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Keiynan Lonsdale chats about new series ‘Swift Street’

The series Swift Street arrives today on SBS. This gritty, comedic, fast paced series set in inner city Melbourne brought Hollywood star Keiynan Lonsdale back to Australia for a role unlike anything he’s done before.

The show created by writer-director Tig Terera features a cast entirely made up of people of colour, and is filled with characters who are hustling, struggling to keep their heads above water, just trying to survive.

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The story follows street-smart hustler Elsie Masalla (Tanzyn Crawford) who decides to help her charismatic but hopeless father, Robert (Cliff Curtis), pay back a bad debt. The decision puts her in the crosshairs of a local crime boss.

Meanwhile boxer Tom (Keiynan Lonsdale), recently out of prison, is trying to put his life back together. He’s trying to stay on the straight and narrow, but it’s impossible to completely keep his hands clean.

Speaking to OUTinPerth Keiynan Lonsdale shared his experience of working on the series.

What made you want to be a part of Swift Street?

I wanted to be apart of this game-changing show for Australia. As soon as I met the writer-director Tig Terera I knew he would be a disrupter in the Australian entertainment landscape. I wanted to be a part of that.

Disrupter is such an appropriate word because this series really stands out as being very different to the standard drama we see on Australian screens.

Yes, but at the same time, some of this stuff is happening in Australia, so we may as well give them the drama that’s really playing out.

You play Tom, he’s a boxer, have you boxed before?

I had boxed, but just very casually, and just for fitness. I’d done some casual martial arts as well.

It was pretty funny, in the lead up to this show I’d started taking boxing a little more seriously, and I was cast in the role two months after that.

So I was like okay, two months practice in, two months more to go. I tried to be as open as possible, and I was vocal about my ideas too, I was nervous – I just wanted to get it right.

Tom is quite a brooding character, which is different to roles you’ve played in the past. Is it a challenge when you have less to say, but have a lot to communicate in a look?

To be honest, I love that, I’m very much like that my personal life. There’s times when I’m out doing publicity and I have to be very vocal.

I think a lot can be said, without anything being said. This is what I loved in the script, there was such nuance is the dialogue.

It gave us, the actors, a hell of a lot of confidence to fill in the gaps and allow the audience to really get to know these characters, beyond what we’re just saying.

The cast for Swift Street is all people of colour, which is reflective of the society we live in, how does that contrast to your experience of growing up in Australia and watching television?

It was something I craved when I was younger, and that’s why I always watched so much American content because I wanted to feel that I was a part of something.

Unfortunately when I was growing up I didn’t feel included as a black kid. When I would go out in public I would feel isolated.

But I think for mainstream Australia, they didn’t see us either. So a lot of random nonsense would occur in our lives. I think everybody’s lives are improved by this show to be honest. It means the word to be part of the change and to see how far we’ve come.

As you say, it’s a truer picture of our country, but it’s not just for Australia, it’s for the world to witness Australia.

Swift Street begins on SBS tonight at 8:35pm with a double episode premiere. The entire 8-episode series can be watched on SBS OnDemand.

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