Showrunner, writer and producer Matt Cameron talks to TV Drama about Jack Irish: Hell Bent, the third and final installment of the Australian noir thriller, starring Guy Pearce and streaming on Acorn TV.
Jack Irish: Hell Bent sees Pearce (Mare of Easttown, Iron Man 3, Mildred Pierce) return as the titular criminal lawyer, part-time debt collector and private investigator. As the series wraps up its run, Jack’s story will come “full circle,” says Cameron, with the character’s trauma from the death of his wife coming to the fore.
Hell Bent premiered exclusively in the U.S. earlier this week on AMC Networks’ Acorn TV platform. The series’ international appeal, according to Cameron, comes down to its attention to detail and its portrayal of the local landscape and characters. “I believe the universal is always best found in the particular,” says Cameron. “By being intrinsically truthful and specific to both people and place in Jack’s world—in this case, the gritty inner-city streets of Melbourne, Australia—we feel we can capture the common and relatable humanity we all share.”
Genre, too, plays a big part in giving a series its global legs. “The appeal of the crime genre has long been its exploration of the dark side of human nature and the promise of a flawed and damaged hero seeking to right the wrongs of the world rather than turn a blind eye to injustice,” says Cameron.
From the start, central to Jack Irish’s success has been the actor behind its tortured hero. Without Pearce, who Cameron had first worked with on a previous project, “this series is unimaginable,” he says, adding, “His instinct for human behavior, combined with the depth and detail he brings to every scene, set the bar extremely high for everyone involved. Even though this is a series with an incredibly strong ensemble of characters and players, its eponymous hero is at the heart of it all. Jack is the connective tissue. He is the beating heart of the show, leading the audience into the shadows and out the other side again. And we have one of the best actors in the world to do that.”
The first installment of Jack Irish, Bad Debts, had launched with Jack’s wife’s murder at the hands of Wayne Milovich, a former client. In Hell Bent, a young criminal recently released from prison named Troy is on a mission to take down a group of corrupt cops—including Jack’s friend and homicide detective Barry Tregear.
“He sets his sights on a group of cops who were part of an underhand graft involving a drug raid named ‘Great White’ and personal kickbacks 25 years earlier,” explains Cameron. “In this final season, Jack’s client is himself and the crime he must solve might unlock a mystery of his past and finally set him free.”
“We wanted to have Jack finally face the demons and ghosts from the past,” adds Cameron. “Our goal was to tell a redemptive origin story that finally puts Jack’s painful past to rest, allowing him to truly face the future. For the writers, the only loose end that really mattered was how to satisfyingly free Jack Irish from the purgatory he had been in through the entire history of the series.”
Given the international success of a number of Australian drama series—as well as Australian feature films—Cameron sees no reason why more can’t chart the same path. “Our challenge is to remain true to ourselves and, in doing so, offer a unique perspective and insight to audiences worldwide,” he says. “In the end, we are all telling stories around the campfire. The heart of what makes people lean in to hear those stories, what grips them to their seats, are compelling characters who do surprising things. And Australians have the capacity to create them as well as anybody.”
New episodes of Jack Irish will premiere weekly on Acorn TV every Monday through August 2.