Logie Award acting nominee George Zach described as someone “Playing the Blues”
To Dream. The impossible. Dream.
At age 8, Greek-born George Zach recited his father’s self-penned classical poetry to an audience of 200, and the applause hit him “like a ton of bricks.” A dream was sparked alive. Then when he was 12, Zach’s artistically inclined father read him excerpts of Shakespeare’s masterfully tragic romance, Romeo and Juliet, and it fascinated Zach. In the process, these two auspicious signposts helped roll the dice for him.
From when his family emigrated from southern Greece, when he was just a toddler, to him growing up poor in Australia’s rural outback, young Zach was smitten. And he admits, “I couldn’t wait to leave the sleepy country town of Renmark for the city’s bright lights.”
So, at 24 years old, Australia-raised Zach left University, to answer that thespian’s siren call, recalling:
“I almost jumped to audition for Les Enfants Drama school in Adelaide run by Judith Conrow Shipley a graduate of RADA (the UK’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts). I followed my muse further when I did a year of drama studies at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. And, I also studied in Sydney at NIDA night classes for a year, taught by Dean Carey. I was sold because all I wanted was to be part of that ancient game that is called acting.”
That burning desire got him his first paying job on the long-standing Australian television soap opera, Neighbours, and his appearances taught him a lot technically about the craft of acting and filmed entertainment.
He further expanded his knowledge and growth working on a plethora of television shows, movies, stage plays and commercials. He has also studied at the Susan Batson Studio in New York City, under the directorial tutelage of Carl Ford who Zach simply describes as a “godsend” to actors.
Now, emboldened by his many experiences to date, Zach feels the deep need to broaden the audience for his creative work.
But to back up, let’s touch on some of the more significant acting experiences in Zach’s career so far.
Zach’s first film role was in an iconic Australian film, Nirvana Street Murder. He recalls being brought onboard by independent filmmaker Aleksi Vellis, saying, “Aleksi is an actor’s dream director because he understands the actor’s process so well. We had ample time to rehearse and I had the privilege of closely watching great actors work like now Emmy Award-winning Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom to the Marvel Cinematic Universe). And I got invaluable insight into the process of filmmaking.”
Next up was a role in Loulla that earned Zach a Logie Award nomination for Best Actor in a Telemovie. He’d been recommended by director Vellis to the film’s director Kay Pavlou, and the story resonated with Zach. It not only covered Greeks, like Zach’s family, coming to Australia but it spoke to a wider audience regarding immigration and the struggle to assimilate to a new country and culture. Much like what immigrants to the U.S. face.
Zach recalls the inspiring experience: “It was a great learning curve for me regarding camera and film acting. Kay is a fantastic director who challenged me technically and taught me to watch myself in takes between shots and to dissect my performance to get the desired result.”
Street Angels followed, an ABC Network telemovie shot on the backstreets of St Kilda, Melbourne, then a known drug and alcohol hotspot: “I played a social worker at a halfway house that tries to help children on the streets. This is the other side of life that society often ignores. It was a heartbreaking experience to talk to the real children on the streets.”
English at Work, an SBS TV production, was a series of programs dealing in dramatic and documentary form with issues relevant to people of non-English speaking backgrounds in workplace environments. Zach loved it because he “played several characters from a real estate agent to tradespeople.”
More recently in 2016, he performed in Six Steps to Eternal Death, filmed in Montsalvat which is a self-contained artistic community two hours outside of Melbourne. Zach enthusiastically says, “The community is a world that has stopped in time. Additionally, this is probably the most surreal shoot I’ve ever done. I played a priest in an ‘alternative universe’ where a mother is forced to accept she is dead and move on. I had the pleasure of working with director Peter Nathan who stretched me every which way but loose on this production.” The production earned several award nominations, including: Official Selection in the Celtic Mystery Short Film Festival 2016; nominated for best Supernatural Film at the New Hope Film Festival 2017; and, it won Best Film at Deakin University, Melbourne.
Also released in 2016 was A Little Resistance, which is set in a fantastical world and timeline. Zach’s villainous King Oleander is driven mad by grief by the death of his wife and Queen. His vengeful agenda is then to obliterate all his rivals and expand his tyranny and new world ideal, just as his daughter enlists in the rebel cause against him. Zach enthuses: “Shot in Melbourne and Ballarat Jail, it was a rollercoaster. But, I loved playing this character simply for the fact he personifies evil in its extremist form. Young director Mike Loder had unorthodox but effective ideas, and his enthusiasm and professionalism infected the cast and crew alike. It was just a fantastic shoot with great memories.”
Zach has also done numerous plays, portraying Cassius in Julius Caesar, and the title character in Zorba the Greek. He’s appeared in classic theatrical productions of Macbeth, 12 Angry Men, The Glass Menagerie, The Crucible, and he’s even performed as the leading man’s best pal, Mercutio, in Romeo and Juliet, one of those inspirational markers in his youth.
And, his various standout performances have drawn the attention of US producers who are now negotiating with him for his first Hollywood roles, the first of which is forthcoming.
George Zach, who came from nothing, says that teacher/director Carl Ford once described his pupil as being able to “play the Blues as an actor.” To which, Zach humbly adds:
“The Blues obviously aren’t part of Australian culture, but I’m happy to play them anyway. Just challenge me and present me with the opportunity.”
It just goes to show that having a burning desire can make a little kid’s dreams come true.