March 23, 2022

Lets talk Comedy with Darren Gilshenan and Two Unemployed Actors – Episode 87

- How to approach comedy v drama
- What mistakes are up & coming Actors making when attempting comedy
- Comedy and Shakespeare
- We explore the world of Improv
- Tips for success

-       How to approach comedy v drama

-       What mistakes are up & coming Actors making when attempting comedy

-       Comedy and Shakespeare

-       We explore the world of Improv
-      Tips for success 


Max Belmonte 00:12
Welcome back to Two Unemployed Actors. I'm Max.

Sam Folden 00:16
I'm Sam.

Max Belmonte 00:18
Today we are in the company of an award winning Actor, NIDA alumni, teacher of improv,
Shakespeare and comedy. Darren Gilshenan, Darren welcome to the show!

Darren Gilshenan 00:29
Thanks, guys. Nice to be here.

Max Belmonte 00:31
Full disclosure, I actually participated in a Darrin Gilshenan comedy masterclass and survived.
With only moderate amounts of therapy required. It's pretty good. One of the lucky ones, one of
the lucky ones. And when when you're creating a character, Darren, comedic or otherwise, how
is it that you... or do you have a sort of a process for getting into the headspace of the

Darren Gilshenan 01:01
Oh, yeah, I have a few processes. Actually, it depends on how far the character is away from
me, I guess. You know, I find that all characters really come very much from story one from
text, you know, so it's a really healthy sense of linear work, and getting any bit of information
you can from the text. But then when you're building the character, I've got a couple of
processes that I kind of like to use. I used to use them a lot when I did a lot of theater. One of
them is a Rowena Bayless voice exercise 'the nine different vocal resonators'. And the other
one is using LeBron Rudolph LeBron. The eight physical efforts, I find that those particular kind
of physical and vocal ideas, if you're doing a roll, you know, that's on for, I don't know, 150
performances, I, you know, I did a lot of a lot of touring. So sometimes you get halfway through
the run and kind of thing Who the hell is this guy again, you know, so if you've got all these
processes written down really specific launching points and, and cornerstones that you can kind
of tie your character to, it's easy to kind of hang on to the integrity, the character.

Max Belmonte 02:13
So what might be working really well, in the first few performances, you might discard and be
doing something completely different to sort of get into that headspace towards the end of the

Darren Gilshenan 02:24
Yeah, I just think the more familiar you get with stuff, you kind of learn, you kind of forget to
learn again, you know, you know, you kind of get everything evolves, everything's always
changing. And I think in performance, you've, your head always has to be on the audience,
they're, they're seeing it for the first time they're hearing it for the first time. So you might be
enjoying going on 10 generalizing with this particular choice here and quite enjoying where I'm
going. But it might just be, you know, a few degrees away from your initial instincts of where
the choice should be. So So I think always kind of pulling yourself back I think is great to have
directors in theater come in, say four weeks into a run, look at the show, pull everyone back
again, you know, tighten the screws, remind everyone to listen and watch and, you know, play
character from character's point of view, particularly in comedy because comedy, we get
seduced by laughter. And we can become a bit of a slot for a laugh. So if that starts to become
the primary focus, and you know, when people start actors come offstage going God, they're
not as good as they weren't last night, or they hate me tonight, or those kinds of bullshit actor
ego comments, then we really have our focus in the wrong place. So you're having
cornerstones or, or specific things, particularly if you've got two characters together. And it's
very important, that one's the straight character. And once the clown, if the actor playing the
straight character starts to get seduced by the fact that they can find some laughs as well. And
they don't trust the dynamic between the two characters, then we suddenly have two clowns in
a room, which means we have no consequence, which means we may as well be in an insane
asylum because the world doesn't have any rules.

Sam Folden 04:08
Yeah. So do you approach comedy differently than you do drama? And if so, like, how, in what
ways? Do you do that?

