“I en­joy the lighter side of things”

The demise of his lat­est TV show re­cently made head­lines, but as Rove McManus tells Stel­lar, he’s draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion – quite lit­er­ally – from his new ca­reer move

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy DANIEL NADEL Styling KELLY HUME In­ter­view SIOB­HAN DUCK

The demise of his lat­est TV show may have made head­lines, but an op­ti­mistic Rove McManus tells Stel­lar he re­mains com­mit­ted to his small-screen ca­reer.

Be­lieve it or not, this year may yet prove to be one of the sweet­est in the ca­reer of Rove McManus.

De­spite the fact he re­cently en­dured the dis­ap­point­ment of hav­ing his lat­est TV ef­fort axed af­ter just two air­ings, McManus has fi­nally ful­filled his dream of be­com­ing a car­toon­ist. The three-time Gold Lo­gie win­ner has writ­ten and il­lus­trated two chil­dren’s books, largely in­spired by an ador­ing re­la­tion­ship with his five-year-old daugh­ter Ruby – a wel­come achieve­ment that has helped off­set the bad news.

Ear­lier this month, his va­ri­ety se­ries Satur­day Night Rove was dumped from Net­work 10’s line-up, with sag­ging rat­ings marked as the cul­prit. McManus has kept a low pro­file since the ax­ing and even now, when pressed to dis­cuss his feel­ings on the show’s demise, he de­clines to say much – though he will say its fail­ure won’t keep him from try­ing to score an­other small-screen hit in the fu­ture. “TV has been as much a part of my life as draw­ing,” McManus tells Stel­lar. “So I’m sure I’ll find my­self back there again, too.”

So­cial me­dia lit up when the news broke – plenty took pot shots at the pop­u­lar pre­sen­ter while plenty of oth­ers came to his de­fence. Even some se­nior fig­ures from ri­val net­works ex­pressed their dis­may at the show’s demise, in­clud­ing Michael Pell, the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of Seven Net­work’s Sun­rise, who voiced con­cern that such a hasty de­ci­sion could re­sult in fewer at­tempts at creative live TV shows.

“It sur­prises me how some peo­ple talk about tele­vi­sion,” Pell tells Stel­lar. “In other in­dus­tries, the ceas­ing of pro­duc­tion is usu­ally met with dis­ap­point­ment; when it comes to TV, so of­ten peo­ple ap­plaud an ax­ing if they didn’t like the show. Ev­ery­one’s en­ti­tled to an opin­ion, but of­ten I think peo­ple for­get these shows rep­re­sent the liveli­hoods of hard­work­ing pro­fes­sion­als who put ev­ery­thing into their craft. They have fam­i­lies and mort­gages like ev­ery­one else. And they care. TV is a pop­u­lar­ity con­test and shows do have to rate to be vi­able, but if we keep pass­ing judge­ment so quickly, we can’t re­ally com­plain when net­works are re­luc­tant to take risks.”

Co­me­dian Adam Richard, who got his start with McManus on Chan­nel 31’s The Loft Live, be­lieves the triple-Gold Lo­gie win­ner had an un­winnable task given his new show was up against The Ashes, NRL and AFL. “The pile-on is just a symp­tom of the good old Aussie tall-poppy syn­drome,” Richard tells Stel­lar. “I don’t know the ins and outs of what hap­pened, but can­celling a show is not a lightly reached de­ci­sion. It’s re­ally hard to face snarky in­ter­net be­hav­iour when you per­son­ally know peo­ple who are now go­ing to strug­gle to pay the rent, hav­ing been promised three months of work that turned out to be barely one.

“If Rove’s show had been given the same kind of faith that was given to The Project or Have You Been Pay­ing At­ten­tion?,

which also had very mea­gre rat­ings when they first started, maybe it could have built an au­di­ence.”

But for now McManus, 45, is choos­ing to stay fo­cused on his new ven­ture, util­is­ing a whole new set of skills: his self-pro­claimed mas­tery of silly voices and (thanks to Ruby) an en­cy­clopaedic knowl­edge of the My Lit­tle Pony uni­verse.

