The Hollowmen: articles

Lachy Hulme

"A flexible pragmatist" ... Lachy Hulme as The Hollowmen's Murph.

Murphy's lore

Lachy Hulme describes his character in Working Dog's political satire The Hollowmen as "a flexible pragmatist". As Hulme sees him, David "Murph" Murphy is "the smartest man in the room until somebody has a better idea, and that's what makes him smart".

A senior political adviser, Murph is a player in the central policy unit, a strategic operation that exists in the murky political landscape between the Prime Minister, his ministers, the public service and the media. In the low-key but corrosive comedy, Murph works closely with principal private secretary Tony (played by Rob Sitch, who's also the series' director).

For 37-year-old Hulme, it's a "dream job". About 10 years ago, he made a list of the people he wanted to work with. Topping the local ladder was Kennedy Miller (the production house responsible for mini-series such as The Dismissal and Vietnam), filmmaker Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper) and Working Dog (Frontline), along with their one-time collaborators, Mick Molloy and Tony Martin.

Since then, Hulme has played Macduff in Wright's Macbeth and worked with Martin ("a genius") on his late, lamented radio show. For his role as a music promoter in Molloy's film BoyTown, Hulme gained 25 kilograms in three weeks, dyed his hair orange, had a root perm and shaved a bald patch on his scalp. He was unrecognisable; friends initially walked past him on the set.

He is nothing if not committed and knew he wanted to be an actor from an early age. "I did my first play when I was seven," he says. "It was written and directed by [RockWiz's] Brian Nankervis." As he got older, there were other attractions. "You start because you want to meet chicks and any actor who tells you otherwise is a liar."

Not a burning desire to explore the human condition? "That comes later," Hulme says with a smile. "Initially you do it because all the good-looking girls are in drama class."

Hulme is full of energy and opinions and prone to big pronouncements: about why Barack Obama will be a two-term president and how the performance in The King Of Comedy is unquestionably Robert De Niro's best; about why Blue Murder is "the greatest thing this country has produced on television, ever".

He can also riff intelligently on the differences between brands of vodka and declare which cafe makes the best coffee in Melbourne.

Hulme appears nothing like Murph. Passionate rather than pragmatic, he's physically commanding; not like a guy in a tie who quietly negotiates the beige corridors of power.

Jane Kennedy, who cast him in The Hollowmen, says: "Murph is not a saint and he's not the voice of the people. He's a sharp guy and a sharp operator. He's the one who's truly shaping policy but he's there to appease other people at times. His diplomatic skills are extraordinary. We wanted Murph to be slightly larger than life and that's what Lachy is when he walks into a room. He's got a presence.

"He's also incredibly professional; all of the actors are. We give them the script basically the day before we shoot. It's really fast, intense, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants stuff. The scripts are dense and wordy and we only have two days to shoot an episode. I knew I could rely on Lachy to know his lines, I knew he would give 100 per cent. To me, he's the only one who could have done it."

Hulme is relishing working with Working Dog. "What has surprised me the most is the incredible freedom and trust they give everyone. They want to get the best out of you and they protect you. I've had that before but not at this level. And they're such humble people; there's no ego with these guys."

Hulme says he feels like he's been "invited into a pretty cool club, not that they would ever describe themselves as cool. They'd probably describe themselves as the daggiest bunch ever."

Hulme might never say it but he's earned his place in their company.

By Debi Enker
September 22, 2008
The Age