The Secret Life of Us: profiles

Dan Spielman

Just as well Dan Spielman hadn't made any real plans about what to pursue when he finished school in 1996. As it happens, he's been acting ever since.

Dan arrived for his first professional audition — for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV series Raw FM — in his school uniform. One of The Secret Life of Us writers, Jacquelin Perske, had been working on Raw FM and her sister-in-law recommended Dan after seeing him in a school play. Dan spent the next six months in the major role of Mark — "straight out of obscurity", he says.

Melbourne born and bred, Dan then became one of the founding actors with The Keene Taylor Project — performing in 12 of the 16 productions mounted before the company's final season in 2002.

"They were great experiences; the company really made a difference in Melbourne theatre," Dan says. All written by Daniel Keene and directed by Ariette Taylor, the plays resulted in Dan being nominated for a Green Room Award for Best Actor on the Melbourne Fringe in 1998. As well as performing in Melbourne, the company toured to the Sydney Festival in 2000.

It is his connections with the company — particularly with playwright Daniel Keene, whose work is widely known in France — that have led to Dan's two-year fascination with the 18th century French poet and adventurer, Arthur Rimbaud.

Dan — who is not a French speaker — has been translating Rimbaud's work. "I do it word by word, using the dictionary. It's labour intensive, but if you don't know anything, you don't miss anything," Dan says.

Shortly before being cast in The Secret Life of Us, Dan was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to travel to France and continue working on his Rimbaud translations. "It offers great opportunities," Dan says of the Churchill Fellowship organisation, "with fellowships open to people from all walks of life." Dan will take up his trip to France when he has finished filming on the series.

Dan says he is relishing the chance to play a doctor for the first time in The Secret Life Of Us, despite a range of television guest roles in series including Wildside, Blue Heelers and Farscape. "Filming as we do in a real hospital, it really helps with pretending," Dan says. With personal experience of hospital staff that has left him "in awe", Dan says the medical profession is an area that fascinates him.

As well as guest spots in TV series such as Wildside, Blue Heelers and Farscape, Dan has been the lead in Tropfest short films The Date and The Lighter, being named Best Actor in 1999 for his role in The Date. Dan will make his feature film debut in One Perfect Day in 2003.