Given his experience playing crime figures over the years, Sal admits many of the full-on stories explored in the podcast didn’t actually surprise him.
However, there was one aspect he found hard to get his head around – how these underworld figures balanced their staunch work personas with their personal lives.
“That’s their work and I can guarantee you that when they clock off, they’re two different people,” he says.
“That's what I find really fascinating and defined for me as a shock, because how do you go from being staunch and being quite heavy handed to being such a loving, caring husband, father, boyfriend? I find that interesting.”
He adds: “That scares me. That makes me go, ‘Hang on a second, I don't get that.’ I don't understand it. How do people switch like that?”
Salvatore explains that this situation basically boils down to putting a safeguard up out of necessity.
“It all comes back down to we all are human beings and we all have a soft spot. We all have some type of loving within ourselves, and we just won’t see that from those guys in public,” he says.
“It's actually something we talked about in the podcast, weakness. You just can’t show weakness. Because weakness will be your demise, it will be the end of you.”
This seemingly contradictory emotional state was something that also helped Sal reach new depths in his acting career while embodying a character on Underbelly: Golden Mile that was loosely based on John Ibrahim’s brother, Sam.
Turning to his drama coach Nico Lathouris for advice of how to seem authentically fearsome, Sal reveals he was encouraged to turn inward.
“He said, ‘Sal, the most important thing that you need to do when you're playing a character like this is always find their vulnerability,’" the actor says.
“Because finding vulnerability of your character when your body and persona shows so much staunch and so much power, you become even more menacing when you find someone's personal vulnerability. And why is that? He said, 'Well, because when you’re finding someone's vulnerability and you found it, what do they do? They protect it. And they don't want you to see it. It's all about protection.'”
And it’s advice that the next wave of actors taking on similar roles would do well to heed, especially as Channel Nine resurrects the franchise with Underbelly: Vanished in 2022.
The new series will follow a dramatised version of the mysterious disappearance of alleged conwoman Melissa Caddick.
The much welcome return of Underbelly is a move applauded by Salvatore.
“I think that the franchise is so fantastically structured and formulated and the Australian public want to see that sort of stuff on television, whether or not it’s on mainstream TV or whether it’s on pay TV or Netflix or whatever it is. I think we really want to see that stuff,” he enthuses.
“The perfect example was the amount of people who did end up watching Australian Gangster. People were glued to it because it was something that was a little bit against those soft, easy-on-the-eye shows that we watch a lot of.”
The opportunities to keep telling Australian stories are limitless, Salvatore adds.
“I think at the end of the day a franchise like that is like a goldmine. It's endless the amount of stories that can be told,” he says.
Secrets of the Underworld is now streaming on all podcast streaming platforms or visit the official website.