Actor Aaron Jeffery has moved on from a dark past to play fabled Aussie gangster Mark “Chopper” Read - a character he understood only too well from his own shocking childhood.
“A huge percentage of people in jail have been abused,” says the former McLeod’s Daughters favourite, who was passed around a pedophile ring “for a couple of years” during his tormented upbringing in Auckland, NZ.
"In my mid-twenties I had a nervous breakdown,” the Underbelly Files: Chopper star reveals in an exclusive interview this week. “That hard part of my childhood came back to me - when I was in a pedophile ring for a couple of years - and I had to deal with that.”
Jeffery, 48, drew on his own dark past to portray the mega-violent career criminal, best-selling author and stand-up performer in the upcoming two-part mini-series, screening soon on Nine.
“He definitely had two personalities,” says Jeffrey, who auditioned unsuccessfully for the Chopper movie role ultimately played by Eric Bana back in 2000. ”There’s a beautiful letter his wife Margaret wrote about how kind and gentle he was - and then at the same time he used to say: “I would smash a walnut with a sledgehammer.” He said it (his violence) was like an out-of-body experience.”
Following his nervous breakdown, Jeffrey quit acting and studied theology while living on a farm, where he became known as the “human tractor” for his heavy lifting skills.
“I used to pray: ‘I’m here until I find a story to tell’ and then it all happened,” the father-of-three tells Who. “I got an agent on Monday, auditioned for McLeod’s on Thursday, got the job on Friday and was in Adelaide ready to start filming two weeks later.”
Today the award-winning actor has, at last, found happiness with former McLeod’s Daughters cast mate Zoe Naylor, 40, living largely off-grid in the Blue Mountains with their children Sophia, five, and Beau, 20 months.
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