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Garry McDonald plays Phillip Noonan in Offspring.

Art imitates life for Garry McDonald in Offspring

TALK about art imitating life: Offspring's Phillip Noonan is a respected GP prone to over-thinking and anxiety attacks; Garry McDonald, who plays Noonan, is a respected actor who struggled with an anxiety disorder for two decades and developed major depression.

McDonald's first panic attack came in his 20s. By the late 1990s, despite the success of The Norman Gunston Show and Mother and Son, the black dog was omnipresent.

The September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the death of Mother and Son star Ruth Cracknell in 2002 added to his emotional turmoil.

"I was having anxiety attacks all the time, I couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't concentrate and I'd go to work in a fog," McDonald has said.

"The anxiety would paralyse me. The next thing is that you start to get suicidal."

McDonald took antidepressants for 18 months and had 10 years of therapy to overcome his inner turmoil.

Now he is back on track.

McDonald's recent credits include Polonius in Melbourne Theatre Company's Hamlet and the title role in the David Williamson play Don Parties On.

Offspring's Noonan is in his early 60s, single and, he thinks, childless.

His world explodes when Nina Proudman (Asher Keddie) drops the bombshell he is her biological father.

"I based Phillip on my own insecurities," McDonald says. "They (anxieties) are there a bit, but nothing like they used to be.

"I remember saying when I was having counselling - I said to him (the psychologist), 'You just manage this, don't you? You learn to live with it and it can't be cured'.

"He said, 'You can be cured'. It takes a little longer than you anticipate. You definitely change your thinking."

McDonald cherishes his time starring alongside Cracknell on Mother and Son.

Acting opposite Keddie, two-time Silver Logie winner for Most Popular Actress, has been as satisfying.

"She likes to bounce off the moment," McDonald says.

"I don't know how she does it. She has so much dialogue.

"It (father and daughter) is like the reverse of Mother and Son."

McDonald is making guest appearances in this year's Offspring, but if he gets his way, Noonan will be a bigger part of any fourth series.

"I'd like to come back (to Offspring)," McDonald says. "They're a great mob to work with - good directors, good scripts, lovely people and the catering is excellent."

Offspring, Channel 10, tonight, 8.30pm

If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide contact Lifeline 13 11 14, beyondblue 1300 22 46 36, or Salvo Care Line 1300 36 36 22.

By Colin Vickery
May 16, 2012
News Limited newspapers