Concluding my two-part interview series with Bryan Brown and Greta Scacchi, the stars of the new Aussie series Darby and Joan, is my chat with Bryan Brown.
But first, a quick overview of the series: Darby and Joan is a lively road trip and mystery drama starring Emmy® Awards nominee Bryan Brown (The Thorn Birds, Breaker Morant) and Emmy® Awards winner Greta Scacchi (The Player, Emma). He plays retired Australian homicide detective Jack Darby, who’s hit the open road with his dog, Diesel, to flee his past; she plays recently-widowed English nurse Joan Kirkhope, who’s on a mission to find answers about her husband’s mysterious death. Joan and Jack have a near miss of a collision in the Outback and end up traveling together, meeting all kinds of folks and delving into one mystery after another along the way.
Today’s piece, my interview with Bryan Brown, follows up on the one yesterday, featuring my interview with Greta Scacchi.
(Text has been lightly edited for clarity.)
LJ: “I had the opportunity to chat with Greta this morning, lovely woman…”
BB: “She is great.”
LJ: “She mentioned that the main reason she said yes to doing the series was because you asked her.”
BB: “That’s right. I wanted to do it with her. We did a movie about four years ago together and I thoroughly enjoyed working with her. She’s so bloody good. She’s a fabulous actress and she’s great company, so it was ideal if they could get her to do this for me.”
LJ: “Well, it worked. She also mentioned that she’s been longtime friends with your wife. Speaking of your wife, was it really her or some other actor named Rachel Ward who did the voice for the English sat nav?”
BB: “Yeah, she did do it. I didn’t even know about that. We were watching it the other day or something and Rachel went, ‘That’s me.’ And I went, ‘What? What’s you?’ And she’s done it. Yeah, I didn’t realize.”
LJ: “So she surprised you. I thought she was great. If I remember correctly, she voiced the very insistent English sat nav… She was very funny.”
BB: “Probably. And you know what? I didn’t even recognize that that was her cos she doesn’t actually speak like that. So she must’ve been having a bit of fun going back to the posh Rachel.”
LJ: “She sounded terrific… It’s a lovely show. I was fortunate to be able to watch the screeners that were provided for the first four episodes, and I love the fact that the show is centered on and is built around these two characters of a certain age…”
BB: “A couple of youngsters, you mean.”
LJ: “Yeah! With a couple of other recent Acorn TV series, I’m seeing a trend here — the trend being bringing to the audience shows where the main characters are men and women of a certain age, rather than, say, millennials. How does it feel for you to be part of, at least what I see is, the start of a golden age for golden-agers on television?”
BB: “That’s very good, Linda, because I think you’re right. I didn’t get that. I didn’t acknowledge that when they pitched this idea to me about four years ago — about this English lady going off to find out what happened to her husband who died in Australia, and an Aussie cop out there trying to escape the life that he’s been leading for certain reasons, and they crash in the Outback. And I went, ‘That’s a very good concept.’ And then you just get on and do it.
But I realize in actual fact that… I didn’t know much about Acorn. I knew some of those shows. You know, like every now and again I’ll watch, and I don’t know if they all go out on Acorn, but you know, things like Midsomer Murders, Vera, there’s a number of English shows like that that are made that are definitely for an older age group, but they can be liked by anyone, but they’re mainly for that demographic. And I just sort of realized that that’s where this show fits, and I’m really surprised that the Yanks haven’t got more into that. I’m really surprised that we haven’t. I think England’s locked that up for a while, and I think it’s time the rest of us should take notice. I’m glad that we fit into that, and I just think that the Australian film industry should accent a few more shows for that group. I think that group, that over-50s, well, they’ve got a couple of bob in their pocket, they’ve battled through a lot of things, and they’re in the mood to sit down and enjoy people their age dealing with life. I think it’s really obvious that that demographic is asking for stories that represent them, so I’m glad that we’re dropping into that area.”
LJ: “I think quite a lot of the audience, here in the United States and abroad, are hungry for that, because there is such a dearth of it on other services and even on linear television, so it’s a really good thing to see. So how did you become involved? What was it, when you were presented with the script or the concept…”
BB: “It was the concept. As I said, about three or four years ago, they came at me about the concept. They just pitched the concept and I thought it was a really good idea, you know — two people that should never have been together being forced to spend time together. And I liked the fact that they’re traveling, but one’s traveling to find out answers, that’s the lady, and one’s traveling to escape questions, that’s the cop. So they’re carrying stuff, and they’re forced to spend time together. And I went, ‘That’s a really good concept.’ Now how are you doing it, what’s the story, and where are we doing it?
“The other thing I liked was that they wanted to use a lot of Queensland and make it very picturesque, which I think people will enjoy. I think it’s great to look at. I love going to some of the places we shot. I know Queensland quite well, but I was fascinated by some of the places we went to.”
LJ: “Were there some you hadn’t visited before?”