Darren Gilshenan 04:17
Yeah, comedy, for me is a much more complex form. It's often seen as the, you know, the poor
cousin to drama, when it comes to the, you know, the great acting, but there's so many styles
of comedy, you know, from Kommedia and fast melodrama, his character comedy satire, you
know, there's vaudeville, there is panto. There's, really so many different, you know, spokes to
the comedy wheel. And comedy is very strategic, and it's very, you know, it's moment by
moment, and it's with an audience. So it requires you to, to be really, really present with it and
with that crabbed you know if that if that life didn't look the way it did last night, just being able
to strategize, recalibrate and kind of make sure you don't kind of hit the panic button and get
desperate for laughs and stop pushing. So I think that constructing it requires a lot more
communal, collaborative thinking, you know, as a group, you really need to come together and
have a lot of kind of bolshy conversation conversations about where the joke is, what's working,
what's not, you know, how we serve each other. Whereas I think drama, you can kind of go in it
a little bit, a little bit by yourself, particularly in television, I think you can kind of work your
stuff out in front of your mirror and go in there and play your beats. Whereas comedy, you
really need to negotiate you and you need to sit down and work it out together. And that's hard

Max Belmonte 05:53
do you find, certainly comedy to drama has a different sort of rhythm to it. And different types
of comedy have different rhythms. And, and they'll..

Darren Gilshenan 06:04
Yeah, yeah, I mean, like, if you doing fast, you know, fast is, is life amplified, or sorry, life
accelerated. Whereas Melodrama is life amplified. So Melodrama is kind of extending into the,
the emotional content within the piece and exaggerating that aspect. Whereas if you're doing
fosse or something that you know, is classified as a facets, it's really about kind of rehearsing it
in detail, and then, and then tightening it and running it quickly. Commedia is a highly physical
art form where it has to get into your toes and your feet, you know, character based comedy or
cringe comedy, you know, that Ricky Jarvis kind of gave us through the office, his all
internalized, and kind of the jokes, really in the pauses, and the the horrid thoughts that you're
having. It's all it's all. So each each art form kind of presents different, different styles of
performance, I guess. And then what you want to do is make sure that your team or your
troupe is all on the same page when it comes to that style. And then there'll be a chance ofhaving a sense of cohesiveness in in a production.

Max Belmonte 07:16
Is there one that you sort of gravitate to more naturally than others, or one that you find you
have to work a lot harder at?

Darren Gilshenan 07:24
I've always liked very physical art forms. You know, I used to run into doors for joke all the time,
and you know, did a lot of acrobatics. And so I've always loved camodia, because camodia has
such great physical attack. And I love fast. But you know, I really love character comedy, I
really love bent, twisted, vulnerable, flawed comic characters as well, in a...

Max Belmonte 07:53
so relatable.

Darren Gilshenan 07:54
Yeah, well, that, you know, they say comedy is kind of who we are. And tragedy or drama is
who would like to be, you know, and who we are, is broken and flawed and uncertain and
awkward and all these things and, and the comedies really about putting a spotlight on all this
stuff inside that doesn't work. So if you kind of find that healthy sense of what's the problems,
where are the dilemmas on the inside, in the desperate, external attempt to try to cover that
shit up, then then you kind of you've got a funny character.

Sam Folden 08:27
Yeah, I studied some comedy at school as well. And you teach comedies, what's the, the, I
guess the main mistake you see up and coming actors make when they're trying to take on
comedy and perform comedy.

Darren Gilshenan 08:43
I would say the number one pitfall would be trying to be funny. I think if someone walks into the
space, and they've got the the white hat of comedy on with a cheeky smile on the face,
straightaway, as an audience, I tend to sit back and think you're a bit up yourself. Whereas I
think the the real, the real place to shoot from is to bring that character into the space. And you
you want to get the audience to empathize with your dilemma as soon as possible. So your
dilemma is your problems, you know? So it comes from a dramatic place a desperate place of
desperation or great need or or great loss or, you know, innately dramatic ideas. And you bring
the audience into into alignment with empathizing with your characters problems. And then the
playwright or the screenwriter puts you in a situation where, you know, suddenly you're up
against these problems, and we can then start to laugh. I think we laugh I think comedies
behavior or we kind of laugh at what a character will do to get out of a desperate situation,
rather than kind of thinking I'm funny. So you kind of need a duplicity. Brain when you perform
one is very much performing from character's point of view, and playing there. character but
the the other the other side is the actor's brain is where you're in a comedy. So therefore your
behaviors that you push past the limits of what would be normal or socially acceptable. The
actors brain is going Yeah, yeah, go for this push that push that really make that one really
grant just just if the audience starts to starts to swallow and you hear him laughing and
respond, then then you know that way goes the game, you know, kind of go for it. Just just pull
up short before you start milking the gags. Yeah.

