust upon him and he couldn’t handle the responsibilities. He made a few mistakes and now he’s trying to redeem himself,” he says.
“He had heart and a sensitivity about him that I wanted to explore. I wanted to make him heartfelt and have a strong connection with the audience so that people can relate to him.
“It’s a different demographic that I’m dealing with now too. Parents, people with kids. I really appreciate and respect that role of being a single parent and struggling.”
Having a sizeable family at such a young age would also seem like a bit of an acting stretch. Is he old enough to have 3 kids?
“Absolutely. In my dad’s generation, I am,” he says.
Referring to his character, “I’m 29, I’ve got 3 kids, twins that aren’t identical. I’m basically dealing with the three of them, a break-up, a custody battle, losing a career, falling from grace.
“It’s a challenge because it’s a Drama, but sometimes I wish I had more comedy. I loved doing the comedy in The Straits.
“But he’s going through hell in the show, so it’s not really a laughing matter.”
There are laughs, or at least awkward humour, shared between his co-stars Rhys Muldoon, Gary Sweet and Gyton Grantley. As four stay-at-home dads they fumble their way through full time parenting while their partners become principal bread-winners.
For his character preparation, Dirani was reminded of a Hollywood producer friend who also lost everything, although he declines to name him.
“He had the cars, the career, the money tree, he had it all. Now he doesn’t have it all. I lived with him for two months. So that was good research for me. It’s worse to not have it at all, than to have it and lose it,” he says.
“When you lose your mojo you lose your rhythm and timing and I think that’s what Justin is going through.
“He has to start from the ground up again because he’s lost it all. He doesn’t have a job, he doesn’t have any money, he had the career, now he’s rebuilding his life.”
But Dirani says the most challenging part is the speed of the shoot and keeping up with changes.
“It’s the first time I’m dealing with 4 or 5 pages of adult, mature dialogue that you have to learn the night before and perform the next morning. It’s the pace!” he says.
“On The Straits I had a bit more rehearsal time. But here it’s the Drama and making the exposition work.”
House Husbands is the second series Dirani has done for Nine. In an interview in March he criticised broadcasters for not doing enough to represent diverse cultures. So how does this series stack up? It features a gay couple (and in the second episode a guest role for comedian Lawrence Leung). Does he see the industry improving?
“It is a slow process. First of all it is about suitability. You have to find the right talent out there who can play the roles and deliver. And I think that’s generational,” he insists.
“It’s hard to find people who are writing for certain characters to be represented. Those writers need to have experienced that life or that demographic. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening.
“As long as people know there is an audience for different shades out there.”
Lastly, I can’t help but ask. What if his next project includes a bad boy with obligatory nude scene?
“I might have something to say!”
House Husbands airs 8:30pm Sundays on Nine.