Change of career direction

October 16, 2017

Melbourne basketball player Wally Elnour stars in the new SBS crime drama Sunshine.

Wally Elnour had no ambition to be an actor.

Most of his spare time at home in Melbourne was spent on the basketball court.

Originally from South Sudan, Mr Elnour migrated at age five with his family to Australia in 2002, and basketball has been his focus.

He won three championships as a member of the Melbourne-based team the Longhorns and spent a year playing basketball at a school in Montebello, Denver.

But after his return to Melbourne, basketball helped him break into acting — a profession which was not on his radar.

While competing in the national South Sudanese Basketball Tournament in Australia, he heard about a new television show looking for cast members.

‘‘My team made it all the way to the finals and during the break they were passing out flyers about a new TV show coming out and they needed people to audition,’’ he said.

That show, SBS crime drama Sunshine, focuses on a basketball team in a South Sudanese community in Melbourne.

Mr Elnour was not interested at first, with his sights firmly set on basketball, but when his friends decided to audition, he joined them.

He immediately connected with character Jacob Garang, a talented basketball player from Melbourne suburb Sunshine.

‘‘The character is basically just who I am normally. I just stayed myself,’’ he said.

Mr Elnour landed the lead role in the crime drama opposite seasoned Hollywood actors Anthony LaPaglia and Melanie Lynskey.

Besides the crime investigation that drives the storyline, Mr Elnour said the show was a story about his community.

‘‘It’s so realistic. It relates to the community right now and how we live,’’ he said.

‘‘The majority of Sudanese guys are basketball players and our story is being told now through basketball and this perspective of how people view us.’’

The story follows a basketball team which is at the centre of a police hunt for the perpetrator of a violent assault, which has left a teenage girl fighting for her life.

Mr Elnour believes the show is important in how it tackles issues of racism, which is a victim of frequently in his own life.

‘‘It’s every-day life for Sudanese guys, especially young Sudanese guys,’’ he said.

‘‘Some of these kids do crazy stuff and the media judges everyone by it. Just being black in this community in Australia is kind of tough.

‘‘I think it’s important to show different views of different people and how they live.

‘‘Before you judge, you have to understand what they go through and what they do.’’

Sunshine starts on Wednesday at 8.30pm on SBS.

—AAP and Danielle McGrane

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