March 28, 2014
Actor and writer Darren Gilshenan gets candid about his Moodys character, the golden age of comedy in Australia and the driving force behind his life on the stage and the screen.
Through the eyes of a young Darren Gilshenan, the world of adulthood was not to be confined by a nine to five existence.
At least, not for him.
Delving into his past, he recalls the exact moment the idea of acting became less of a choice and more of a nagging priority.
“I’m almost a little embarrassed to say when it started because when you’re young, you stumble across opportunities that suddenly whet your appetite and you have a theatrical experience that…”
Interrupting himself, he turns the conversation to the specific details – titles, dates and the moment that life on the stage and on the screen began.
It was as a Boy Scout growing up in Brisbane that his role as Cub Scout and Adventurer would prove pivotal to what Darren did next.
“They had this thing called the Gang Show, which goes all over the world…you rehearse it for 3 months on weekends and then you get up and perform.”
“When it finished I was heartbroken because I thought ‘all that joy, adrenaline has just gone away after two weeks’. It was like a drug every night.”
“I also fell in love with the organ player’s daughter as well and I knew I had to come back the next year and get in that gang show so I could see the organ player’s daughter again!”
His thirst for performing intensified, with tap dancing, ballet and other artistic elements included in a routine that he kept secret from school life.
“I just knew, I knew that’s all I wanted to do. The hardest thing was trying to convince my father that my schooling TER mark didn’t matter because I wanted to be an actor.”
As resolute as the aspiring actor was, he also shares the story of the plan B that never had to happen.
“…to take over my dad’s business, importing china and crystal from around the world. I used to work as a store man and packer there on weekends and my Christmas holidays.
“That was a very reasonable request and it was there for the taking and I knew I could do that if I wanted to.
“I just didn’t want to fall into that…I watched my father work his guts out all his life, run this business and come home exhausted every night and I kind of didn’t want that life.”
The kind of life that Darren Gilshenan has carved out is reflected in his impressive body of creative work, spanning theatre, television and film.
Stage credit highlights include seventeen productions for the Bell Shakespeare Company and seven with the Sydney Theatre Company. In 2004, his role as ‘Truffaldino’ in ‘The Servant of Two Masters’ gained him the Helpmann Award for Best Actor.
On screen in both film and television, Darren has brought various fictional characters to life – most recently, playing Uncle Terry in the ABC’s ‘The Moodys’.
“Terry’s been a gift…as we’ve gone through the series we’ve developed what we call ‘Terry-isms’, mixing metaphors, malapropism and just basically cocking language up.”
“He also has the ability to be quite florid in his language, almost a bit Shakespearean. When he tries to get something off people he’ll tend to exfoliate from the mouth, shall we say!”
Though, while it might not be doing a whole lot to help Uncle Terry’s cause in the love department, Darren hints things are looking up.
“He’s just been barking up the wrong trees!”
“When we hit the second series, he finally meets someone who is a formidable partner for him. Someone who can tolerate him really because, let’s face it, he’s a flawed individual.”
Stepping back from his Moodys character, Darren reflects on the state of Australian comedy more broadly – arguing in its favour.
“I think comedy in Australia is hitting a real golden age. It’s becoming quite sophisticated, shows like what Chris Lilley was doing and will do.
“I think the key to it is, we’re finally writing character driven stories instead of punch line driven stories…I think we have a humility in Australian comedy and we don’t stand up there wearing the white comedy hat saying ‘I’m to be laughed at’.”
“I think it comes more out of pain and truth and characters’ dilemma.”
Within his own story, Darren Gilshenan has a particular approach to the world of acting and beyond.
“As artists, anyone, the more we learn…I subscribe to the theory that it’s a learned craft. You have a certain amount of ability when you start and over the years you just learn more and more and you get to bring more into your work.”
Who is on Darren Gilshenan’s bucket list of actors he’d like to work with in the future?
“There’s a whole lot of American actors, would be wonderful to get over there and have an opportunity to work with certain people…whether that at my age – I don’t see that as a reality – but you never know…”
“I honestly feel as though I’ve worked with a lot of the terrific actors in this country. I would put people like William Zappa (Bill Zappa) top of that list. I’d love to do something with Hugo (Weaving), haven’t done anything with Hugo…and Roxy (Richard Roxburgh). I’d like to do a play with Hugo or Richard.”
As for our bucket list, we know we’d be happy with Uncle Terry.
Hear the full interview with Darren Gilshenan by selecting the audio to the right.