Mystery Road: Aaron Pedersen on the return of Jay Swan

Aaron Pedersen (as Jay) with Dan Bassan (Prison Guard), Mystery Road 2 - Photograph by David Dare Parker/Courtesy of Acorn TV
Aaron Pedersen (as Jay) with Dan Bassan (Prison Guard), Mystery Road 2 - Photograph by David Dare Parker/Courtesy of Acorn TV /

Mystery Road star Aaron Pedersen explores more of Jay Swan.

Mystery Road series 2 is now streaming on Acorn TV, with Aaron Pedersen returning to the TV crime drama in the role of Jay Swan. Things have changed for Jay since the first series, with the show moving to a new location and giving him a new partner—plus, of course, another case to solve.

Precinct TV sat down with Aaron to discuss what it is about Jay Swan that he’s now played this character across two seasons and two films, as well as his experience in the crime drama genre and the chronology of Jay’s life as we see it on screen. Stream new episodes of Mystery Road each Monday exclusively on Acorn TV.

Precinct TV: What is it like for you to film Mystery Road knowing that it takes place between the two prior Jay Swan movies? So essentially you’re in the middle of his story.

Aaron Pedersen: When we shot Mystery Road the film, we weren’t necessarily looking to do a sequel. At the end of it, I remember speaking to [writer-director] Ivan [Sen] and saying, we’ve got something here. Let’s make a second one. He was doing some other projects that fell through, and then, in a short amount of time, he informed me that he’d written a second one. It was really different. We did [the second film] Goldstone on the basis that it was just a chapter in Jay Swan’s life, not necessarily a sequel, and it was in a different place and he was in different circumstances.

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What happened then is I took a good look at what the last shot of Mystery Road was and what the first image of Goldstone was, and there seemed to be a chasm; there seemed to be something that went on over a period of time whereby his world had shifted dramatically. Even though he’s still a police officer, his personal foundations had collapsed in some ways, and that involved his daughter. His personal life was in disarray and he started drinking again.

That really gave us the whole plot and story…There was not necessarily a long plot or a long story that we were certainly aware of at the time. We were doing it on the run then, and it just seems to have given us a window, particularly the idea of the last shot of Mystery Road and the first shot of Goldstone, to explore so many aspects of his personal life and the journey that he chooses to go on.

PTV: The mysteries Jay is presented with in the show aren’t typical TV crime drama plots; they are a bit more intricate, a bit more out there. How is that for you to be dealing with things that stretch the genre a little?

AP: It’s kind of like a day in the life of an Indigenous Australian and their world as they see it or know it and what they experience. There’s so many elements of our lives that haven’t been told or haven’t been said to non-indigenous Australia or even the international audiences. So for us, it’s just this opportunity to explore themes that are paramount to our daily lives and the way that we operate and walk, talk, and exist in this nation of ours.

I suppose they’re not normal crime plots, but they are structured around the way that we live our lives and how our lives are affected by certain things, like the archeology and how that is looked at in relation to the Indigenous life that once existed in Australia in its old times. But it’s also in the new times [and] what that means. We’re exploring these aspects of us in a time before colonization, and then in times since colonization.

Just the impact of it all, there’s a kaleidoscope of emotions that come from that, and questions and answers, and also just experiences. What is it like to live in a hybrid society…coming from one of the longest continuous living cultures in the world? The juxtaposition or the conflict; the impact; the resolutions in it.

We feel like we’re getting a great opportunity to tell our story our way, through our eyes and with our voice, so it’s to be interpreted in the right manner and people are informed and educated on the right platform. Only when we start sharing our stories and people start receiving them, then we as a nation and we as a people can start to look at how mature we are, and also how advanced and who we really are in the world, to ourselves and to everybody else.

PTV: You’ve spent a lot of time with Jay Swan now, so is there a favorite moment from Mystery Road that stands out to you or something about the character that has resonated with you?

AP: We get to be a part of the quality and the depth, and also the diversity of the world that he occupies as Jay the police enforcer—but also Jay the man of two worlds that has to find some balance within his profession and in his personal life that has cultural overtones that go back over five thousand generations. For me, it’s like being a stranger on a strange planet, and that’s the way that it seems to be shared with audiences.

I find that his greatest conversations are the ones when he’s saying nothing. There’s this great beauty in exploring elements of that. I like the fact that when there’s really [minimal] dialogue with the characters, I think you get a chance to explore under the surface…The conversations that Jay has with the world and the people that he comes into contact with, I never get to do with any other character. So, for me, it’s extremely unique.

PTV: Is there anything you want to say as people start watching Mystery Road series 2? Any particular thing you hope the new series leaves them with?

AP: It’s getting a bit of who we are as Indigenous Australians in this country…We’ve got so many stories to tell in this world and we’re only just getting started. So I hope that this, at some point, helps with the momentum of new stories and their ability to travel and be shared with people from all different cultures and languages and different backgrounds. Really, at the end of the day, this is a human story, and if that’s what people are taking away from our stories, then that’s a beautiful start to everything.

I’m just grateful that it’s got a life beyond the shores of Australia because our stories are international, as are many other people’s, and people are realizing that now. That’s the great beauty about it. I’m overwhelmed in so many ways because it takes a lot of work making shows. I couldn’t ask for anything more, really, so I’m forever grateful for it.

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Mystery Road series 2 streams Mondays on Acorn TV. Watch now with a 7-day free trial.