Arlo MacDiarmid has Magnum, PI moment in local drama Dear Murderer

Arlo MacDiarmid plays Ian Greig in Dear Murderer.
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Arlo MacDiarmid plays Ian Greig in Dear Murderer.

Every hero has a sidekick and in the case of high-profile lawyer Mike Bungay, it was Ian Greig.

"He reminds me of Higgins in Magnum, PI who was always telling off Magnum," says Arlo MacDiarmid, who plays Bungay's long-suffering law partner in Dear Murderer.

"Ian Greig really is the figure that sits on Mike Bungay's shoulder and tells him he can't do things or he should really pick up his game."

Mark Mitchinson as criminal barrister Mike Bungay.

Mark Mitchinson as criminal barrister Mike Bungay.

Nowhere is that more evident than this week. Greig is horrified when Bungay takes on a murder case while already in the middle of the biggest trial of his career – defending Bill Sutch, the top public servant charged with trying to pass information to a Soviet spy.

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Despite his partner's urging to drop the case, Bungay remains firm in his decision to defend Esther Solvoll, a young woman accused of luring a man to a quiet spot by the Hutt River so her two companions could rob, beat and murder him.

Arlo MacDiarmid and Mark Mitchinson in Dear Murderer.
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Arlo MacDiarmid and Mark Mitchinson in Dear Murderer.

"Greig really carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. More often than not, he was really telling Bungay off," MacDiarmid says.

"They ran a law firm together and Greig must have been the bane of his life for a long time."

However, while the law partners might appear to be polar opposites on the series, MacDiarmid believes, in real life, they were more alike.

"Greig was probably much more of a character than the script delivers," he says.

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"He was quite a well-liked guy – very reserved and didn't say a lot. But he had a very quick dry wit.

"He had a huge passion for motorcycles and would ride one to work every day. He'd spend money on ridiculous things and live life to the fullest. This is a very restrained version of Greig which is probably a good thing."

MacDiarmid is no stranger to bringing real people to life.

He played Xavier Maniguet, one of the French intelligence operatives who bombed the Rainbow Warrior, in last year's docu-drama Bombshell and Alan Manchester in 2015's Venus And Mars. He also appeared in American Playboy, the docu-drama about the life and times of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

"I was really thrilled to get this (Dear Murderer) part and when I was playing it I was quite humbled as well. It's a bit of a dream part really," he says.

However, despite his experience, MacDiarmid says he still found it "quite terrifying" bringing Greig to life on screen, knowing the late lawyer's family would be watching.

"I had to make it very clear that realistically the script is not the story of Ian Greig. It's the story of Mike Bungay so the Greig character is always going to be there to support Bungay," he says, adding that he was lucky to have been able to speak to people who knew Greig.

"I was very fortunate in that I was able to speak to his first wife and family who were just a wealth of information. It was great to get an idea of the man and what he was like.

"They won so many cases and they did so well and he benefited so much from having Mike as part of the team.

"But just the cost of constantly having to look after Mike must have been incredible."

Dear Murderer, TVNZ 1, Sunday.

 - TV Guide

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