Max Belmonte 10:34
I saw you on stage with the Sydney Theatre Company, in Machu Picchu with Lisa McLune. A
great little drama. And I did, I did really enjoy the fact that it was really small sort of intimate
space. And, like, I was down, I got lucky with my tickets, I was down in the front row. And it
really felt like you guys were just talking to me and just speaking to me, in that piece is such a
great dramatic piece, I always remember that. Do you prefer the stage to the screen, you
certainly got a breadth of experience across both worlds.

Darren Gilshenan 11:13
You know, they both offer different things, Max, I think the the stage is so immediate, like you
really, you really feel that audience, you really feel that sense of a moment, resonating in
space. You know, you feel the silences as much as you feel the laughters depending on what
you're doing, and there's something very serious, like a ceremony, you know, it's something
kind of really special about it. And that's never been lost on me, when you walk out. And you
can galvanize a group of people all sitting there in the dark, you know, and you're all sharing,
sharing one idea at one moment, and the fact that everyone can tap into that humanity and
what's going on inside of character, that's a beautiful and amazing experience. Whereas, you
know, the film and TV is it's a different set of kind of things, there's, there's so much to think
about, you know, technically, and it's kind of fun, being able to pick off all that technique, you
know, whether it's continuity, or whether it's, you know, really fast line changes, or, or whether
it's multiple setups, or, you know, you know, there, it's all so freshly in you, when you do
television that you really are, it feels as though you're almost improvising. Whereas theatre, it's
so well drilled, you know, you get four weeks to really dig down in a character until you, you
feel all the aspects of that character, and you get to explore doing that one performance over
and over again. So you, you find all the different all the different kinds of nuances within that
character, where's television, it's, it's just instinct to know, yeah, you've got the script, it's new,
the characters new unless you're in a long running show, I guess we're like, when I did harrow
up here, in Queensland for three seasons, you get to a place with a character where you just
look at it, and you kind of know, this, I know, I know exactly how this character would say this,
or be within this situation. Whereas, you know, when you're doing guest roles, I often say when
I teach acting, it's the hardest job in the world walking onto a cold set with a group of regulars
who are in the skin of their characters, and you're coming on as, you know, this, this character
that you've not even practiced with anyone just in your bathroom by yourself, and coming up
against people who are, who are match fit, you know, in, you know, who have been possibly
shooting for two or three months, maybe longer, hard job. But you know, you got to back
yourself and do your homework before you get in there. And film again, it's slower, you know,
Jesus three minutes a day, multiple takes plenty of opportunity to warm into a performance,
you know, you can roll on a on a ship performance. And by the end of the day, it's become
great, just by kind of tuning it and finding each time you have a go at it, you know, different
things happen. Whereas television, you kind of gotta get it right. And two takes in in Australia
Anyway, that's all we have time for. So you gotta you gotta, you kind of gotta get it right really
quickly film something that you can, you can have, have more goes out.

Sam Folden 14:25
Yeah, I started in theater and slowly progressed to screen as well. And they almost feel like two
separate crafts in a sense, they're completely different. And, and I do a similar view, I enjoy it.
Almost like in theater. Once you understand your character so much. You have kind of the
space to improvise, especially on different nights as well, because there is no real continuity,
you know, unless there's a significant prop needed in one scene or whatever. But yeah, it's that
there. Exciting in different ways, and they're they're difficult in different ways, all that stuff

Darren Gilshenan 15:05
Yeah, they all you know, television pays a lot better than theater. You know, it's very seductive
to earn a lot of money sitting in a trailer, you know, having a little sleep in the middle of the day
kind of thinking, shit, you know? Whereas Film and Television theater, you got to slave it out
eight shows a week. So it's got to be something you really like.

