Ten Questions With…Damon Herriman
1. When you were 6 years old what did you want to be when you grew up?
A policeman! A few years after that, and until I was in my mid-teens, I wanted to be a vet. I never wanted to be an actor. When I was acting as a kid (mostly between ages 10 and 12), I viewed it as a kind of hobby. And when I fell back into it at 18, it was really only because I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
2. What’s inspiring you at the moment?
Ridiculously talented friends who are doing well. Kate Mulvany is a recent example, with her brilliant performance on stage in Richard III. To see good mates who are good people have such deserved success makes me feel incredibly inspired. And really, really proud.
3. Favourite play and/or film?
Favourite play is a tough one – maybe be August Osage County. Favourite film is probably Goodfellas. But The Elephant Man is also up there.
4. Describe your acting style.
In terms of how I go about it, I guess it’s mostly an instinctual thing. Taking everything you have at your disposal – the script, the character breakdown, the director’s thoughts, the traits in the character that you can read about or watch, your own experiences and behaviour – taking all of that and kind of putting in a mixing bowl.
Then I just hope what comes out is something that feels real without feeling bland. Sometimes being as truthful as possible can lead to a performance being boring. And sometimes trying to be ‘interesting’ can lead a cartoon character that the audience doesn’t believe. Getting that balance isn’t always easy. I know I definitely haven’t always succeeded.
5. Has there been a time when you’ve had a shocking day and had to perform that night? If so, how did you get through it?
Just recently I was doing a play at night. It was a three-hander with a ton of dialogue. And I had a shocking spate of insomnia. There was no real reason for it. I wasn’t particularly stressed or anything. But I could not get to sleep (or stay asleep) to save myself. This went on for weeks. Nothing seemed to work.
How did I get through it? Just that whole ‘Dr Theatre’ thing, I guess. Once the curtain went up you just let the adrenaline kick in and ride you through it. But before and after each show felt like hell.
6. When filming, what do you do between takes?
95% of the time I just hang out. Maybe read, or chat with other actors. I don’t tend to ‘stay in it’ as some actors do.
The exception to that would be if there’s a really emotional scene. In that case, I’d be inclined to listen to music on my headphones and just keep to myself.
7. What are you watching at the moment?
I’ve been watching season two of Love. I really like the tone of that show. And the performances are great. I’m almost through Big Little Lies, which I’ve loved. I just started watching Seven Types of Ambiguity and am enjoying that too.
8. Which role has been your favourite and why?
I have to choose three. The character of Dewey Crowe in Justified is right up there because, not only was it incredibly fun playing this completely deluded Southern redneck, but it was the first really great job I got in America. So I suppose it opened the door to getting other work there.
Another favourite would be playing Reg in the Aussie film 100 Bloody Acres. Again, I really loved the character. A really sweet but misguided country bumpkin. And the whole experience of making that film was such a joy.
And finally I’d say the role of Buddy in the American series, Quarry. Because it was such a brilliantly written role. So layered. It was like five characters in one. I’d be lucky to ever have a role that good again.
9. Has there been an acting experience/a role that has taught you something significant about life?
The film I’m doing at the moment called The Nightingale (by The Babadook’s Jennifer Kent), has sure shown me the brutality that human beings can inflict on each other. It’s set in Tasmania in 1828. I won’t pretend for a second that acting this stuff comes close to the real thing, but man, there have been genuinely moving and upsetting scenes we’ve had to shoot.
10. Do you have a favourite quote from an actor/director/coach?
I don’t know who said it, but someone once described approaching a role like this…
It’s not “how would I behave in this scene”. It’s not “how would the character behave in this scene.” It’s “how would I behave if I were the character in this scene”. It’s a subtle difference but I think that’s spot on.