“Noth­ing makes me sad­der than when a child wants to play and a par­ent says to them not to be so silly, or to calm down,” says McManus of his re­fusal to chas­tise his daugh­ter while they are out in public and he at­tempts to sip a cof­fee. “Ob­vi­ously there is a time and a place, but there’s no rea­son for a child not to be able to play and have fun just be­cause they are at a cafe or at the shops. Why not con­tinue what­ever ad­ven­ture you may have been hav­ing

with them in the car while you’re in the ce­real aisle?”

There is one place, how­ever, where play­time has its lim­its – his of­fice, where he keeps a trove of cher­ished Dr Who fig­urines, ob­scure car­toon col­lectibles and an­tique toys. “Ruby had a friend over re­cently and they were in the study, which is un­der­stand­able be­cause there’s lots of brightly coloured things to look at,” he says. “They were clat­ter­ing around in there and I heard Ruby say, ‘Now, re­mem­ber Daddy’s toys are for look­ing at, not for play­ing with!’ I have taught her well.”

His col­lec­tion is the stuff of leg­end. “I re­mem­ber when I first met him, hear­ing him talk about his Pez col­lec­tion,” re­calls friend and col­league Car­rie Bick­more of The Project, which is pro­duced by Rov­ing En­ter­prises, the com­pany that Rove co-owns. “I thought he was jok­ing. Nope, he still has [it], and it’s big­ger and bet­ter than ever. He sees the small joys and has that same zest for life you see in kids.”

Peter Hel­liar, an­other long­time mate from The Project, adds, “I don’t think I’ve ever worked with any­one with so much re­lent­less en­ergy, and he’s able to main­tain it, even through te­dious pro­duc­tion meet­ings. It’s in­fec­tious.”

“I cer­tainly en­joy the play­ful­ness and the lighter side of life, and that has al­ways stood me well for work­ing in the com­edy strato­sphere,” ad­mits McManus. “It’s also the per­fect way into con­nect­ing with kids.

“I have never had any hes­i­ta­tion about play­ing the mon­ster or the su­per­hero, or what­ever is re­quired when I’m play­ing with my daugh­ter. But I was also do­ing that way be­fore I had my own kid, with my nieces and neph­ews.”

As a child, Rove says, he was ac­tu­ally quite shy, and spent hours in his bed­room draw­ing char­ac­ters to cut out and use in elab­o­rate games. “I’m not a nat­u­ral per­former, but I’ve al­ways en­joyed the es­capism of writ­ing and an­i­ma­tion.”

His wife, ac­tor Tasma Wal­ton, tells Stel­lar her hus­band is al­ways Ruby’s pre­ferred bed­time-story reader. “He can ef­fort­lessly cre­ate a seem­ingly lim­it­less range of char­ac­ter voices and will hap­pily ad-lib through­out the book, mak­ing the whole process last twice as long,” she says.

This year, McManus has added his own ti­tles to Ruby’s pile of bed­time favourites. Dis­gust­ing McGrossfac­e came about af­ter he tried to ex­plain his ir­ri­ta­tion with lit­ter­bugs to Ruby dur­ing a trip to the park, while Rocky Lob­star was an idea he ini­tially pitched as a car­toon se­ries to Nick­elodeon when he was liv­ing in Amer­ica. And now, with the grow­ing suc­cess of Aus­tralian an­i­ma­tion se­ries such as Bluey, McManus can see po­ten­tial for the lat­ter to make the jump from the page to the small screen, too. “And,” he laughs, “I could cast my­self in the lead role, of course.”

Dis­gust­ing McGrossfac­e ($17.99) is out now; Rocky Lob­star: Rocky To The Res­cue! ($14.99) is out Tues­day, both via Scholas­tic Aus­tralia.

“I’ve al­ways en­joyed the es­capism of writ­ing and an­i­ma­tion”


ROVE WEARS Paul Smith suit and shirt, paul­smith.com/au; (op­po­site) Paul Smith jacket, knit and pants, as be­fore; Cal­i­bre shoes, cal­i­bre.com.au

(from top) Rove McManus on the set of Satur­day Night Rove last month; with wife Tasma Wal­ton in Jan­uary; with Peter Hel­liar and Car­rie Bick­more at the Lo­gie Awards in 2007.

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