Colin Friels career began with work mostly in theatre and television. In 1980 Friels was a presenter on the long-running children’s series Play School.
Primarily known for his role in Water Rats, Dark City, Darkman and Tomorrow When The War Began, in 1986, he also played the title role in Malcolm, about a shy mechanical genius, for which he was awarded the 1986 AFI Award for Best Actor.
Friels later won another AFI Award in 1995 for his starring role in the 1994 Halifax f.p. telemovie Hard Corps. Friels has played a wide range of other roles. He was a megalomaniac corporate executive in the 1990 feature film Darkman.
From 1996 to 1999, he played Frank Holloway on Water Rats, a role which won him the Logie Award for Most Outstanding Actor at the 1997 awards.