Sam Folden 15:29
Yeah. TV and film a lot more waiting. Yeah.

Darren Gilshenan 15:32
Oh Yeah. And but you know, there's and then there's all the food and you know, someone does
your hair and makeup. Someone hangs up your clothes. And it's just

Sam Folden 15:42
like you do all that yourself in theater.

Darren Gilshenan 15:47
Most of the time you go in without food.

Sam Folden 15:49

Max Belmonte 15:50
when I when I told my mom Darren that I'm leaving corporate after 20 years coming back into
acting. The first thing she said was, well, you always did like the food was certainly more
important for some than others. But

Darren Gilshenan 16:06
it's great on sets. You know, like when in television and film sets, you get that big spread in the
morning, you get kanji stuff that you'd never make yourself.

Max Belmonte 16:16
Great fun. Great fun. You've studied the classics, and you're a part of Bell Shakespeare
Company for many years. Was that an opportunity for you to learn finer points of comedy
performing? Or even try comedy that you're familiar with? In in different ways?

Darren Gilshenan 16:35
Yeah, you know, I did 10 years with the bell company. And John Bell, who I consider my mentor,
you know, taught me so much about the power of language and but the characters I played the
clown in a lot of the shows we did, and, you know, really got quite an intimate knowledge of
the, the the journey of the clowns through Shakespeare's canon. You know, from from
Shakespeare's kings pliers, you know, there were three, three actors that had played played all
the clowns through the, through the cannon Richard Tarleton will camp and Robert Armand,
and they're all very different kinds of clowns. You know, the first one was kind of a musical
physical Acrobat, lots of duties and lots of kind of silly kind of dancing and madrigal style staff.
And the second one will Campbell as an improviser, and, you know, used to go off script and
play with the audience. And you can see that in certain characters, you know, within, within the
canon, like, you know, the comedy of errors. And, to me, the shrew and, and then the third one,
Robert Armand was, like a poet and an orator. So yeah, those kind of great clouds, you know,
first day in the in the fool from King Lear, they're those really dark, cerebral kind of tortured
clowns that aren't particularly funny, but they're more witty. So I got to experience I guess, you
know, the broad versions of the of the clowning. So that was really, it was interesting for me so
much, I then went and wrote a solo show called fools Island, which was an exploration of, of
only using Shakespeare words, but it was basically got trapped on a desert, deserted island,
going mad, but he thought there were two people there. One was the good side of his
personality, called good and, and one was the evil side of his personality got bad. And so I just
was exploring the, the great swing between the hopeful and the tortured aspects of
Shakespearean characters. But yeah, look, you know, it's amazing, Shakespeare is amazing, go
out there night after night and still find stuff in it. It's, it's impenetrable for me, you know, when
I first read it, I just kind of look at it, you kind of get a bit of story, but the more you work on it,
and the more you get into it, the more the more the genius comes out to you. And it's it really
it's very giving some very giving up form to work on.

Sam Folden 19:24
You're a skilled improv performer as well as we know and, and you start in no activity with
Patrick Bromell, which was mostly improvised. What was that process like with a mostly
improvised performance?

Darren Gilshenan 19:38
Yeah, that was that was fascinating because we didn't have really, we had very had like a, like
a paragraph of a starting place for our characters. So my character Stokes, I remember it was
said said something like yeah, he's He's at towards the end of his career, he's bored. He doesn't
want to do anything that kind of gets him into too much trouble he wants to sail through and
you know, take the easy bus. He's, he's in a loveless marriage with this woman who had a pilot
husband who died in an accident. And I had to go over and tell her and she cried on my
shoulder, and we, she never left kind of thing. And so that was kind of the starting points. But
the day to day, we shot all the first series in like, 10 days or something, you know, and I think
Patti and I were in a car for four days, for about 10 hours a day, two cameras, either side, and
to one camera traveling backwards and forwards, between singles across the bonnet, and then
one two shot. And we just started, you know, we just had all these starting points, like the the
Larry David process, you know, from Curb Your Enthusiasm and, and Trent or Donald, the
director is just a master, he sat behind the monitor with the headphones on and just, you know,
we'd get, we'd launch into something and we'd get maybe 20 minutes into an improv. And he'd
just pull us up and go back now changed this flip that extend that. And somehow rather, he
kept all his, you know, hours and hours of, of what people say when they're bored to one
another in his head and in the edit and put it together, you know, and he stitched it together in
a neatly through the radio, through this idea that we're on this stakeout on, you know, on this
big drug deal that was the linchpin for it, but but all the scenes between Patty and I, and Harriet
and Jen, in that radio dispatch, and Dave and Dan, were, you know, the two criminals would just
jump jump was the same thing for all of us that just jumped between them. But Patti, and I
could get into situations where we get ourselves into such dark holes, because we know it just
like a loan in this warehouse with these big screens around the car with video projections on it,
and we, you know, we just go, you go into your car, so dark into your psyche, and because you
couldn't hear anyone, it was just us in a car, you know, you're espousing the, the joys of a
pedophile joke or something, you know, like it was so wrong town. And, and, you know, we
don't even stop. Sometimes we just keep pushing each other going, how dark Can we go? How
private Can we go. And then we get to stage, we just pause and then just look at each other
and burst out laughing go, this will never make it in. And funny enough, a lot of that stuff made
it in. And then there's all these special features that after the actual show, which is all this other
stuff that didn't make it in so but you're you're creating your character as you're speaking. So,
you know, I often tell the story when I teach comedy, but at one stage, we were doing a scene
about me a dog that had been run over and this old man's dog that I helped him bury it and
ended up in a spa tub with him somehow. And I Patti said, What are you doing? When you're in
the tub? I still had you with your clothes on? And I said no, I won't. And on I said I got in the
pub. In the tub. I said I was in Mandy's he said what are you doing in your undies? I still had
God clothes on. And I said one hour, they're on my on my church pants, I didn't want to get
them wet. And so suddenly my character is religious. And so a lot of what we did with in the in
prose, we kind of reverse geared our characters. So by the time we got to the second series,
we had characters, whereas the first series, the characters were created through the
improvisations. And then we kind of had to hang on to those. Those ideas as we went further
into the experience. Yeah, it was fascinating.

Max Belmonte 23:56
Do you think there's a golden rule for improv?

Darren Gilshenan 24:02
Well, you know, there's improv has been hijacked a bit, you know, by competitive gaming, you
know, theater, sports, and Whose Line Is It Anyway, and all that stuff. For me. I like long form
improv, like 50 minute in prose, because you really get a chance to, to introduce a whole lot of
scenes and, and then push along some characters and bit by bit, you look for some connections
and ultimately, hopefully it comes home and there's, there's some kind of resolve, but I don't
like having to having to be funny or having to bid like having to compete to be funny, because I
find that my focus goes straight on to trying to structurally, you know, build stuff into it rather
than just be there for the other actor. And I think impro is all about flow. Since of by actively
watching and actively listening. You don't really need any anything, you just need the other
person. And if you really kind of looking towards each other, it's just like a normal conversation.
Really, if you're just open and you're not sitting there thinking about your own agenda, then
impro can happen quite easily. So I think that the main thing would be don't, don't, don't make
your decisions before you hit the floor about anything, you know, just walk in and, you know,
maybe just have a starting point, or why don't we, you know, one little offer, I think, you know,
offers, of course, these are all the words they teach, when you're doing bro don't block, you
know, that means don't shut anyone down, but offers a good because offers are just
statements, you know, come in and throw something on the other scene partner and go, Wow,
there's, you know, those cycling pants are looking really hot, you know, then the person's got
something to work with. Whereas if you come in and go, What are you wearing, you know, then
the other person gets to make their decision up themselves. I think it's funny, if you come in
and say, Ah, where my grandmother wore those, she looked really bad, but you look amazing.
And then the person can go, Well, what can I do with that thought, you know, and then,
particularly for the audience that's watching it, is you're watching the other actor who just
listened to a ridiculous idea that was just jammed on them. And they've got to find a way now
to kind of make that work. And that's when improv is really fun. Now, rather than someone
coming in trying to dominate or railroad or, or structure or build a story, or push towards what
they think, you know, I think the mistakes are the best thing. You know, when someone comes
in and mispronounces a word or, you know, some of the best impacts are over in LA, Second
City in the Groundlings, particularly, you know, just just mistakes that just got explored to
extreme detail when someone would mispronounce a word, or just kind of half form of thought
that didn't quite make sense. And the other actor would Lord, you know, just leap onto it. That's
the fun stuff, the broken stuff, as long as you're listening and watching and you know, not kind
of, you know, having your eyeballs roll backwards in your head and getting all self obsessed.

