Minor Spoilers: It’s been some time since we’ve seen him on the small screen but contrary to popular opinion, much-loved actor Garry McDonald has not stopped performing.
Last seen in the telemovie A Model Daughter: The Killing of Caroline Byrne, McDonald is best remembered for his iconic 1970s character Norman Gunston and the hilarious ABC sitcom Mother and Son.
From tonight he begins a guest role in TEN’s Offspring and will be seen later this year in ABC’s Rake.
“People think I’ve retired but I’ve been doing so much theatre. I started to get offered classic roles like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Uncle Vanya and Polonius in Hamlet. I was getting all these roles that I would be crazy to turn down,” he says.
“So I leapt at it.
“But also because I felt Mother and Son was so excellent. The writing was so funny and it was very hard to do anything after it. But I did Fallen Angels which was up and down.
“So to be in Offspring and Rake, this is what I call Television.”
McDonald enters the series after Asher Keddie’s character, Nina Proudman, learns she is not the natural daughter of Darcy (John Waters). Despite not wanting to work too far from his Sydney base, he jumped at the chance to join Offspring even though it shoots in Melbourne.
“Because it’s funny as well as dramatic. It’s quirky, although my character’s not so quirky and of course it’s a great role. I’m working with Asher and the scripts are fantastic,” he says.
“I’ve had some funny scenes with Linda Cropper where she tells me I’m a dud bash. And I get to work with John (Waters) too. My character is terribly apologetic, leaping in and doing things and then not realising how it affects him and suddenly I’m mortified that I’ve hurt his feelings. So he’s not an aggressive character, he’s a little bit ineffectual.”
McDonald gets to feature in one of the show’s fantasy scenes, but it was the demands of another scene that challenged him the most.
“In one scene they wanted me to dance, which was a bit too much like you-know-who (Norman Gunston). He’s such a straight guy but they wanted me to go to a party. I said ‘The only reason he would do it is if he was drunk but he doesn’t drink.’
“It was my final week on the shoot and I had to do choreography. Bloody hell!
“It was a dance like you’d see on Countdown or something.
“But there are some very funny scenes.”
With his vast experience in performance disciplines, McDonald is regularly offered work in television, theatre and film. So which does he prefer?
“I do like the live audience, which is what I loved about Mother and Son, and I love that in theatre. I’ve gotten so used to it that I think I sometimes need it, so I work better in film or television with a director that is almost like an audience,” he says.
“(Director) Emma Freeman brings out the best in you because she behaves like an audience member. She giggles and gives you a response, and then encourages you to go too far!
“Woody Allen once said ‘Whatever I’m not working in, that’s what I want to be working in.’ I used to think like that, but whatever I’m working in I enjoy.”
Offspring airs 8:30pm Wednesdays on TEN.