MDA: articles

Jason Donovan

Ask those who work with 35-year-old Jason Donovan, and the consensus is that he is relentless in his pursuit of a fully rounded, multi-dimensional performance.

His life follows art

HE IS beginning to embody the qualities of a fine character actor.

In his 20th year in the industry, his eyes, body language and the timbre of his voice are the tools Jason Donovan uses to bring depth and texture to his role in the ABC drama series MDA.

His performance as lawyer Richard Savage, who is forever tackling ethical conundrums in and out of the courtroom, is one of great veracity.

Ask those who work with the 35-year-old Donovan, and the consensus is that he is relentless in his pursuit of a fully rounded, multi-dimensional performance.

He has infused Savage with threads of unpleasantness but has worked equally hard to bring a sense of humanity to the lawyer.

"It's funny when I look at the course of my career because there has often been a parallel between the characters I've played and my personal life," Donovan says.

At 18, when he was playing Scott Robinson in Neighbours, he found the role of a mullet-wearing, skateboard-riding teen not too far removed from his own life.

Then there was the successful transition to London's West End, where Donovan says he could relate well to his role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (innocent thrown into an incredibly complicated, often callous world).

What about his role as Frank 'N' Furter in The Rocky Horror Show?

"Well, that character was pretty much out of control and that was me at the time.

"Acting works well for me when my life and the character I'm playing are running together and, like Richard Savage, I'm in a place at the moment where I'm very focused.

"I went through a phase where I was trying to live down this (squeaky-clean pop star) image and I tried to do that by snorting (drugs) up my nose. I was trying to be cool, but what I found at the end of all that is there is no such thing as cool.

"All that experience has given me a focus and a belief in having a talent. I hope this show has proved to a few people that you can come full circle, come back from a stigma that's been attached to you.

"Success to me when I was doing Neighbours was being mobbed by 500 kids at Westfield shopping centre.

"Now success is about being here and working with people I admire, getting through scripts and absorbing MDA dialogue that is close to impossible to learn sometimes. Success is walking off the set here thinking I've done a bloody good scene."

The portrait Donovan paints of life on and off the screen proves his ability to transform.

As a child he appeared in I Can Jump Puddles and Skyways. Neighbours, pop superstardom and international stage musical success followed.

But Donovan was to learn how violently the pendulum can swing between towering highs and soul-destroying lows.

In the mid-'90s he was partying wildly, using drugs and ended being perceived as a fallen idol – the golden boy gone bad.

"I'm happier in my shoes now because of experiences I've had," he says.

Asked how partner Angela Malloch and children Zac, 2, and Jemma, 3, have changed him, Donovan's eyes light up. Suddenly, he says, he's beginning to think about where he wants to raise his kids.

He has a home with a recording studio in the UK and says he will probably return there with his family if negotiations prove fruitful for a role in a London stage musical. He also hopes to be available for a third series of MDA.

"Where we live will become more critical once the children are of school age," Donovan says. "The UK is great, but it's bloody expensive. Australia has great schools, better-tasting vegetables, a better climate, more opportunities for kids, I think.

"But I've got to put bread on the table so I will be guided largely by where the work opportunities are coming from."

Donovan considers himself "a worker who finds it hard to relax". When it comes to unwinding, he says, he's partial to a few glasses of red wine. He also runs, swims, gardens or takes his children to the park to find composure.

 MDA, ABC, Wednesday, 9.30pm

By Darryn Devlyn
August 21, 2003
The Courier Mail