'Underbelly' bad boy who flew under the radar

By Guy Davis

Strong characters from both ends of the moral spectrum star in this edgy chase drama.

Jonathan LaPaglia found the way Anthony Perish was trying to outsmart the cops fascinating. Photo / Supplied
Jonathan LaPaglia found the way Anthony Perish was trying to outsmart the cops fascinating. Photo / Supplied

To be the focus of an Underbelly mini-series, a criminal generally has to have some kind of notoriety or public profile.

But Anthony Perish, whose misdeeds are depicted in Underbelly: Badness, the latest instalment of the true-crime drama franchise, is a different breed altogether.
He's someone who virtually defines "under the radar".

The mastermind and muscle behind one of Australia's biggest drug empires, Perish was linked to a number of violent crimes spanning decades.

After one brush with the law, however, he worked meticulously to keep his identity and his very existence a secret from the authorities.

"He didn't have a driver's licence," said Jonathan LaPaglia, the star of The Slap who portrays Perish in the edgy eight-part drama.

"He had no credit cards in his own name. There were no major purchases in his name, no bank accounts."

After his near involvement in a 1993 drug bust, Perish essentially went underground. He was a pivotal player in a criminal organisation that manufactured and distributed methamphetamine but he didn't live large, unlike the lawbreakers depicted in previous Underbelly series.

"I think that's unusual among criminals," said LaPaglia. "The ones presented in the Underbelly series tend to be fairly flamboyant characters who love the notoriety - that was not the case with this guy.

"He was very wealthy, he had houses and cars all over the place so he could hide or get away, but they were all ordinary.

"I had a respect for him on that level, that he was that industrious and wanted to be so on top of things. I found the way he was trying to outsmart the cops for the longest time really fascinating - you know, did he fancy himself as some kind of spy?"

While Perish was determined to avoid the clutches of the law, a task force led by an equally driven police officer, Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin, was committed to tracking and taking him down.

Matt Nable, recently seen as tough, violent motorcycle club leader Jock Ross in Bikie Wars, plays Jubelin, and says he relished the change of pace his Badness role offered.

"I welcomed the opportunity to play a really good person, someone with a strong moral compass," he said.

"But the nature of the conflict between these two men appealed to me as well, the fact that the characters that Jonathan and I are playing are at opposite ends of this spectrum.

"It's a chase story, really - one guy chasing another. It's the kind of story that has been told a lot but is successful when it's told well, and I think in that dramatisation it's quite riveting."

LaPaglia agrees, saying Perish and Jubelin are "both leaders in their own ways ... both very meticulous, very tenacious and very headstrong".

What: Underbelly Badness
When: Wednesday 8.30pm
Where: TV3

- AAP

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