Offspring: articles

Q&A with ... Garry McDonald

GARRY McDONALD has appeared in some of Australia's most-loved shows. Now he's joined the cast of Offspring, playing a doctor who Nina suspects might be her father.

Can you describe your character on Offspring?

He's a nice family doctor but he's a bit of a loser on the romance scene. He's never married and he's never had a long-term relationship. He's a little bit anxious, too.

Did you watch the show before you joined?

I watched the first series but I was in Melbourne in a serviced apartment without a recorder, so I didn't get to see the second series. So I had to catch up on the second series before I signed up. I think [producer] John Edwards misunderstood. There was no way I was wanting to look at the show to make up my mind. I just wanted a look to think about how the character fits in.

Did you like the show?

Yeah, I did. I enjoyed it.

Do you enjoy playing characters who are anxious?

Why not? It's something I know well.

Is it strange joining the cast of a well-established show?

It is a bit. It's a bit weird. I've worked on my own so long, I don't work like other actors and that's kind of annoying. They say, 'Can we try this, can we try that?' and I'm a bit reluctant to do that. It's interesting watching all these guys who've been together for a while because they'll just sort of try things and talk stuff through a lot more than I do. I always feel like I should come in prepared, knowing what I'm doing, whereas I see a lot of actors will just try stuff and go, 'Well, that doesn't work, let's try this.' Because so early on in my television career it was sketch comedy and then Norman Gunston. So I was on my own for a long time - I didn't really work in an ensemble like that.

The previous series you appeared in was the ABC drama Love Is a Four Letter Word, 11 years ago.

Maybe it was. There was a review I got in the Herald - someone called Tony. Maybe that's why I haven't worked since. I was trying to play it like Bob Ellis. I was pretty extreme but I just figured that was what he was like. And you know, you've got to be brave, otherwise it's all sort of bland. I enjoyed doing that show.

So what drew you back to series television?

Someone gave me a job. At last. No, I'd been doing so much theatre, which I wanted to do, 'cause I was getting a lot of good major roles and I love working in front of a live audience. But I was just away from home so much. Last year I was away for seven months of the year; my poor bloody wife - I don't know whether I've got back in her good books yet. It's just too hard. And my whole life was sitting in a serviced apartment crocheting beanies and scarves and shawls and cooking and doing the show that night. So I said to my agent, 'I just want to do film and television for a while,' and I didn't expect anything to happen and then this came up immediately. I snapped it up, thinking that it was shot in Sydney. I'd seen the first series and I can't work out why I thought it was shot in Sydney. But I was only back for a day or two a week so it was fine. It was terrific.

It must be gratifying that so many of the shows you've done are landmarks in Australian television: Mother and Son, The Norman Gunston Show, Aunty Jack?

It is good, yeah. But I don't sort of live in the past. I loved those days on Mother and Son but I don't really wish to go back to it. But that was an extraordinary period because the scripts were so good. It was really dense comedy writing. And it got better, that's what was interesting. That last series [Geoffrey Atherden] did, the scripts were so tight. It was great fun.

What's next for you?

They're talking about a fourth series of Offspring; hopefully that'll happen. There was something else that was lined up but that fell through, unfortunately - Cliff Young. That was going to be great but someone else got in with the same idea for television [coming ABC telemovie Cliffy]. It was a great script, six years in the making and they had to drop it. I was playing Cliff Young. I'm his age. I felt sorry for the guy who wrote the script. It was so funny and so touching at the same time. Offspring's like that. There are scenes in Offspring that are so touching. There's some stuff that happens between Nina's brother and his new partner that is so touching it is fantastic, and yet still funny.

By Greg Hassall
April 30, 2012