Irony? ... Bert Wainer confronted by abortion protestors in a scene from Dangerous Remedy.
Forget the Underbelly comparisons, Jeremy Sims says Dangerous Remedy should spur debate.
He plays the challenging and complicated role of Dr Bertram Wainer in tonight's ABC telemovie, Dangerous Remedy. But Sims has criticised the ABC for promoting it as a crime drama when it is actually the story of a real-life abortion-rights campaigner in Australia.
The word 'abortion' is not in the trailer at all … I think that's a little bit lame.
''The word 'abortion' is not in the trailer at all … I think that's a little bit lame,'' Sims says. ''I've got to say I'm a little bit disappointed that it's been marketed as a crime thriller.''
Publicity stills paint a different picture ... Dangerous Remedy.
Sims says abortion remains a contentious issue - something that polarises politicians and community members alike - so the telemovie should be used to prompt a wider national discussion.
''In the end I really wish we'd come out and sent copies to Tony Abbott's office for previewing,'' Sims says.
Set in Melbourne in 1969, the program explores the seedy trade of backyard abortions, tied in with police corruption.
Dr Wainer, a Scot who had lived in Australia for more than 20 years, was shocked and concerned by the situation and began fighting for the rights of underprivileged women. He spent years campaigning for abortion laws to be changed.
Controversial, yes, but a brave move by the ABC to put the story to the screen, Sims says.
''How fantastic for the ABC to put on a really contentious and interesting and topical show like this on a Sunday night,'' he says. ''We can be a little anti-intellectual in this country and we get scared of issues. Personally, because I played him, this is a guy that every school kid should know about.''
Sims seems further frustrated that some TV critics have made early comparisons between Dangerous Remedy and the Underbelly franchise. He says they should be recognising the importance of this story on wider Australian society.
''All those Underbelly-type shows where the criminals don't have any impact on our lives, outside of their orbit … yes, there was a criminal aspect to [this story] and yes, there are cops and things, but the issues he's fighting for affect every single Australian's life.
''It wasn't just the abortion laws that he changed; he was the first doctor ever to set up women's health clinics anywhere, not just for birth control but for all kinds of other things.''
Sims hopes families will watch the show and discuss the issues it raises.
''I can just imagine a family watching this with kids in high school. What a fantastic thing at the end of it to go, 'Well, was he right?'''
Sims, who stars in the telemovie alongside Susie Porter and Maeve Dermody, says it's a golden time for Australian drama on television.
''There's no doubt that the ABC five years ago was not making any drama,'' he says.
''And now they've got five or six on their slate which you'd have to say were world class, so it's pretty extraordinary.
''[But] even when there's lots of drama on TV, there are very few roles like Dr Bertram Wainer for an actor like me.
''A really strong, interesting, layered, complicated, at times unlikeable character like him is really rare to get as a lead character.''
Dangerous Remedy airs on Sunday at 8.30pm on ABC1.