Tim Minchin takes on his first major dramatic role as a murderous racist in the ABC’s The Secret River, about the conflict between early settlers and Australia’s indigenous inhabitants. Minchin is also directing Dreamworks animation Larrikins, he wrote the music for musical Matilda (opening in July in Sydney) and is doing the same for Groundhog Day which opens on Broadway in 2017. Switched On spoke to him on the set at Lake Tyers in Victoria mid last year.
Did success as a comedian open doors that were closed? Totally. They were all closed in 2004 and by 2009 they were all open really. This is the first job where a director rang me up and said, “I just want you to play this role, you’re going to be great at it.”
Why did they want you for this role? My character does some unpleasant things. So \(director Daina Reid) had this idea she didn’t want to cast someone who was \“evil” because that’s not very interesting, especially when you’re trying to tell a story as serious as this. The more you make him human ... the stronger the story will be.
Why is there a closed set today? Well I was nude this morning but in a very jocular way because he’s just feral. The scene this afternoon … There are implications of violence but I don’t act (it out), I just talk about it, with this (indigenous) girl I’ve got chained up in a disgusting manner, so it’s incredibly confronting. Why take a role playing such a horrible person? People like playing heroes because they’re actors and they want their careers to go a certain way. My entire modus operandi in my career is to keep moving so people are unable to pin me down. I’ve been working for the past few years to prove comedian is not necessarily a helpful label for me.
Are you planning on pursuing more acting jobs? I’m sort of a failed actor. Before my comedy really took off I’d done a couple of roles, but not much. I did Californication, which was definitely a comic role, and I felt comfortable in that, but I don’t think of myself as wacky. So when I got to LA I did an audition for Judd Apatow for an Amy Schumer movie ( Trainwreck) as the funny weird office guy and I was hopeless. I’m not going to do the quirky bit on the side roles, because I’m
not Will Ferrell.
Why did you move to LA? I’m making an animated, singing animal, Australian road movie for Dreamworks. I went on as the composer and just had a lot of thoughts about it and they liked my thoughts so I’m directing it. Other people go to LA to be a star but I’ve gone to drop out because in London I’m recognised on the street. In LA I’m a writer and I’m at home when my kids are home.
THE SECRET RIVER, ABC, SUNDAY, 8.30PM