BB: “Well, we shot it on a place called the Gold Coast, which is just down from Brisbane, and it’s a strip of about 70 miles of beaches. It’s a bit like your Florida, I suppose, or something like that there. But what I didn’t realize was like twenty miles behind it, or twenty ks [kilometers] behind the Gold Coast going west, there’s all these beautiful rain forest areas and mountains and little towns that are so picturesque, and I didn’t really know anything about that. I was just used to the coast; cos I surf I was used to the beaches. But I was very glad we were able to go in and show a whole other area of Queensland that people will thoroughly enjoy, I think.”
LJ: “Well, this viewer definitely did. About Jack, he’s a very interesting character. He goes around kind of like with an invisible shield in front of him, and in just the few minutes that you and I have been chatting, it occurs to me that you are nothing like that. I don’t get that you suppress a whole lot of stuff. What was it like playing a character who does seem to suppress quite a bit of himself while at the same time being so open and willing to help people?”
BB: “Well, he’s a cop. So a cop helps people. You know, we have this idea of cops. But if we didn’t have cops, there’d be a whole lot of horrible stuff coming into all our worlds, and they have to keep that away from us. Cops get a bad name out there, but you wouldn’t want to be one for a million quid. But they do help people.
“I remember when I went out in L.A. one night with a cop because of a thing I was doing many years ago, and almost everything that we went to was about a domestic problem. And one other thing that happened that night was a little girl was lost, and I could hear on the radio all the time going, ‘Have you checked there?’ The whole of L.A. Central was looking for this little girl. And so I came away with a whole other understanding of what a cop’s job is, because when we look at movies or the stuff that sensationalizes, it’s always about guns and killings and whatever. But the main part of what their life is, is dealing with us, our families, domestic troubles that go on between people, kids getting lost, or whatever. That whole area is never talked about. So they’re actually there helping all the time.
“And that’s why I think a natural part of being a cop is not to be hard on people but to help people. You gotta be hard to do the job at times, but I think helping society is what the cops do. So I didn’t find it unnatural that he was that sort of character that would help. The fact was, through the shows you creep up on finding what Jack has run from. So yes, he’s not out there to explain himself to everybody, because he’s having trouble explaining himself to himself at the moment. Does that give you any idea of what I was talking about?”
LJ: “Yes, absolutely. Thank you. So, kind of along the same lines, there’s Jack and there’s Bryan. What similarities exist between the two of you?”
BB: “Well, we’re both six foot.”
LJ: “Aside from the physicality of you.”
BB: “When you come to a part, usually you go, ‘Can I play this part? And can I bring anything to the part that’s at all going to be interesting to people?’ Well, other people make up that mind, but you sort of go, ‘Can I play this part?’ In other words, do I understand the person? Do I get, when they’re in a situation, how they behave? Do I relate to that in some area of myself or life? You’re an actor. Your job is to try and pull that glove on, and all the gloves are different. But in pulling it on, it has to fit you and you have to be real in the moment. That’s your job. I always figure that the character is me. And then I go, ‘Well, hold on Bryan. You’re a bookseller there. You’re a bloody pilot there. You’re a doctor there. You’re a cop there. You’re a crim there. You can’t be all those things.’ Basically you’re talking about you just gotta be human. They’re all human.”
LJ: “You’re human, and in one of the episodes you’re in a crackin’ AC/DC tee shirt. Are they one of your favorite bands?”
BB: “Love ‘em. They’re proper rock ‘n’ roll. Yes, I wanted AC/DC, and the problem was it took them ages to get permission, so for the first three episodes I didn’t have an AC/DC tee shirt and I wanted it right from the beginning. But I ended up getting it for about the last five episodes. I don’t know. As I’ve got older, I got to like AC/DC more and more. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just their rawness or something.
“I also like longevity. I like the way that AC/DC and their music still exists, that they’re big, and that they would’ve started out being a little band that no one wanted to know about making a bit of noise in a pub. I like that longevity.”
LJ: “The same could be said for your career. And here we have you on television, which is great. What would you like to share with viewers about the show and why they should tune in?”
BB: “I think one thing they do is they get a chance to visit Australia. I think that’s very good. And I think they get the opportunity, hopefully, to spend time with a couple of people like themselves that’s trying to work out their world, which we’re always trying to work out, even in the shadow of our time.”
That there is poetry from Bryan Brown to you, folks.
Darby and Joan, an Acorn TV Original, premieres in the US and Canada with its first two episodes tomorrow, Monday, August 8, exclusively on Acorn TV and its digital channels. New episodes will debut in pairs through August 29.
In Episode 1, Joan jets off to Australia from London in order to find out what was really going on with her husband and what actually happened to him. Driving in the Outback in a large motorhome, she has a near miss of a collision with Jack in his Land Cruiser — prompting her to give him a lift, and prompting him to accompany her on her journey, at least for a while. At Joan’s first destination, they meet a group of interesting characters… and find a dead body.
Episode 2 sees Jack at the wheel of the motorhome, taking a detour while en route to Joan’s next destination in order to help one of his friends, who’s in a spot of bother with something he can’t report to the police. As Jack does unofficial detective duty, Joan starts showing her sleuthing skills. Then she discovers something her husband had been hiding…
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