New Zealand actor David de Lautour returns from Hollywood to take on Ted West in the ‘Outrageous Fortune’ prequel, Westside.
David de Lautour is not the least bit fazed by stripping off. "I think it's a great way to start a shoot. You just get into it," the 32-year-old says of disrobing and, not long after, going for it in a sex scene while a roomful of cast and crew members leer on. "Day two [of filming Westside], I was running around nude in front of the crew in a very small house with tight spaces. There was no room for modesty."
The actor is talking about playing a young Ted West in the prequel to Outrageous Fortune. The six-part series, written by Rachel Lang and James Griffin, charts the 1970s' lives of Ted (aka Grandpa in Outrageous) and Rita West in - you guessed it - West Auckland.
De Lautour, who lives in Los Angeles, spent three months here at the end of last year filming the show, which opens with Ted's release from a lag in prison for safe-cracking. His Ted is a lovable rogue in true Outrageous style, resplendent in 70s flares, leather jacket and some serious mutton-chop sideburns.
"He is a passionate, loyal, horny, vibrant guy who looks after his family," de Lautour explains. "He does what he has to do. He has a strong moral code; he has rules that he lives by."
Was taking on a role so beloved in the original series and played by such an established actor scary? "It was intimidating because [the late] Frank Whitten did such an incredible job of Ted. The show was iconic and Grandpa was iconic within that. I felt pressure to be true to what Frank did but, at the same time, I had to make it my own."
"Finding Ted was challenging, given the greatness of Frank Whitten," says Griffin of the casting process. "But David soon emerged from the pack because he nailed the Theodore West balls-out attitude to life and disrespect for all things authority."
"He still has Grandpa's love of wry put-downs, his cheerful distrust of cops, his rules and ethics, but he's not as cynical," says Lang of de Lautour's portrayal. "He's young, sexy and in his prime. I think Frank would have enjoyed seeing David rocking the leather jacket and ruling his roost."
Shooting Westside wasn't easy, says de Lautour. "They were long days and he was a complex character to create. Until we started rolling, my head was spinning with how to play him. But I'm really proud of it and the cast and crew made it one of the most enjoyable shoots I've done. Some of the episodes get really dark but it was still a fun set."
It helped that Antonia Prebble, the actress who played Loretta West in Outrageous from 2005 to 2010, was cast as Rita. "Toni made the sex scenes easy," says de Lautour, who has known Prebble for years. They flatted together for a while and, while de Lautour, who is heartthrob-handsome in a leading man way, is in Auckland doing press for Westside, Prebble is in Los Angeles, using his car to get to auditions.
De Lautour, who has been in the US for 14 years, grew up in West Auckland but not the deep, dark Westie west of Westside; rather the middle-class suburb of Titirangi.
"I think Outrageous Fortune helped me understand the world of the show more than growing up in Titirangi," he says with a smile. "I know those people and those areas because it's sort of stereotypical West Auckland. Everybody understands it; you get what it means."
He has two brothers and a sister, a dad who was an Air New Zealand pilot and a mum who worked as a nurse receptionist at a doctor's surgery when de Lautour was a kid.
"We were very much a sporting family," explains the actor, who played All Black Stephen Donald in TVNZ's The Kick. "But being an actor is all I've ever wanted to do. It's tough - there's so much rejection and you have to stretch out pay cheques but I never contemplate doing anything else."
At 18, de Lautour moved to New York to study acting at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. A $50,000 scholarship took care of his tuition and he worked as a residential assistant in a student hostel to get free housing.
"It was complete naivety moving from West Auckland to New York," de Lautour admits. "And, then I did the same thing moving to LA [two years later]. My mum sent over an article about Martin Henderson and I thought, great, I'll talk to his agent in LA. I emailed him and said, 'You're a New Zealander and you work with New Zealand actors'. He was like, 'Um, no'. But he passed me on to someone else and eventually I found someone who wanted to work with me."
These days, the West Hollywood resident has roles in What I Like About You, NCIS,
Being Eve, and Power Rangers Jungle Fury under his belt.
"I don't think I'll be in LA for the rest of my life. We have a great crew of Kiwis there. That makes it livable and a home away from home. But it's a tough place to live - spread out and isolating. You need good people and creative things to do to keep you fulfilled."
When he's not working, de Lautour plays golf and creates his own projects, through his company Tool Shed Productions.
He's almost finished a documentary, Bleed Black, about rugby, has just written and shot a web series with friends and is always working on sketch comedy. And he hopes that New Zealanders will love Westside as much as they did Outrageous and that another series will be commissioned.
"I'm really proud of it. There's always things you wish you could go back and do again but I'm excited for people to see it.
"I won't be here when it airs but that doesn't bother me. I'll call my mother instead and ask her what she thinks of it."