Lex Marinos tackles The Slap
As soon as he heard the novel The Slap was going to be adapted for the screen, veteran actor Lex Marinos wanted to play the role of Manolis, but was he old enough?
Lex Marinos faced pressure from all angles when he was selected to play Manolis in the television adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap.
Firstly, he felt pressure to perform in the filmed version of one of his most admired authors' novels and the pressure to part of such a talented cast, but mainly the pressure to assume the voice of his dad's generation of men.
Playing Manolis, Marinos felt a responsibility to respect and tell the story of the first generation of Greek Australian men, as best he could.
"There were a lot of things I could identify with," said Marinos, "when you get to that point in your life that once your family grows up, you wonder, how do you remain useful? I felt all those things on a very personal level, but also on that level of wanting to respectfully represent that generation too."
Born in Wagga Wagga to Greek migrant parents, Lex Marinos studied drama at the University of New South Wales. During his illustrious career, he has worked in all areas of the entertainment industry, as an actor, director, writer and broadcaster. But even with so many accolades, and many working years behind him, he says, with a giggle, that the creators of The Slap were initially concerned he may not be old enough to play Manolis. Marinos had to be transformed by the make-up department every day to appear to be an older, overworked migrant man; a man who lives in a country that keeps changing, in a time that's different to theirs and a family that at times, he doesn't even recognise.
"When we ended up shooting, the time in the make-up chair turned out to be really valuable for me to transform into Manolis," he says. But it wasn't just the make-up Marinos had to contend with to prepare himself for this role. Being Australian-born, Marinos had to have the discipline to relearn Greek. And not just the language, but what it was to be Greek, what it was to be a migrant, the idiosyncrasies and how to speak like a native born.
Manolis' character is central to The Slap family connection. It is at his son's 40th birthday barbecue where he witnesses his nephew slap a child that is not his own. Manolis is a man who is confronted with his own mortality daily. His understanding of the event is as a reflection of the way society has changed and how selfish and greedy the children of his family have become.
The Slap is the story of how one moment of rage causes ricocheting effects across family, friends and community. The Slap forces you to look at how a disturbing action can have you question parenting, the rights of children, race, class and sexuality. This story holds a mirror up to society, a common thread in Tsiolkas' work.
A long-time fan of author Christos Tsiolkas, and friend, Marinos says the clever thing about Tsiolkas' writing is that "the reader, the audience has to try and find their own moral compass in his stories."
He says even though the writer tackles confrontational issues in the text, he doesn't take sides to any of his characters. At first unsettled at the thought of the adaptation being filmed, Marinos was delighted to hear it was to be an eight-part television series. Why? "I think the book provides the basic architecture for it," he explains.
"As the book is told progressively from eight chapters, from eight different points of view, so is the series." It was a conscious decision to have different screenwriters for each story and different directors to make sure the stories were told by different points of view and ensure all angles were expressed. "It's almost like eight different movies where the characters interconnect at some point."
Other Greek-Australian actors appear on the cast of The Slap include Alex Dimitriades, who plays Harry; Melissa George, who plays Rosie; Toula Yianni, who plays Koula; Steve Mouzakis, who plays Andrew; and Eugenia Fragos, who plays Elisavet. "It's a very strong cast," says Marinos of his colleagues.
"At first I was a bit insecure; I didn't want to be the weak link in a very talented ensemble of actors." The first day of shooting for the cast was the all-important barbecue scene, where the slap occurs.
"It was the first time we were all together and I remember looking around at the assembled cast and thinking this is pretty high company to be in and having a feeling that security was going to come in and ask for my pass," laughs Marinos. Marinos' character has his own episode, and when asked if this added pressure to him as an actor, he replies with a definite "shit yeah!" The pressure was on him to keep the story moving forward, to maintain the momentum, the drama and live up to the high standard of the other actors.
"There is a lot of pressure," says Marinos, "but it's the pressure you look for as an actor. I was desperately keen to play this role and I was lucky to get this opportunity so I wasn't going to blow it."
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