A poker-faced liar
A poker-faced liar

To prepare for his new role in the racy US series House of Lies, Australian actor Josh Lawson asked a crew member what they could tell him about his famous co-star, Don Cheadle.

"All they said was 'Don't play poker with him'," the 31-year-old recalls from LA, where he's been living on and off for about four years.

Of course, that's exactly what the star of Any Questions for Ben found himself doing along with his House of Lies co-stars Kristen Bell and Ben Schwartz.

"We all went around to Don's place to play some poker," he continues. "We thought it was a getting-to-know-you exercise until he emptied our pockets. I think that was his diabolical plan all along. You can't beat him. He's so good. And he's such a good actor you never know what cards he has. He has the best poker face!"

Coming from Australian roles in Sea Patrol, The Librarians and the film Any Questions for Ben, the NIDA graduate landed House of Lies during pilot season, where actors madly audition for all the new TV shows.

Lawson had just a few days to get to know his co-stars - including that poker game - before he was filming the often saucy new series, which is based on Martin Kihn's tell-all book House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time.

Cheadle, Bell, Schwartz and Lawson play "The Pod", a tight-knit team of high-stakes management consultants who do and say anything for a deal. To them, the GFC is a joke. Their fast-paced world is soaked with Grey Goose and black caviar. Sex, lies and dirty deals are all in a day's work.

Lawson admits feeling thrown in the deep end with the pace of it all.

"I didn't even meet Kristen and Ben until the first week of production. But we had to talk as if we've known each other for ages, where in reality we'd only known each other for a few days. So that was strange. But that's where acting comes into it. You've got to be able to roll with it and be ready when you hit the dance floor."

To add to the stress, Lawson was a little daunted working with Cheadle, who was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for his role in Hotel Rwanda, won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Sammy Davis Jr in The Rat Pack and whose other credits include Crash, The Guard and the Oceans trilogy.

"Don is one of the best actors in Hollywood," Lawson says bluntly. "There's just no denying it. He is so well respected. He's a serious professional, an excellent actor and just so funny. You add all those things together and he can be a bit intimidating.

"But you just have to buckle down and say 'I have a job to do', and focus on the work. The way I look at it is that I want to do as good a job on House of Lies as I would on anything else. I wouldn't treat one as more important than the other. I would work equally as hard. So it kind of levels out."

While Australia is up to episode six of the 12-part first season, Lawson has just shot the first episode of season two and says the hard work and stress are paying off.

"Personally, I don't know anyone quite as venomous as these guys, who are behind political smear campaigns and companies that put thousands of people out of work. And if I did, I probably wouldn't be friends with them. I think we're making a real social statement about that. Look at how miserable they are. They are the best at what they do, but their personal lives are a wreck.

"And just lately, I've been approached by a lot of management consultants who say 'Hey I love the show - you are spot on'. So I think we've nailed it."

House of Lies airs Mondays at 9.30pm on One.

The West Australian

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