THE BIG ASK DAMIAN WALSHE-HOWLING
What is Crash Investigation Unit about? The show is about real-life car crashes. The unit doesn’t call them accidents, because there is always a contributing factor. The main focus of the unit is that crashes happen because of lapses in concentration or alcohol levels or drug levels. And let’s face it, we all switch off at times. Is showing that crashes are often preventable a reason for making the show? It is attempting to raise awareness without preaching. Our roads are generally fairly safe, but a lot of people have been involved in crashes. I’ve been involved in a nearfatal myself. We often see what’s involved with picking up the pieces. The show gives the perspective of all sides: the police, the victim and their family, and the other driver’s. In that way it does raise awareness. You said you’ve had a crash. What happened? I was 18 and had just got my licence. I was on a wet road and it hadn’t rained in a while. There was a bend in the road and I lost control of the car. Because I didn’t have the education and hadn’t been taught how to use the wheel and brake properly in that situation, I completely lost control and slammed sideways into a pole. The damage to the car was extensive. When the police arrived they thought I was dead, but I was standing on the footpath. So you were very lucky. I was very, very lucky. None of us was badly injured, but it had a serious impact on me as a young man. It wasn’t like I was deliberately irresponsible, but I think I had a (false) sense of confidence. The first thing I did after the accident was book into an advanced driving course. Did that experience attract you to the show? Definitely. I’m a lot more aware things can go wrong. Without having had that experience, I wouldn’t feel so close to the subject matter. Crash Investigation Unit deals with some very confronting issues. How has doing the show affected you emotionally? Life is precious and you can lose it in an instant. Death is something we shy away from a lot in this society, whereas if you go places like India, at the funeral there is grieving, but there is also a celebration of life. I did think a lot about that sort of stuff when I took on the show. The show also makes you realise the trauma that confronts the relatives of the crash victims. Do you think the show is therapeutic for them? That’s been the case in a lot of the shows. The families have really wanted to share their stories. How did it feel to play Benji in Underbelly? That will be a career highlight. You’re dealing with a real person and a certain element of responsibility comes with that. I had an extremely gratifying time on the show because there was so much respect shown from every department. The writing was fantastic. Do you hope to return in the next series? In this industry you never count your chickens before they hatch. I had such an incredible time. It was an honour to do the show. Was it something you knew was going to be a hit from the beginning? From the minute I read the first few scenes I was like, ‘‘If this continues like that in the reading and if they commit to shooting it in a way that’s as explicit as it’s written, nothing is going to stop it’’.