Ja­son’s a sur­vivor

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - - LUAINE LEE

WHEN Ja­son O’Mara was a strug­gling ac­tor in Lon­don he im­pro­vised a recipe that saw him through the lean times.

‘‘I got re­ally good at go­ing to the su­per­mar­ket and buy­ing frozen sausages, which were very cheap, and lots of dry spaghetti and tomato sauce, and ba­si­cally I lived on that for months,’’ the Ir­ish ac­tor and star of Life on Mars says.

‘‘Right now I still find it hard to eat spaghetti bolog­nese be­cause of my hor­ri­ble con­coc­tion that kept me alive. There are mo­ments when you think, ‘I must be crazy to go through this’.

‘‘I was in Lon­don for eight years and I starved . . . the ac­tor’s cliche. Lived in the garage, lived off girl­friends, stuff like that.’’

An un­em­ployed ac­tor, he man­aged to wan­gle a voice-over job of sorts, record­ing the daily horo­scope. ‘‘I was the guy on the line say­ing, ‘Hi, and wel­come to your Horo­scope Hot­line for Tues­day the fifth of May’. It paid $5 an hour — it was non-union,’’ he says with a laugh.

O’Mara also read the crossword re­sults on a recorded mes­sage. ‘‘Hi, wel­come to the Crossword Re­sults Hot­line. Here are the an­swers for all of the down clues. One: ze­bra, z-e-b-r-a. Re­ally bor­ing,’’ he adds, rolling his eyes.

‘‘It was me alone in a booth with a pile of scripts. It was kind of funny looking back but, you know, I got ex­pe­ri­ence lis­ten­ing to the sound of my own voice and I learned how to do it a lit­tle bet­ter and got a lit­tle voiceover ca­reer go­ing, and that helped sup­ple­ment the the­atre I was do­ing and the times I wasn’t work­ing. So that was prob­a­bly the mo­ment when it started to come to­gether.’’

Things have re­ally come to­gether for O’Mara, 36, who has ap­peared on Grey’s Anatomy, Men in Trees, The Closer, The Agency and In Jus­tice.

In Life on Mars, he plays a time-trav­el­ling NYPD de­tec­tive who finds him­self sud­denly thrust into 1973 af­ter a car ac­ci­dent. Not sur­pris­ingly, the char­ac­ter strug­gles to ad­just to this tech­nol­o­gy­chal­lenged world.

O’Mara had no idea his life would take this turn when he was munch­ing spaghetti and call­ing out horoscopes. One day he got a call from the US ask­ing him to ap­pear in a pi­lot for a new show called The Agency.

‘‘Mov­ing to the States was com­pletely a huge de­ci­sion, even though I said I didn’t have a de­ci­sion to make,’’ O’Mara ex­plains. ‘‘Looking back, it was quite brave re­ally, or maybe it was just stupid. I just went. I didn’t even think about it.

‘‘It was a big risk and I was putting ev­ery­thing on red and let­ting the wheel spin. Thank God it worked out.’’

O’Mara was raised in Sandy­cove in County Dublin.

Af­ter bat­tling through high school, he, along with 1200 oth­ers, ap­plied for en­try to Trin­ity Col­lege. He was one of 25 cho­sen for the drama-the­atre course.

He has, how­ever, long been fear­ful of com­mit­ting his life to act­ing. He has doubts even now about whether he can do it.

‘‘It never re­ally ends. Ev­ery time you play a new role you think, ‘How am I go­ing to do this? How am I go­ing to make this char­ac­ter hu­man?’ It’s al­ways a chal­lenge and I’ve heard very sea­soned ac­tors say the same thing, so it’s not just me,’’ he says.

‘‘There are al­ways doubts. I think ev­ery creative per­son has doubts as to whether they can do it.

‘‘The best part of the job is the phone call to tell you you have it, and from there on in it’s just plain old hard graft and prepa­ra­tion and panic, but you have to get over that be­cause you can’t be pan­icky and act at the same time.’’

Big break:

Life on Mars star Ja­son O’Mara has done the hard yards.

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