MYSTERY ROAD ORIGIN: Sundays, 8.30pm (AEST) ABC TV and ABC iview
Mark Coles Smith steps into the role of Jay Swan in ABC TV's Mystery Road Origin, which takes us back to when Swan (played by Aaron Peterson in the first two seasons), heads to the mining town of Jardine as a young detective.
Jay might be the new copper, but he's not new to Jardine. His estranged father, Jack (Kelton Pell), lives there, as does the woman who will change his life forever - Mary Allen (Tuuli Narkle).
Smith is no stranger to the isolated, dry and dusty west, having been born in Kalgoorlie.
"I think I was acting before I was doing it professionally," he says. "My earliest memories are around a campfire telling scary stories with my mates."
"I would watch kung fu movies with my cousin and we would act out the parts.
"At some point I moved into the more technical aspects of the industry.
Smith says he didn't see making acting his life's work as a possibility.
"Every time I got a role, I was like, 'how did that happen?'."
He spent his youth in Broome, which by the early 2000s had become a bit of a movie holiday destination.
"They came to shoot Ocean Star [a 2003 TV series] in my home town, so my aunty took me along."
He was asked if he wanted to be an extra, but soon found himself in more scenes, eventually appearing in 12 episodes.
"A lot of veteran child actors from east coast said 'you are good at this, you should get an agent'."
He did, with the help of one of his co-stars, and was busy for the next decade.
"I was still getting things like Blue Heelers, and The Circuit, and there was still stuff shooting up there [in Broome] locally; that's where I got my stripes."
He attained a certificate in Aboriginal Theatre from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAPPA) - which was offered in Broome one time only.
"There were eight of us and it was for six months. I never even set foot on the campus. As far as formal training is concerned, I never did get the box of tools, I just kept getting the right colleagues to learn from."
In Mystery Road Origin, one such colleague is veteran actor Steve Bisley, who plays tough policeman Peter Lovric.
"I had so much fun, he is one of the greatest. I learnt a lot from him.
"He came on the set and was so generous. When they're [veterans] in that space, the level that they are at, they almost function as a director.
"I had some great moments with Steve. He was like a coach really looking out for people, but also setting the bar."
Smith had worked with Lisa Flanagan many years ago.
"It was so great to come on set and see her again. I think she is one of the most powerful female actors in Australia.
"As a performing artist, it's a strange industry. You get more nos than yeses. It's [An audition] like any job application and job rejection, where you end up getting to just appreciate getting the job applications.
"It's a tricky relationship, and the road ahead opening up is hard to see. So you just keep turning up," Smith says of his journey as an actor.
On Mystery Road Origin there were long days on the set, six days a week, for 13 weeks to film six episodes.
"It was a marathon not a race. But it was also a bit of a pilgrimage. I don't know what was happening celestially, but I was about to head up home when Mystery Road came up.
To spend time out in that country, on the threshold of the desert was magic."
Smith says he hopes fans of the first two seasons will feel closer to the characters they grew to know and love.
"I hope as they are drawn into the world of Mystery Road, they enjoy the journey; seeing some different sides to Jay. His stoicism is still there, but you get to see why he is good at what he does."
"I think Mystery Road has often shone a light on the challenges being of an Indigenous police officer. There are cultural obligations but the law has to be enforced.
"I talked with some former Indigenous police officers who were on the set as extras. It was pretty tricky for them - a lot of them didn't last.
"It's been interesting to see Australia deal with post modernity. There is a think tank dismissiveness denying the black armband of Australian history.
"You see it in a place like Kal (Kalgoorlie). There has been $90 billion or more come from that hole in the ground, but most of our mob is still in poverty.
"There are black and white photos of eight to 13-year-old kids on the wall at the local grocery store for stealing bubblegum. We have been touching on that struggle for Jay.
"Filming in Kal (Kalgoorlie) and Coolgardie, they have an incredible look to them. It's quiet, less traffic, it kind of helped us sell the '90s aesthetic," Smith says.
"I love the way it [the series] has been filmed. When Jay is driving in the open spaces it brings a level of atmosphere. The characters get space to emerge."
Even if you didn't catch the previous two Mystery Road seasons, you will enjoy getting to know the young Detective Jay Swan.