He’s a long way from TEN’s old Nunawading studios right now, even longer from his start on Channel 31 and further still from his hometown of Perth.
But right now Rove McManus is happily ensconced in House 183 of Warner Village, his production office on Warner Bros. LA lot.
For a boy who grew up watching The Don Lane Show, the Foxtel star is certainly rubbing shoulders with some of TV’s hot properties.
“We can walk five minutes from our office and we’re in this incredible bush setting where they film True Blood,” he says.
“Near where we are at the moment used to be an old Wild West town and then obviously the passion for the wild west genre disappeared so it’s been completely refurbished to look like a suburban street that you would see on something like Desperate Housewives. I think it’s been used for Pretty Little Liars, Shameless, and a lot of TV ads.
“A couple of days ago there was a shoot for Shameless so we had to park somewhere else and go out the back way because they were using the front of our office, which looks like a small suburban house. They needed to use it for exteriors.
“So it’s a fully functioning studio lot which is quite exciting.”
The adjacent sets also affords him the ability to shoot segments for the show.
“There’s the jungle lot which is used for True Blood which has Merlot’s Bar but it’s also used for four or five other shows and they just put a different dressing and sign on it and you seriously wouldn’t know the difference.
“There’s a New York street, a Chicago street which has a pretend overhead railway system going on, but there’s nothing up top. And there’s a middle America town square where Gilmore Girls did a lot of stuff. Hart of Dixie did a lot of stuff there.”
Continuing on his team is Jason Marion (Rove) as Head Writer but the long-form chat with three celebrity guests means he has little need for a big writing team.
“We write what little writing there needs to be. It’s so conversational and unscripted that we don’t have as much of a need for the 14 or so writers that we had from 2007 to 2009,” he explains.
“Then we have other producers in the building who come up with ideas for the show.
“So it’s actually one of the smallest staffs we’ve had to create it. But then to execute it you fall into the Hollywood union rules and it gets quite big. In Australia one person can do two or three jobs but here there’s too much demarcation. What would be a 4 person shoot in Australia can become a 13 person shoot here because there are all these different jobs that have to be covered by all these different people.”
McManus says the Australian work ethic is an attribute that serves ex-pats well in the US industry.
“We’re all happy to roll up our sleeves and we don’t sort of play the star card as much as they do here, in anybody’s job.
“We have a very professional way of doing things and have a tremendous skill set. There are so many Aussies working in the States anyway that it’s obviously a testament to what a great breeding ground Australia is for emerging talent,” he notes.
“They love our laid back, relaxed attitude that makes for a really chilled environment. There’s no people storming into trailers or things like that, so it makes a big difference for most of the Americans working on the show.”
Already this year he has interviewed some impressive names including Russell Brand, Adam Lambert, Kristen Schaal, WWE’s “The Miz”, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Rainn Wilson.
“I was surprised at the number of guests we had last year that I hadn’t met before, because I thought we’d have to pull in a lot of favours. Not all of them are A-List but they are still interesting, or from an interesting show. For instance we had Michael C. Hall from Dexter, which I love, and depending on your point of view he’s either A-List or B-List,” he explains.
“For our audience, especially being on Foxtel, you would invariably watch that show and like it. We get the big names like Hugh Jackman, Steve Carell, Eva Longoria, but it’s great to have people like Michael C. Hall or even comedians like Paul F. Tompkins, a great LA comedian who I love.
“Or Kristen Schaal from The Daily Show. The mainstream populous probably don’t know who she is but if you do know who she is she’s great and if you don’t then you’ll fall in love with her. So it’s been a nice mix. But the key is to get people who do know me and we do have a rapport and they will bring those that don’t and they will play along once the guest they already know leads the charge.”
This year McManus has also returned to comedy characters in pre-recorded segments.
“One is the ‘World’s Friendliest Roller Blader’ which involves me putting on a bad mullet wig and skating up and down Venice Beach,” he laughs.
“They’re not sketches as such but more a taped comedy that we didn’t have last year. We still have the field pieces where I head out and about but it adds a bit more fun of putting on a silly voice and outfit, which I haven’t had a chance to do in a while.”
New York-based Tina Fey is high on his wish list. But he has 13 episodes this season, 3 more than in 2011, so there’s hope yet.
I wonder how he keeps in touch with audience response, given the show is produced in LA but made, predominantly, for an Australian audience? The answer is instinct.
“We get pretty good feedback through the Foxtel people and there’s Facebook and Twitter and stuff like that. But I’ve always tried to produce a show that I would happily watch or if I wasn’t a part of that I would like to be part of. So long as I fulfill that and the people who have paid to have it broadcast are happy then I think we’re doing ok,” McManus admits.
“For the most part it’s about having a good time and if you produce a show that you enjoy doing I think it’s infectious anyway.
“If the host and the guests are looking like they’d rather be somewhere else the audience can feel it.”
And what of his other Australian properties such as The Project? Any thoughts on its position in the flux of TEN?
“I know what it’s like to be at TEN when things are not great but you’re holding your own and really that’s all they can hope to do right now,” he insists.
“For where TEN’s at they’re a stand-out as something that’s still maintaining its status and everybody does a great job on the show. I think it’s another great example of people who love being there and doing a great job and that’s why the show is still there despite the fact that the network itself has had better days.
“But I’ve had that in the years I was at TEN. There are ups and downs. It’s just the nature of the industry.”
Rove LA airs 7:30pm Sunday on FOX8.