The cub has grown up: Lydia Jenkin talks to the new star of Westside.

Welcome to the second chapter in the long-running tale of the infamous West family.

As the new season begins, Rita is emerging from jail after her 12-month stint doing time for a crime that she didn't commit (covering for her beloved son Wolf), Ted and the gang are running out of money and need to hatch some new plans, and Wolf has ended up in the clutches of a rival gang.

Read more: The acting job that brought Antonia Prebble to tears

Yes, Wolf is all grown up now, an 18-year-old with a leather jacket and permanent scowl to match his wily ways. This season he's played by New Zealand-born, Australian-based newcomer Reef Ireland, a rising star with plenty of crime drama experience up his sleeve (key roles in Wentworth and Killing Time among others), but very excited to become part of the West family story.


"I was actually a pretty big fan of Outrageous Fortune, so I was well aware of the show and the series, and the characters and their relationships and that sort of thing. And I was super-excited about the role, so I was very grateful to get the audition and then to get the part."

The 22-year-old relished the opportunity to play a character at such a transitional stage, and to take him from the young kid we saw at the beginning of Westside season 1, to the man Grant Bowler played in Outrageous Fortune.

"From last season of Westside to now, I think he's grown up a bit, he's a little smarter, and he's also got that primal teenage rebelliousness about him. And I think compared to the Wolf who we've seen in Outrageous Fortune, he's a bit more naive, very cocky, more so than usual, and still very tied to his mum."

Reef Ireland got some pointers for his portrayal of Wolf West from Outrageous Fortune's Grant Bowler.
Reef Ireland got some pointers for his portrayal of Wolf West from Outrageous Fortune's Grant Bowler.

In a stroke of good fortune, Ireland was in Los Angeles when he found out he had got the part, and quickly managed to arrange a meeting with Bowler (who now lives there with his family).

"He's a friend of my manager's over there, and so he teed up a little chat, and I went over to his place in Venice Beach and met his kids, and chatted for a couple of hours about the character.

"Obviously I'm playing a younger version, but it was great to talk about his memories of Wolf, and where he was at when he was playing the character, and the little aspects he liked to play up."

He was particularly drawn to playing the role of a master thief, someone with his own set of rules that doesn't necessarily fit with society's expectations.

"I think every actor loves the idea of playing a criminal, and diving deep into that mentality where the law doesn't hold any meaning.

"It's so appealing to play someone who doesn't care about the law, but cares enough about people to have a certain line in the sand for himself. And I think he also cares enough about the law to stop himself from doing anything too stupid.

"He sort of knows what rules or laws he can bend or push, and what would really break things. He's mostly smart enough to break the law and not get caught which is a source of pride for him, I think."

Of course, along with Wolf growing up, times have moved on from season one of Westside. It's now 1981, and political differences come into focus once more as the nation is divided over an ideological clash around the Springbok tour.

And of course fashion has moved forward too, with the introduction of big hair, mullets, questionable eye shadow, and more leather and lace.

"Some of it looks a bit dated of course when you first see it, as it's supposed to, but I also found this weird grooviness to it all, and it really does set the tone, and takes you back to that era," laughs Ireland.

"They've also put together an amazing soundtrack for this season, everyone will have some memories about these classic tunes. I am such an 80s lover, so I was already a fan, and they've got some Australian bands in there too, some Cold Chisel and so on, so it was everything I wanted."

Another element of the show that put a big grin on Ireland's face was the opportunity to drive some classic cars, and ride a motorbike.

"There comes a point in the series when Wolf comes across a fair bit of money, so he buys himself a motorbike, and that was great because I love bikes! I got to show off my little motorbike riding skills, and there were no stunt doubles - I was really keen, and it was actually a real treat for me, so I'd kick up my heels whenever I read a scene where Wolf has to ride his bike."

Of course being true vehicles from the 80s, both the bike and the cars had their moments of being less than reliable or easy to deal with.

"The motorbike just wouldn't start some times, it was a bit temperamental," he laughs. "But there was a Holden Torana that I had to drive too, which is Rita's car, and that was quite tricky.

"Driving up this hill and doing a sharp turn - the kind of thing where in a normal car you wouldn't think twice about it, but when you're working with these really old cars that are a bit touchy on the clutch and the gear box isn't the greatest, and the brakes aren't as good as they once were, it's a bit crazy."

So now Wolf's old enough to be riding motorbikes, drinking swappa crates full of DB, and leading his own sort of gang (which includes favourite Outrageous Fortune characters Sparky, Falani, and Eric in their younger incarnations), what is his relationship with Rita and Ted like?

"He's definitely still a mummy's boy, he connects better with Rita. He's a bit stand-offish with Ted, and I think he almost sees him as a threat.

"I guess he wants to be just like Ted, but better in every way, and you're definitely going to see them butt heads in this season a lot. Whereas the mother-son relationship between Rita and Wolf really flourishes and you'll see them working together a lot, and having their own little schemes running."

He can't elaborate much further on those schemes ("I'll tell you too much and get into trouble"), but he will say this about season two:

"It's definitely a bit of a coming of age for Wolf, but there's a lot of twists and turns, and it won't end where you think."

Meet the gang

Caleb Wells plays Sparky

What are three key words you associate with Sparky?

Arson, sugar, and wanking.

What is Sparky's stance on the law?

The law is pretty dumb, but getting caught breaking it is even dumber.

What does he think about the Springbok tour?

He doesn't really understand what all the fuss is about, but loves it when they show all the riots on TV. He thinks that if people are so angry they should just burn the stadiums down.

Have you met your future self (John Leigh, who played Sparky in Outrageous Fortune), and what did you learn from him?

I was lucky enough to have John Leigh play Sparky's dad in season one. It was cool to work with him to see what the character is like up close and what made him this way. I think the biggest thing I picked up was to always be having fun.

Jordan Mooney plays Eric
What are three key words you associate with Eric?

Resourceful, persistent and marriageable.

What is Eric's stance on the law?

He's happy to be on any side of it that suits him at the time.

What does he think about the Springbok tour?

He knows racism isn't cool, but can see maybe there's a buck to be made while all the folks are divided.

Have you met your future self (Brian Sergent), and what did you learn from him?

I haven't met Brian Sergent but I'd love to. Over a pint or two. We could both be dirty scallywags and paint the town red. So if you're reading this Brian, get in touch.

Patrick Tafa plays Falani
What are three key words you associate with Falani?

Westies, cars and Samoa!

What is Falani's stance on the law?

He understands that they're racist to him and his people.

What does he think about the Springbok tour?

He doesn't quite understand what's going on at first. I think Falani is more fascinated with Hamilton.

Have you met your future self (Dave Fane), and what did you learn from him?

Yes I have. Dave made a cameo in season one in a scene we did together. I learnt that he is also a talented Samoan!



Reef Ireland, who plays Wolf West


Season 2 of Westside

Where and when:

Screens on TV3, Sunday, 8.30pm.