Full Circle: Daniel MacPherson on Rediscovery, Roles, and Returning to Melbourne’s Stage

Walking into Her Majesty’s Theatre, one can palpably feel the anticipation surrounding the Australian production of 2:22 – A Ghost Story. Central to this excitement is the return of one of Australia’s most beloved actors, Daniel MacPherson, to Melbourne’s stage in a leading role. MacPherson’s storied career, ranging from television to film and now live theatre, showcases the depth of his talent. In a recent interview, he opened up about his role in the supernatural play and his journey back home.

At the core of 2:22 – A Ghost Story is MacPherson’s portrayal of ‘Ben’, a character defined by his intensity. “Ben is a big character, big opinions, big feelings, big energy,” Daniel remarks. However, as with many actors, there’s a touch of MacPherson within the character, though he jests it’s “more than I would care to admit!”. He crafted ‘Ben’ from the experiences and people he has encountered throughout his life.

In 2:22 – A Ghost Story, you play the role of ‘Ben’. How do you relate to this character, and what unique aspects of your own personality do you bring to the role?

Ben is a big character, big opinions, big feelings, big energy. So everything was turned UP from the start, which allowed me then to find those moments and messages where we could really drop DOWN and land the key points with precision and focus. Often the opposite of how a character is played, but that kind of vocal and physical size suits me well and I enjoy it a lot. I’m not sure how much of my own personality is in there, more than  I would care to admit I am sure! Ben was created by stealing traits from friends, ex colleagues and some characters I’ve met along the journey!

His experience on the sets of science fiction series like ‘Foundation’ to crime dramas such as ‘City Homicide’ has certainly influenced his approach to this current role. “The preparation and execution for stage acting in a play like 2:22 – A Ghost Story differ significantly,” he explains. For MacPherson, theatre feels more like an athlete’s discipline than TV or film, with performances requiring rigorous vocal and physical commitment.

You have a vast range of acting experience, from science fiction in ‘Foundation’ to crime series like ‘City Homicide’ and now a supernatural play. How does the preparation and execution for stage acting in a play like 2:22 – A Ghost Story differ from your past roles in television and film?

There is a lot of sustained discipline that I need for a run like this. While only a month of performances, there are only 4 people on stage for the vast majority of the play, so the physical and vocal commitment is more akin to an athlete than a TV or film role. I love the opportunity to continually refine the performance day after day. Exploring and trying new ideas, little changes in intention or timing can sometimes unlock whole new areas of connection and discovery. Often in film or TV you’re limited in creativity by so many factors, and often its only after a day of filming you get home and come up with a stack of new ideas! During a run like 2.22 you get to step out the very next performance and test some of those ideas. The continual pursuit of improvement and discovery keeps it fresh and exciting for me.

Perhaps what stands out most about MacPherson’s approach to ‘Ben’ is his reference to the UK version of the script, offering insights into how closely he analyses his characters. Having spent a considerable amount of his career in London, MacPherson possesses first-hand understanding of the British class system. This insight was invaluable in adapting his role from the original UK setting to a Melbourne one, while still preserving the essence of ‘Ben’.

Can you share some insights into how you approach this role and how you prepared to be part of a play that combines supernatural elements with social commentary?

To understand Ben and his role within the quartet, I had to go back to the original UK version of the script and see how he was created by Danny Robbins. Having lived and worked in London for a lot of my life, I’ve had first-hand knowledge of the class system in the UK, and had mates just like him over there!  Understanding clearly the specificity of the dialogue and relationships in the UK version made it easier for me to adapt back here in Melbourne. Eddie Perfect did a great job of scripting the play to a Melbourne setting, but I was always aware of the origins of Ben as written, and tried to stay true to those themes that were refined so well out of the UK versions of the play.

Drawing from his hosting experience in live TV, such as ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and ‘X-Factor Australia’, he sees parallels between live television and theatre. To him, the live experience, be it in theatre or TV, is a domain he owns, where nerves are a thing of the past. This expertise translates to an even greater appreciation of film sets where he’s afforded multiple takes.

Given your hosting experience on shows like Dancing With The Stars and X-Factor Australia, how has being on the other side of the camera influenced your acting approach, particularly in live theatre, and what can audiences expect from your performance in 2:22 – A Ghost Story?

Its funny, having done a majority of my live theatre in my 20s in the UK – including a UK tour of Godspell the Musical – I always described hosting live TV as the closest thing to live theatre. Having now accumulated hundreds of hours of both throughout my career, there’s a very comfortable feel to both. Things like nerves are long gone and there’s a lovely calm ownership of the ‘live’ space – be it Theatre or TV. What it has also given me is a lovely confidence with anything pre -recorded, because if I can turn it on live, essentially in one take, well then having multiple takes on a film set is an absolute luxury!

But beyond the mechanics of acting, there’s an emotional core to MacPherson’s return to Melbourne’s theatre scene. Describing his role in 2:22 – A Ghost Story as a ‘homecoming’, he fondly recalls his initial forays into acting with ‘Neighbours’. His journey since has taken him around the globe, but returning to Melbourne, to the iconic Her Majesty’s Theatre, is “a wonderful reminder of how far I’ve come”, he shares.

You described joining the cast of 2:22 – A Ghost Story as a ‘homecoming’. Could you expand on what returning to the stage in Melbourne means to you, especially in the context of this production?

My very first job acting was in Neighbours, where I started in February 1998. I’d never lived out of home before, and I had never worked or acted professionally before. Melbourne was my first new entertainment ‘home’ and after 4 years living and working here, set me on the journey of my career that has taken me around the world multiple times. Living and working in places like Budapest, Zagreb, Singapore, Auckland, Chicago, London, Los Angeles and many many more. To return to Melbourne 25 years later, as the lead in play, at the most iconic theatre – Her Majesty’s – has been wonderful reminder of how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, and just how grateful I am for all that Melbourne has given me over the years and shaped the man I am.

It’s evident that Daniel MacPherson’s role in 2:22 – A Ghost Story is more than just another credit to his extensive acting portfolio. It’s a testament to his commitment to the craft, his evolution as an actor, and his heartfelt connection to Melbourne. The city that once saw a young actor embarking on an unknown journey now welcomes back a seasoned performer, ready to enthrall audiences once again.

Those eager to witness MacPherson’s captivating performance should mark their calendars: tickets will be available exclusively on 222aghoststory.com. Don’t miss the chance to be a part of this evocative theatrical journey until Sunday 20th August!

Photo Credit: Justin Aveling

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *