THE BIGGEST AUSSIE ACTOR YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF. THOUGH NETFLIX AND MARVEL ARE SET ON CHANGING THAT.
Sometimes we’re so busy claiming ‘Aussies’ who weren’t born here that we forget to praise those who actually were. Like 26-year-old Queenslander Eka Darville, star of Empire – US commercial TV’S biggest hit this year. The work of acclaimed director Lee Daniels ( Precious, The Butler), it centres on hip-hop label Empire Entertainment and its founding family’s struggle for control. Darville plays gay filmmaker Ryan Morgan, the love interest of a potential heir to the fortune, Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett). The cast also boasts Terrence Howard as the patriarch with appearances from Naomi Campbell, Snoop Dogg and Cuba Gooding Jr. And if the 23 million who watched the debut series’ US finale are anything to go by, season two will be huge. Speaking of big, Darville’s also in Marvel’s upcoming Netfix series Jessica Jones, due later this year. Yep, you’ll be seeing a lot more of him. Starting now.
GQ: ANY IDEA BE SUCH A HIT? EKA DARVILLE: WOULD
It’s blown everyone away. Lee Daniels will say he knew, but he didn’t – it’s mind-boggling. The week it was out I couldn’t walk down the street without people stopping to take photos, it was really intense. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the lead cast.
GQ: YOU ALSO PLAYED A GAY CHARACTER IN DID YOU HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT BEING TYPECAST? ED:
I did. It’s a fickle industry and those things can stick. But the response has been fantastic. [Ryan is] a strong man who’s gay, and doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. That’s what I love about him.
GQ: THE CAST IS INCREDIBLE. ANY SURREAL MOMENTS? ED:
My son was on set one day and plonked himself down on Terrence Howard’s chair. I got talking to this stunning black woman next to him, and though I recognised her, I didn’t put two and two together. When I met my wife afterwards, she was like, ‘Oh my God, did you see Naomi Campbell?’ and I realised I’d been chatting to her for half an hour.
GQ: SO YOU PLAYED IT COOL? ED:
I don’t subscribe to that whole celebrity thing. There’s nothing special about ‘famous’ people, other than the treatment they get. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some big-name stars – Sean Penn and Charlize Theron – and it’s always a case of being surprised by how human they are.
GQ: WHY ARE AUSSIE ACTORS KILLING IT OVERSEAS? ED:
There’s a real connection with nature, which gives us a rugged edge that’s appealing. We also have a no-bullshit approach, while Americans can get lost in the glitz.
GQ: HAS THE SHOW CHANGED YOUR LIFE MUCH? ED:
In New York it has, even riding the subway. Sometimes I want to take my son to the park in trackies, but I don’t feel comfortable anymore because I’m always asked for a selfie.
GQ: AND THE BANK BALANCE? ED:
If I’m guest-starring on Empire or any other network show, I get paid the same amount. It’s not massive money, once agency fees, managers, lawyers, publicists and taxes are considered. But that’s not the case if you’re a series regular. I guarantee Jussie Smollett is not having financial issues.
GQ: HELP, THEN? SHOULD
ED: Yes, I’ve signed a six-year contract, and I’m in a great position where I don’t need to take a job for money. I want to work more in Australia – we produce some of the most creative stuff being made, so I’d love to get back and do a film. Empire season two debuts September 23 in the US and on Network Ten later this year
FOLLOW @EKADARVILLE ON INSTAGRAM FOR UPDATES — AND OUTRAGEOUSLY CUTE PHOTOS OF HIS SON MANA, WHO TURNS TWO NEXT MONTH.