Mark Coles Smith’s newest project Erotic Stories explores intimacy in all forms and for the Gold Logie nominee, the sixth instalment of SBS’ new Anthology series was a reminder of “all the connections” he had had in his own life and “what made them so significant”.
The episode, Imperfect PawPaw, centres around a woman named Leila (Zahra Newman) who meets surfer Manny (Coles Smith) while travelling to the Gold Coast for work. During one spontaneous night together, he helps her finally find peace between her body and self. But one impossible decision still looms over her.
For the Mystery Road: Origin’s actor, the character of Manny is not far from whom he identifies with in real life.
“There’s a sort of devil may care playfulness in his approach to life,” Coles Smith said during an interview with Mediaweek and Chattr’s The Entertainment Hotline Podcast before the episode aired on November 9. “But there’s also this sincere yearning to have deep connections.”
The 36-year-old also called the subject matter “interesting”, given that it’s the “idea of what are deep connections and what is the state of deep connections today in the modern world”.
“Do we care? Are we being conditioned towards deeper connection? Or are we being conditioned towards things that are sort of transient and superficial? Because, for me, depth is erotic.
He added later: “It’s actually really easy not to care. It’s actually easier not to care. And in some cases, in some segments of society, we actually turn it into a virtue. I just never went in that direction. I just never bought into that. I always thought, that even though it’s harder to care, even though it hurts to care, it’s worth it. And the world is better for it if you do.”
Coles Smith grew up with a very strong matriarchal lineage and family, who “set the standard for ways of relating with other people”.
“My mother, my mother’s sisters, all my Aunty’s are all very, very wonderful, strong, resilient, caring people,” he said. “They were all the prototype for me.”
Mark Coles Smith reflected on his own relationships
And during the process of filming, Coles Smith recalled thinking about his past relationships — romantic and otherwise.
“I was remembering all the relationships that I have had. All the relationships that have failed. Just all the connections that I’ve had in my life and what made them so significant, so special… I remember those connections in my life and I feel grateful that they happened.”
He further explained that he felt a “desire for other people” and if he doesn’t have a “sense or understanding”, and if there isn’t an “emotional and intellectual bridge” between who they are, “it doesn’t work.”
“I need to see who they are and vice versa,” he said. “Not only the act of seeing someone else but seeing someone else be seen….I think it’s such a wonderful gift. It’s something that I really care about and it’s something that I’ve seen have a profound effect on other people.”
SBS’s deliciously provocative new series Erotic Stories premiered on Thursday, October 26 with Coles Smith’s episode to air on Thursday, November 9. All episodes are available to stream on SBS On Demand with double episodes to air at 9:30 pm on SBS each Thursday.