Sam Folden 27:02
Yeah, yeah, I know that I find pure improv. Super daunting. Me personally. I think I, I like having
a script and having kind of a reasonably full on idea about what character I'm playing. And then
once I get to know them, I can then choose to improv as them. But do you still think it's, it's
quite important for actors who want to do comedy to have some form of improv experience?

Darren Gilshenan 27:32
Yeah, I think, yes, yes, I do. Sam, I think it's, it's really important, like comedy is very live, okay.
And when I say that, I mean, just moment, by moment, whatever's going on between you and
the other actor is going on between both of you and the audience at the same time, it's it, you
can't lie about it. So if you had worked out how a gag might kind of land or the timing of a
moment, or whatever. And the night before it played a certain way. But tonight, if you try to
play that rhythm, and the audience feels any sense of disconnect, like if they're watching you,
and they see the technique behind it, they might know that what they're looking at, but there
will just be a sense of them not quite being in it with you. And comedy is so about bringing
everyone into the room into the it's that beautiful thing that happens when you see a
performance. And you feel as though when something lands, everything inside you thinks that's
exactly exactly what should have happened at that moment. And it's not as if you're in any way
ahead of the action, but you saw it coming. It's just it delivers this enormous sense of
satisfaction based on true clarity that led up to that moment. Yeah. Whereas when there's
disconnection, you kind of, you might hear a few people in the audience laugh and other people
will be confused and go I kind of get that that's meant to be funny, but it didn't quite ring true
to me. So improvisation really put you very much in the moment. And if you the way I like to
think it's Rowan obey law said this, if you freak out within the form, that is you're playing with
each other, the sense of anarchy, but the structure you know, and the shape of the scene has
been highly worked out you know exactly where the beats hit, you know, the build comes to
hear and this is where the laugh is, you know, it's all about hearing that gap and then I turn
here you know, you know the form you know the shape you know, what you're working within
but the way in which you engage has to be incredibly live and, and so therefore if you consider
that every night you go out there to perform, you are improvising or you are kind of playing it
with a sense of you have no idea what your character is going to do or where they could go and
then it's then stuffs truly exciting. And I see it all the time as an audience, when I sit in a show, I
see people go, are you really liked that choice? Because it's obviously worked for you up to this
moment. But what if you play it and I feel that it's ancient history or you're pulling a face or
doing a move? Because, you know, you're generally get the audience laughing at you, I feel a
sense of disconnect, you know, and I sit there being a bit confused. Whereas when I'm writing it
with someone, you know, and I think, wow, this person is just there in the moment. And, and
comedy is all about surprise. So. So even the actors have to surprise one another, you have to
engage on that level of surprise. You know, one of the best actors I've worked with William
Zappa. We've done a few shows with he's one of the most mercurial actors to be onstage with
you just look into each other's eyes and going, where you're gonna go tonight, make fun, how
far you can push this moment. And there's that sense of almost as if the actors are saying, I'm
going to make you laugh from within my character within the the ridiculous nature of my
choice. And if that game's going between the actors, you can guarantee it's going into the
audience as well, you know, there's a sense of first song going on there.

