BEST IN SHOW
Even his 800 Words co-stars agree Rick Donald steals every scene
When Bridie Carter’s family sit down to watch 800 Words together every Tuesday night, there’s one person they’re all desperate to see on screen — and it’s not someone in the household.
“My kids (Otis, 11 and Tobias, 6) love the show and their favourite character is Woody,” she says. “He adds this beautiful, ridiculous other dimension to the show.”
And the Carter family aren’t the ones who share the same sentiment.
While Erik Thomson is the headliner of the popular family drama, it is the comic relief to his straight man character George who dominates.
Rick Donald’s layabout carpenter Woody swiftly became a fan favourite in season one. So much so that for season two the writers began fleshing out the character, giving him a love interest (in Emma Leonard’s Tracey) and showing more of his life outside his work for the Turners.
It’s something Donald is enjoying as the series heads towards it’s mid-season finale.
“You definitely get to see a little bit more of the three dimensions of Woody,” he says of what’s ahead.
“He has a little bit of a scare later in the season. And the love interest comes into play.
“I always thought, how will they ever find someone for Woody? He sleeps in a van, he surfs 90 per cent of the day and then does about 10 per cent work — which he never really collects money for. He’s just happy to be paid lunch. They’re not high on the list of things women are looking for.” While Donald certainly mirrors the happy go lucky side of the character he plays onscreen, one thing he doesn’t share is a lack of work ethic. The actor has worked solidly on TV since landing a role in 2011 miniseries Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo, starring Asher Keddie as magazine maven Ita Buttrose. Roles in Home and Away, Underbelly and Crownies followed before he landed the part of Constable Daniel Parks in hit ABC series The Doctor Blake Mysteries. “It was my first big sort of recurring role and I was nervous,” he recalls of joining the A-list cast. “I didn’t want to put a foot wrong and I wanted to make sure I was satisfying the show, the writers, the directors and everything, so I wasn’t necessarily using my instinct as much. “And Nadine Garner (who stars in the show) could see it. She was awesome for me. She’d say, ‘I can see you thinking — just do what it is you’re thinking. I can see your mind is racing and you want to do something cheeky, just do it.’ She really showed me that it was OK to have some fun on set.”
It’s a lesson he’s taken with him and run with and his career has flourished as a result. Roles in House Husbands, A Place to Call Home and short-lived US comedy Friends With Better Lives followed before he joined the cast of 800 Words.
But even though the work offers are still coming thick and fast, Donald isn’t content to rest on those laurels.
While many of his cast mates will use the downtime between scenes to spend time with their families or each other, Donald chooses to concentrate on extending his skill set.
“I’m really trying to get behind the camera a little bit in terms of directing and film making,” he says.
“I’ve shot a couple of things — I entered a film into Tropfest and won a couple of awards. And I’m writing a lot. I’ve been trying to get better at that so I can write myself and my friends some more roles for the future.
“Learning to write, it’s torturous at times. You might write five good pages and 50 terrible ones and then you go back and scratch your head and start again.
“It’s something you’ve got to be passionate about and want to do because it is incredibly tiresome.”
Not only has Donald now written roles now for himself and fellow 800 Words co-star Benson Jack Anthony (who plays Arlo), he’s also managed to pen a few thing for his nowwife, Catherine Mack.
The duo recently wed in a small private ceremony, only made public after a tourist happened to snap their vow exchange. While the ceremony was top secret, what’s not so hidden is Donald’s admiration for his actor bride.
So has he asked the 800 Words producers to write her into the series?
“I haven’t, but she’s perfect for the style and she’s really fun so I reckon she’d be good. And she’s over here (in New Zealand, where the show shoots) a lot so it would be easy for them to slot her in.” 800 WORDS, SEVEN, TUESDAY, 8.45PM
“I entered a film into Tropfest and won a couple of awards”
RICK DONALD ON CAREER CHANGES
In real life, Rick Donald belies the layabout life of his character in 800 Words.