Michael Dorman, the Kiwi-born star of Patriot, talks to Sarah Daniell about playing a spy and how Russell Crowe helped him along the way.
John, the spy, is a stoner and a folk singer, he's tortured but with a wicked sense of humour. Did you have to do something particular in terms of research?
I did a whole bunch of research but I felt like I still didn't have him. At the first read-through I felt like a phoney. I was absolutely petrified at the thought of reading to these people whom I held on a pedestal and in that moment of absolute fear I kind of found him. It became the reality.
You used your own fear as a device rather than an obstacle?
It ties in with the way the character would operate. There's no real formula for what we do. I guess that's what I love about that whole industry. It was interesting playing a character where most of the work was internalised. Sitting there not saying anything, but there is still stuff going on.
It's kind of like Charlie Chaplin in the 30s you can see a guy who is working his arse off to create storytelling, saying so much and saying nothing. I tried to adopt the same approach with this. Do a lot of work without saying or doing that much. I'm still trying to figure out how to drive that vehicle.
Why do you reckon you got the role? Do they ever tell you, exactly?
Well, in my 15 years of doing it - it's like being in a club, but you're single and someone walks in and you don't know why you are drawn to them. Whether it's alcohol or the way they're dressed or how you're feeling, it's a similar thing to the audition process - or any job - you just feel you need to be working with these people. But who knows?
As soon as you're asking those questions you get away from what you actually should be doing - honing your own craft. If a door opens you need to be ready to play.
Has this show opened doors for you?
I'm still living in Australia. I'm not in the US to witness the groundswell - in all honesty it feels like I've done a job, but not a lot's happening.
Before this, I was doing everything I could do work here, and wasn't thinking about going over to the States at all. I was working on a film with Russell Crowe and he pulled me aside and said, "Mike you gotta go and look at this pool," and I was reluctant to go till he bought me a ticket. I'm so glad that he did.
Russell Crowe bought you a plane ticket to the US?
He's a good mate. He's a good mentor.
You moved to Australia when you were 10 - what culture do you most identify with?
I have very strong ties back home. My mother's side is Maori - Ngati Porou, on the East Coast - and my father's a Pakeha. I didn't explore my tribal ties as much as I'd like to because we left so early. But one day ... I'd love to come back and dive a bit deeper into where I am from. I've hung out there and met all my uncles and cousins.
You celebrated your sixth wedding anniversary not so long ago? It's iron or candy - did you get your wife something symbolic of that milestone?
We had fun. We always have fun. If you can keep it fun that's important. I always have something up my sleeve for those moments. Enjoy each other and keep it light. You have to define candy, Sarah.
Where are you right now, what can you see?
I could be anywhere, eh. I'm a hundred feet in the air, on one of the largest trees. Nah, I'm just at home. We're in Melbourne, in the city. I really love it. I really love Chicago, too. We filmed there. If you love Melbourne you will be seduced by all the different bars in Chicago - it's the level of music. You go into some dingy little joint and the musos who are playing are the best you have ever heard, you know. .
Are you bogged down in the same crap as everyone else is or your life just 100 per cent grand now?
As an actor, you have these black spots where on paper you are "unavailable". I don't think I'm quite at that level where people are hunting me. I'm still trying to seek employment. There are moments of not doing a whole lot and then there are moments where I'm having my cake and eating it too.
There is an enormous self belief required to survive in your industry - does it come naturally?
I still have to try to do whatever I can in the moment, like anyone. I think action is our friend. If we sit around and question things, nothing gets done.
You seem to have a pretty relaxed outlook
There are no guarantees. All we can do is try the best we can. Enjoy the ride.
Patriot is available now on Amazon Prime Video. Customers who are not already Amazon Prime Video members can sign up for a free 7-day trial at PrimeVideo.com.