Max Belmonte 31:15
That's great to work with someone so generous in going to do that. Yeah,

Darren Gilshenan 31:19
yeah, someone just opened someone who looks at you going, Look, I know my shit, and what
I'd like to do here, but, but I'm looking across the space to see how you are going to change
me. And if you both doing that for one another, then that it's It's the most wonderful send it as
opposed to someone trying to hijack a moment, or milker moment, you know, sit on it, and wait
for that audience to laugh and then go off the peak and then die down. And no, no thinking I'm
still enjoying, there's a couple of people laughing out there sacrificing. Now, as soon as you as
soon as as soon as you hit that peak, you got to shut that crowd down and get on with it. Make
them feel as though that, you know, they're in stitches, where they're putting their hand over
their mouth. And they're trying not to laugh because they want to hear what you say, you
know, that's, that's all part of the, the great combination of, you know, when I teach comedy I
talk about when I do my research of comedy, you know, I came across the commerce Festival,
which is an ancient Greek Festival, drunken Festival, where they would sacrifice sheep and then
rip their guts out, and then tackle the blood and awful and crap inside the, the stomach bag of
the sheep until it was really tight, like a soccer ball and sew it up. And then they'd then stitch
these or tie these big soccer ball, phalluses and boobies onto their bodies get really drunk and
charge each other in the town square and smash into each other until these sheepskins would
spew for bloodshed and awful and they'd roll around laughing. That's where comedy comes
from. And then there's, in that there's a there's a tension, you know, there's this skin. That is I
tried to hold in this lifeblood, this anarchy. And we always have to have that tension, whether
it's between my own characters dilemma with my, my flawed interior and my external
behavior, whether it's with the other actor, or the other character in a space and our different
worldviews, whether it's within the situation where everything's going wrong around me, you
know, and I'm, and I'm feeling every everything around me. And with the audience, the same
thing is if I let that audience have their full laugh, until they exhaust themselves, or let the
show stretch and let all this air into it, then it becomes indulgent. Whereas I'm keeping it really
tight and the cosmos is rich, then the audience kind of, in a way becomes a distraction from
where the story is at, you know, and it's and there's a wonderful sense of the audience feels as
though I don't even really need me anymore. You know, that this story is just playing the way it
will play. I'm laughing, I'm in it, but I'm not. I'm not controlling the rhythm of the show, you
know, the performers are controlling the rhythm of the show, and the audience is being
schooled in how to get in, get out, get in, get out. It's all part of the bigger picture. Yeah. Yeah, I
get a bit obsessed about this stuff.

Max Belmonte 34:10
It's great. It's great. I could talk to you all day, it's fascinating, you know, just just just to be able
to stop as as busy up and coming actors, you know, trying to land any sort of part. It's, it's
great every now and then to stop and actually have a decent thing, no matter what your
background is formal training or informal or whatever, to be able to see it and have a chat
about what it is that you do and what it means. I think it's fantastic and very rewarding. is there
advice that you wish someone had given you when you started out?

Darren Gilshenan 34:45
Actually, I did get some great advice. I was on probation, I think for my first two years or
neither. And Kevin Jackson sat me down. He was the head of acting back then. And you know,
he, Kevin Jackson is still teaching out there at the hub and he's Amazing, he really is an
extraordinary resource of theatre and ideas and playwrights and all the rest of it, and acting
and I thought he was a great teacher. And he said to me, I had a good mate of mine who I
won't name, who was very handsome. And we used to kind of, he didn't have to try too hard.
He just looked great, you know what I mean? Whereas I was the ugly duckling and I was the
youngest in my year and, and he said to me, you know, you can't run like this other fella, you
know, he's gonna, he'll get straight on to TV, he's fine. You know, he's got chiseled jaw and this
and that. He said, you don't have that going for you, you're gonna have to work a lot harder if
you want any chance to success. And that really did stick in my head. From that day on, I went,
okay. Okay, right. So, in order for me to have any success, I have to, I have to seize every
opportunity. And I have to, I have to work as hard as I can. I can't, I can't drip through this thing
and think it's somehow a blockage. It requires enormous amount of, you know, research and
discipline and focus and, and commitment and all the rest of it. So, yeah, yeah, I think some
people come to this job thinking somehow or other, you know, run into people the time saying,
oh, yeah, I could have been an actor. It's like, really, really, could you get on the stage, and
perform at that level eight times a week for, you know, nine months and not miss a show? Even
when you food poisoned? You know what I mean? And you got back, it's in the wings, could you
get up there and still try to deliver that same performance? You know, could you learn those
lines for six months on a 20 week, shoot in every night, you're sleeping with, you know, six
hours at night sleep, you know, there's an enormous amount of discipline and work in order to
stay relevant to stay working. I think

Max Belmonte 36:51
it's hard because people sort of only really see the success so they don't understand or, you
know, there's so much behind there's so much going on behind that.

