Ioan Gruffudd and the career renaissance that brings him to Australia

Tucked away in a nondescript warehouse in Brisbane's inner south, nudged up against a railway line, set back off the road, Hollywood star Ioan Gruffudd looks right at home.

He is two thirds of the way through a five-month shoot on a bold new ABC drama about an eccentric forensic pathologist with a dark secret.

He has been lured back to Australia for the 10-episode show to play the title role in Harrow, from local production company Hoodlum Entertainment.

It is a procedural drama that follows Dr Daniel Harrow's forensic investigation, his complex personal life and a season length story arc that is hinted at in the very first scene when a body is covered in cement and thrown in the river.

The ABC has secured Ioan Gruffudd to lead its new series, Harrow.

Photo: Vince Valitutti

At the time we met, Gruffudd was widely being described as the most hated man in Britain after his previous project, the acclaimed drama Liar opposite Downton Abbey's Joanne Froggatt, captured the British public's attention.

The storyline, which saw Froggatt's character Laura accuse Gruffudd's Andrew of rape, had been dominating headlines in the UK for weeks.

"I was in London when I shot it, I took the tube everywhere, I think I caught a cab maybe four times while I was there, I'm not sure if that would be advisable now," he says.

"It's interesting to not be there during that whole process because it turned into a bit of a phenomenon it seems, a real water cooler conversation type of thing."

Ioan Gruffudd as Dr Daniel Harrow and Mirrah Foulkes as Sgt Soroya Dass in Harrow.

Liar's release came along with the revelations of Harvey Weinstein's multiple sexual assault and harassment allegations as the "#metoo" and "#timesup" movements were getting into full swing.

Gruffudd's own Harvey Weinstein experience had just been made public through an article penned by his wife, actress Alice Evans, who claimed Weinstein came onto her at a party in Cannes in 2002 and her subsequent rejection may have derailed both their careers.

The series was shot in Brisbane over five months.

"Alice wanted to come out and say 'this is how he behaves; she wanted to bring the angle of not just him specifically but people in power," Gruffudd says.

"She has been misquoted a little by that piece. She didn't say she knew it affected her career or my career, you could never know that, but she wanted to make a broader point about people in positions of power using that in a destructive manner."

Whether Weinstein's hand was directly involved or not, Gruffudd's career somewhat hit the skids not long after that encounter.

After credits in films like Titanic and Black Hawk Down he hit the big time playing Lancelot opposite Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in King Arthur and then confirmed his leading man status in the original Fantastic Four films.

Other major film projects followed, but it wasn't until 2014's Forever where he was able to return to the bona fide leading man position.

What's followed has been something of a career renaissance in blockbuster television series rather than Hollywood blockbusters.

"It's exciting because, what is interesting, I have always wanted to play these parts, three-dimensional humans, flawed characters, but I have always been too young-looking to play them," he says.

"I have had the experience and desire to want to play those parts and the ability and talent to represent these people, and I guess now I have the gravitas and life experience to play these characters now."

Harrow is a return to Australia, and Queensland, for Gruffudd who shot 2015's San Andreas at the Village Roadshow studios on the Gold Coast.

He seems genuinely thrilled to be back.

"Every time I have been here... maybe it's the light, maybe it's the sky, I don't know. I feel really connected to the earth here, I don't know why," he says.

"The first time I stepped off the plane in Queensland, I felt very happy, there's that initial thing where you have come from LA which is a big metropolis, but you step off the plane here and see the vastness and, I don't know why I am saying this, but the sky seems tall here. I am very happy here."

The vastness and tallness of the sky aren't the only thing that lured him back to Queensland. The role itself offers some great challenges for the actor.

"It's an amazing character, it's hard to pinpoint anything to compare this with," he says.

"There's elements of House in this in terms of how curmudgeonly he can be but there's elements of Quincy too because it is quite funny. I actually got Rake out again as a reference point for something that is rooted in reality but very funny at the same time.

"It's a combination of all those things."

The commitment, 10 episodes rather than the traditional 22-episode order of an American drama, was also appealing.

"Anyone who works as a leading man or woman on an American drama series really earns their money, they have no life for nine months of the year," he says.

"With 10 episodes you have a chance to do other things. It's not on American television so I can do something there if I want.

"It's also only a three-year option and it is a really great part.

"When I came off Liar I came home and was thinking what's next. I had this great job where I can earn lots of money, it's a brilliant part, it's in a great place with great people.

"You are meeting me at a time when I am so grateful and happy."

The series which stars Australian performers Mirrah Foulkes (All Saints), Remy Hii (Better Man), Darren Gilshenan (The Moodys) and Robyn Malcolm (Wanted), is an incredibly relaxed and friendly set.

The resounded feeling from cast and crew is that Ioan's personality is what drives it to be like that.

"There is a responsibility that comes with being a lead of anything, you do set the tone," he says.

"I have been on plenty of things where the director or producer sets the wrong tone and it filters down and there is anarchy.

"I am 44 now, there's no time to have shenanigans."

Harrow will premiere on ABC on March 9 at 8.30pm.

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