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Living the Lives of Others: George Zach

The numerous roles throughout Australian actor George Zach’s career are something of a sociology investigation themselves. Vastly diverse while always investigating the humanity of these characters, they are always entertaining and often educational through a bit of prestidigitation. The late 2010’s are revealing that the world still has a lot to learn about those of us who reside on it and what connects us. As the son of Greek immigrants, Zach grew up in Australia feeling native yet deeply connected to the culture of his heritage. As an actor, he has been able to use this conflict and cohesion to create the kind of multi-dimensional characters that are transfixing.

In America, we have comedies that may not translate well in other countries but have achieved legendary status among our own citizens. Films like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, Repo Man, Sixteen Candles; these are the kind of stories that inspire generations of fans who can quote the lines of it by heart. Nirvana Street Murder serves this purpose in Australia. In spite of its seemingly dark title, this film is a comedy that revolves around brothers who attempt to make their way out of the tougher part of Melbourne. Writer/director Aleksi Vellis approached Zach after witnessing his stage performance in “Notes” at the La Mamma Theatre in Carlton Melbourne. George appears in the film alongside Golden Globe nominated actor Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Dark Knight Rises) and Mark Little in this endearing tale depicting the clash between Greek and Australian cultures in the early 90’s.

Aleksi Vellis found Zach’s performance so riveting that he recommended the actor to director Kay Pavlou for the role of Michael in Loulla. Widening the concept of Nirvana Street Murder to that of any new immigrants struggle to assimilate, it’s also a universal tale of the healing power of love. Michael is vastly different than Jimmy; he’s a rural New South Wales father who lost his wife to cancer. When he meets a Greek woman named Loulla and falls in love again, he follows her to Greece to win over her family. Zach’s performance is so endearing and warm that he received a Logie Award nomination for ‘Best Actor in a Telemovie’ for the role. It was an exceptional outcome for a role which his agent had warned him against auditioning for. It’s a performance driven by both quiet and boisterous passion. George confesses, “My favorite scenes are those where I lose my temper at my Mother and dictate to her how things will change, from opening hours at the shop to vacations with my wife.”

Award-winning director Kathy Mueller enlisted Zach to appear in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation crime/drama Street Angels. His role as a social worker at a halfway house for at risk youth proved a bit of his own reality was better left behind. Having considered a career in social work in his earlier days, Zach concedes, “This was not an easy shoot. We filmed at night in the backstreets of St Kilda Melbourne, then a drug and alcohol hotspot. I found myself too invested in reality to bullshit in this role. The feelings of uselessness to do anything positive for these children stayed with me for many months afterwards. I came to the realization I was too soft to be a Social worker.”

Most actors speak of finding a way to connect their own personal realities to that of the characters they portray. George Zach seems to continually find roles which resonate profoundly with himself and the audience. It’s an actor’s greatest skill to bring believability to a character. Through his work, accolades of critics, and the admiration of respected peers, George Zach personifies this with every film.

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