Darren Gilshenan 37:01
Yeah, I mean, when I did heroin, I was you know, Yellin Griffin who who was playing the lead in
are just watching him week in week out, he's in pretty much every scene. And you know, he's
he's onset, you know, he's, he's getting picked up at dark every morning is on set, just, you
know, every scene, all this really full on medical speak, and, you know, seven syllable words
and, and, you know, in between beds, he's kind of eating juice bars and drinking water, just to
just to sustain him to keep him going. And he gets through till seven, seven o'clock at night,
and they get him home. And he, you know, he's gonna learn lines again for the next day. And
he's up till you know, not 10 o'clock, just kind of trying to cram lines and then in the morning
after five hours sleep, and he did that for 22 weeks in a row. And so, so Friday nights, he would
learn Friday nights, big chunks of the speeches for the next week's work and, and then
Saturday night, he gave himself a night out, you know, but it lasted a couple of hours and he'd
be exhausted because his body was so so rundown but you know, you don't see it when you're
looking at the looking at him on screen.

Max Belmonte 38:12
Well, you're you're always busy across television and film, in the theater. Is there something
you're working on at the moment that you can share or something coming up for you?

Darren Gilshenan 38:25
Yeah, what am I doing? I got an episode on Upright with Tim Minchin..

Max Belmonte 38:32
Yeah, that was great. Love that. Yeah.

Darren Gilshenan 38:34
Yeah. So that's about to start shooting up here in Queensland where I live now very soon. And
I've just landed a lovely episode on Patti Bramble and Harriet Dyer's new comedy show Colin
from Accounts, which is Foxtel been job leave easy Tiger at the production company there. And
then I've also got a pretty good role on Nautilus which is big Disney epic that's being shot
movie world up here all year. So it's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea kind of Captain Nemo story
but 10 massive kind of episodes

Max Belmonte 39:15
Put your bathers on and get ready to get to get wet. You have to hold your breath for like time
and that sort of stuff, is it?

Darren Gilshenan 39:22
Well, they did you know it's funny because you know, beginning of every gig they always send
you through the the costume measurement form and you gotta fill out you know, you had size
and your glove size and judgment.

Max Belmonte 39:33
I call it Judgment Day, but yeah, yeah,

Darren Gilshenan 39:37
it gets we it gets weird, but but this time, it's sort of like wetsuit size now. I mean, who knows
their wetsuit size? Really? Unless you're a surfer or height type, I guess. Made media tight.
Yeah, so that will be fun. Yeah, that's I was actually down there yesterday doing a wardrobe fit
for upright 10 MovieWorld and I went through past all the all the builds for Nautilus, and you
know, all the massive sets and green screens and water tanks. It's going to be super fun. Yeah,
wow. Yeah. And then I'm going to do a play. At the end of the year I'm going to do the
caretaker, painters kit caretaker down at the ensemble, which is something I'm very excited
about working with Ian Sinclair again, who I did, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf with and our
town for STC. So I'll get a chance to get in a room with that brilliant mind again, and work on
the brilliant play.

Max Belmonte 40:37
Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, thanks again for your time today. Darren, you've been very generous
with us. We do appreciate it. Wherever you're listening to your podcast, make sure you
subscribe. So that was more tips and tricks I'm Max.

Sam Folden 40:53
I'm Sam

Max Belmonte 40:54
and you'll hear us next week!

Darren Gilshenan Profile Photo

Darren Gilshenan

An award winning Actor, NIDA alumni, teacher of improv, Shakespeare and comedy.