Damon Herriman: Going Cross Country With The Tourist

January 13, 2022
Fresh from memorably playing Charles Manson twice in the US, Aussie actor Damon Herriman is back in Australia for a scene-stealing supporting turn in the new series The Tourist.

In 2019, Australian actor Damon Herriman had a major streak of acclaimed turns as lunatics and madmen, including playing Charles Manson – twice – in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood and Mindhunter, as well as roles in the Australian productions Judy And Punch and The Nightingale. Since then, he’s been busier than ever, with eclectic roles in films and shows including the Amazon TV series The Underground Railroad, the local black comedy Mr Inbetween, and coming up, the New Zealand feature comedy, Nude Tuesday and Stan movie The Portable Door.

Herriman has also just arrived back in Australia from four months in Thailand shooting a Netflix series based on the true story of the Thai cave rescue.

The actor’s latest gig to receive release, the HBO MAX/BBC/Stan series The Tourist, sees him taking on the part of “no bullshit” cop Inspector Lachlan Rogers, who investigates the case of a mysterious foreigner who finds himself on the run in the outback, played by Irish Belfast actor Jamie Dornan. Despite his international success, Herriman has continued to work on home soil, and remains one of Australia’s busiest and most versatile actors.

We spoke with the actor about his latest series The Tourist, working at home, and his varied career.

Damon Herriman in The Tourist.

What drew you into The Tourist?

“To have such a great project come along, at a time when a lot of people weren’t working, and to get this opportunity, was incredible. Working during Covid at the time, there weren’t many things being made. In The Tourist, there were so many twists that I had no idea where it was going, and that was really appealing. Working at home was really enticing too.”

Did you enjoy shooting the series in your original hometown of Adelaide and The Flinders Ranges?

“It was a lot of fun. It’s not often that you get to do that type of project. I worked with a lovely bunch of people. It was a really fun cast and crew to work with. I got to spend a lot of time with my family and my old friends which was nice. Every time I get a chance to work there, it’s always great. It was beautiful shooting in The Flinders Ranges. Generally, we weren’t right up in the heavy sections of the Ranges. It was a long drive. It took five hours to get to where we were, but it was so charming. To be on a job like that in a tiny little country town with the cast and crew all together, it was a bit like being on a school camp or something.”

Damon Herriman in The Tourist.

You’ve achieved international success in the US. What makes you continue to take on roles in Australia?

“I like being in Australia, and I like spending time there. I like seeing my family and friends, but part of it’s just the lifestyle. The other thing is that there’s some really, really good stuff made in Australia. And some of the opportunities that I’ve had in America have led to really, really good opportunities back home in terms of bigger roles, better roles, and more choice of roles. So, I’d be crazy not to take up some of those opportunities when they come along. I also think from a career perspective, people that exclude Australia from their plans when it comes to working as an actor are doing themselves a disservice. So many great things come out of Australia that can actually help actors pop out. Animal Kingdom is a great example of that. Animal Kingdom did so much for Jacki Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, James Frecheville and Sullivan Stapleton. They all got massive work opportunities because of that one job. Now, if someone was thinking, ‘I don’t wanna go work in Australia and do that movie’, they could really be missing out. Jacki Weaver got an Oscar nomination because of that role. So there are lots of reasons to want to keep working in Australia. I also just enjoy it. There’s something nice about it. It feels easier and less stressed because everyone on set is Australian, and you share a common language.”

Are there more opportunities now in Australian productions as an actor because everything has to be more global?

“I think so, absolutely, yes. With The Tourist, for example, there’s money from the US and the UK, and it’s made in Australia, with an Australian crew and cast from all over the world. So, I think it’s less and less like, ‘Oh, this production is being made just for Australian eyes’ and more like everything has a global quality to it now. Of course, there are overseas productions being made in Australia on top of that. So, Covid aside, it’s a good time to be working in film and TV in Australia.”

Damon Herriman in The Tourist.

Has COVID had much of an impact on how things are going for you as an actor?

“Certainly, it did last year. It was really quiet for everybody in 2020. I was really fortunate that there was a film in New Zealand that I did called Nude Tuesday, which is a really funny comedy coming out this year. New Zealand had no cases, and everywhere else did. So, I was able to go over there and make it. But, in general, for me and everyone I know, there was almost no acting work at all in 2020.”

How was Jamie Dornan to work with?

“Jamie was just a delightful, charming, funny guy. He’s just really fun and cool. He’s hilarious. He’s a guy who’s very down to earth. He’s really great to be around and work with.”

Damon Herriman in The Tourist.

Coming off some wild and crazy roles in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, Judy And Punch and The Nightingale, was it nice playing someone less intense?

“Definitely. Well, I made a conscious decision about three years ago to just put those crazy characters aside for a second. They’re fun to play, and twenty years ago, I couldn’t even get an audition for those roles, so I’m very grateful to get to play some of those crazy bad guys, but I did so many in a row that it started to get a bit ridiculous. Once I got to two Charles Mansons, I thought I’d give it a bit of a break.”

Did you enjoy the challenge of playing someone so different to some of those parts, and was that part of what interested you in the show?

‘Yeah, definitely.  In a way, it’s more challenging for me, because I don’t normally play those roles. Here, I play someone who’s completely unmasked in a way. I find that almost more intimidating than something that looks like it’s a more challenging role because there’s some crazy characterisation involved. This was more daunting for me, because I don’t play those characters very much. It was incredibly exciting to do that. I was playing a lot of bad guys, and people started saying, ‘Oh, you’re becoming the go-to bad guy.’ I don’t really want to be the go-to anything if I can avoid it. That’s hard because a lot of those bad guy roles are really good roles, and actors like playing those roles.”

Damon Herriman in The Tourist.

How do you reflect on the great things that you’ve achieved in the US with roles in films like Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood and the success that you’ve had in your career so far?

“I just feel incredibly fortunate. I know from doing this for a while now how much of it is luck and timing, and I’m not saying that anyone can do it with the right luck and timing. With a lot of the Australian actors who I might go see in a play in Sydney or Melbourne, all they need is the luck and timing, and they may or may not get that. I feel very appreciative of the fact that I did get a lot of luck and a lot of timing go my way. And there are so many things that could’ve gone another way, and that could have not gone the way that they did.”

The Tourist is streaming on Stan now.

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