TV

Kiwi actor Aaron Jeffrey on his new Underbelly role as Mark ‘Chopper’ Read

He has big shoes to fill, following Eric Bana's incredible performance as the master criminal.

AARON JEFFREY

There was a feeling of panic for Aaron Jeffery. Had he just made a huge mistake? The actor had been handed the job of a lifetime, the portrayal of Mark Chopper Read in Underbelly Files: Chopper, one he knew was a gift of a role. The only problem was, Eric Bana had beaten him to the punch (no pun intended).

Eric famously played Mark "Chopper" Read in the 2000 film Chopper. The career-making performance as one of the country's most notorious criminals turned the former Full Frontal comedian into an international star.

See the Underbelly Files: Chopper trailer in the player below.

Aaron Jeffrey as Chopper Read in Underbelly
Aaron Jeffrey as Chopper Read in Underbelly

"You have that moment of fear," Aaron, 47, tells TV WEEK of being offered the big role.

"You think, 'Oh, my God – can I do this?' Eric's portrayal of Chopper was extraordinary. Mark Read himself said that Eric did a better Chopper than him."

Curiously, Aaron had actually auditioned for the role, which eventually went to Eric. In a slightly weird twist of fate, Aaron may even have had a hand in helping Eric win the part.

Eric Bana as Chopper in 2000.
Eric Bana as Chopper in 2000.

His co-star, Todd Lasance, who plays Chopper's rival, Syd Collins, is enthusiastic about the experience of working with Aaron.

"He had a lot of pressure on him," Todd, 32, says. "But he was so giving in all his scenes – he wants this to be great.

"And he's so strangely perfect for Chopper, because he brings this vulnerability and sense of humour to the character."

Aaron adds: "I'd never done anything like that before, but I loved the character. You can wait around your whole life to do something like this as an actor."