After working on two of the most popular soaps of all time, Home and Away and Neighbours, this Aussie native landed a spot on a little show called Sex and the City.
His portrayal of a confident, well adjusted gay man was something not often seen – and made a lasting impression on gay audiences. “I was offered a role on Sex and the City, I just wasn’t gonna say no,” Murray tells us.
But there’s something else. In an age when actors are often told to stay closeted or, at least, remain wary of gay parts, Murray has made a career out of playing gay characters that challenge traditional assumptions.
For the past year, for instance, he’s starred as Dom in one of the best written, emotionally engaging shows on TV, HBO’s Looking. Yes, it’s about a bunch of gay dudes. But it’s not quite business as usual. There are no coming out stories, no one’s confused about their sexuality, they’re just trying to live life while balancing friendships, love and careers. It’s precisely this ostensibly nonchalant attitude that’s ironically proven quite revolutionary.
Murray takes the character of Dom and transforms him from a familiar stereotype of a lothario past his prime, to a relatable, emotionally complex man, who’s just trying to find his way. On his connection with the character, he’s refreshingly honest. “We’re pretty much the same age, so there’s a lot of things that I relate to in terms of where he is in his life,” he says. “Things that happen when turning 40 that are specifically about reevaluating your life and asking yourself whether you’ve met your own expectations.” Battling with age is a topic familiar
Tall, handsome and he’s got the best moustache in telly. What’s not to love?
to many and it’s a struggle that’ll see Dom “moving towards that in the second series, but tripping a lot.” It’s been these trip-ups that have made the character so empathetic and subsequently so popular.
In terms of what to expect in the second series, “we really dig deep” he says encouragingly. “There’s a lot of introductory stuff that’s all done now, so we can go deeper with these characters.” Getting excited, he describes the experience on set as “a total love fest.” And on finding out they were being picked up for a second season he simply proclaims: “Ecstasy! We had such a great time together and came out of it feeling positive, but when something goes out into the world, it gets all sorts of reactions. It felt at times that it wasn’t so sure we’d get picked up.
“When you have something that’s taking a piece of a particular community and shining a light on it, there are always gonna be people who feel that they’re not represented. You can’t represent everybody in a half hour. But the smart thing about the show is it didn’t set out to represent everybody. These characters happen to be gay and that’s a big part of the show, but it’s not saying this is representing the entire gay community.”
When asked if he thinks the pressure of social representation stems from the starvation of positive images for gay people to identify with, he’s diplomatic. “Exactly,” he says, “and it’s completely understandable.”
Fans of the first season will remember the utterly charming Lynn [played by Scott Bakula], Dom’s potential love interest. On this he reveals, “It does develop and there are some unexpected surprises.” Another highlight is Dom’s friendship with Doris [played by Lauren Weedman], the most prominent female character on the show, whose quick wit and tough love quickly made her a firm fan favourite. “It’s one of the things I
most love about the second series,” he says excitedly. “Doris features more in the show. When you’re in a scene with her, you just get on the ride and move out of the way. She’s a comic genius.”
High praise indeed. In fact, Murray is full of praise when it comes to Looking. Avoiding much of the empty sentimentality often heard in Hollywood, he seems to genuinely adore the project. On the show’s unique aesthetic, he exclaims, “That’s the magic of Andrew Haigh!”
The show employs a naturalistic style and an emphasis on realism, which he describes as “one of Andrew’s great strengths, he knows how to focus on characters and relationships in a way that’s very real and relatable.”
Apart from his strikingly handsome face and a body not too dissimilar to that of a Greek god, there was something else that caught our eye. Dom sports perhaps the most iconic moustache since Tom Selleck. After we tell him, he laughs heartily. “There’s been quite a reaction to it! I was in Egypt when I auditioned for the show, so I grew a moustache to try and look less like a a tourist, which didn’t really work. It makes sense for the show in terms of this iconic SanFrancisco, Castro-type look.” Fans will be sad to know that it doesn’t remain a permanent feature outside of the show. Shaving it off is described as ”sort of like losing a limb.” And it hurts us too.
After we recover from the moustache blow, Murray leaves us with some final thoughts about Looking.
“We’re all excited about the show and playing real characters that, as much as possible, don’t play up to stereotypes. Hopefully, they create some positive ripples in the world.” If you ask us, that’s exactly the kind of actor we want to see on our screens every week.