Top of His Game – From teen heartthrob to a courageous soldier, Australian born Daniel MacPherson chats about the range of his acting career and doing his own stunts with DAMAN
Despite being in the TV industry since he was 17 years old, Daniel MacPherson was, first and foremost, an athlete. If he hadn’t been discovered while competing in a triathlon many years ago, maybe we won’t be here talking about his acting career. He started his journey into acting in an Australian television soap opera, in a role that was specifically written for him. From that moment on, the path for him to become a pro actor was wide open. He’s been a heartthrob, a detective, a TV presenter, etc. But at the peak of his fame in Australia, MacPherson took the leap and move to Los Angeles, as he has always craved for something bigger and better.
Although the transition was not an easy one, the 38-year old actor kept a positive attitude and struggled to achieve his big dream. After a rough start, a run of auditions started to go through. He did an indie film called “Generational Sins,” a small role in “A Wrinkle in Time” and a series in Chicago called “APB” when he got a callback for “Strike Back,” an action-adventure television series on Cinemax. He joined the sixth season of “Strike Back” as Sergeant Samuel Wyatt. We had a chat with him while he’s not jumping out of helicopters or chasing down bad guys all over the world.
DAMAN: You filmed “Strike Back: Revolution” in Malaysia and spent quite some time there. How’s Malaysia been treating you?
Daniel MacPherson: Malaysia was a wonderful experience, I really loved it. We started out in KL for two months, five weeks in Penang, then down around Pinewood Iskander studios and JB. From there we tripped to places like Langkawi, Singapore, Hong Kong and even a trip back to Sydney to see my family. I loved Malaysia, and we were so lucky to see so much of it. On screen, it just looks incredible, from the neon wonderland of KL, to the vibrant colors of Penang to the sweaty vast jungles around Johor, it just looks awesome on screen.
DAMAN: What do you love and hate about your character, Sergeant Samuel Wyatt, and why?
Daniel MacPherson: Wyatt is a complex character to play. I love that he has a great sense of humor and can be a real jerk, but also had a deep moral core and the complexity of battling PTSD. I really love the guy, he has a big heart.
DAMAN: Has your character evolved between “Strike Back: Retribution” and “Revolution”?
Daniel MacPherson: I think this season we see more of the entire spectrum of who Wyatt is. Last year, we didn’t get to know him so well, he was less developed, and could easily just come off as shallow and cocky. This year, in collaboration with Jack Lothian our writer and showrunner, we’ve really made him a far deeper, more complex character and I certainly enjoyed bringing that to the screen.
DAMAN: Do you do your own stunts? If you do, what’s that like?
Daniel MacPherson: On a job like “Strike Back” we like to do as many of our own stunts as we can. The physical nature of the job is why we all signed up, I think. But we have one of the best stunt teams in the world, and over the course of a six month shoot, it’s nice to step aside and let someone else take a beating for a day. My stunt double Atilla is a great guy. He’s hungarian and also the best dancer we have in the crew.
DAMAN: How do you prepare for each role you take on?
Daniel MacPherson: Each role is entirely different, but I always want to get deep into the backstory of a character. I spend a lot of time writing character memories, and daydreaming about their past. Building experiences through imagination to help fully flesh out a character. That’s the fun part. For a role like “Strike Back”, I put on 12 kg of muscle, started doing CrossFit and weapons training with the Navy Seals and U.S. Marines.
DAMAN: How often do you exercise in and out of a role?
Daniel MacPherson: I exercise every day, it keeps me happy and sane. I grew up playing rugby in Sydney then discovered triathlons in the early ’90s. i raced triathlons and cycled my whole life. So, I always keep fit. I raced at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in 2009, and other world championships over the years. Running, surfing, hiking, I do it all. In the last five years or so that training then gets adjusted to whatever shape I need to be in. Say, getting down to 65 kg to play a jockey in “The Cup,” or up to 85 kg for sergeant Wyatt.
DAMAN: What drives you?
Daniel MacPherson: I was picked of the side of a road at a triathlon in Sydney at age 16. So, initially it was not a drive, but kind a novelty ride. My first job was on an Australian soap called “Neighbours” and from there I went to London for five years. As I got older my drive has become about studying the craft, refining my process and seeing how good I can be as an actor, how far I can go. I’ve come to realize that I’m chasing an art form, but it’s a beautiful pursuit.
DAMAN: Would you be interested in directing one day?
Daniel MacPherson: Absolutely. I think you just get to a point where you want to tell the whole story. I love collaboration, I love working with a talented team. Directing scares the life out of me, but I think that’s a pretty good reason to go after it.
DAMAN: Where has been your favorite place to travel for work and why?
Daniel MacPherson: I’ve been so lucky that this career has taken me around the world. In the last few years alone I’ve been based in L.A. but worked in N.Y., Chicago, New Zealand, Jordan, Croatia, Budapest and then 2018 in Malaysia. I don’t think I can pick a favorite. I loved Penang for the mix of cultures, food and color. Singapore was vibrant and plenty of fun for our “Strike Back” weekends! I loved Chicago; I went to a see the Bears play at Soldier Field. I’ve been through a few passports I tell you!
DAMAN: You’re living in the U.S. now. What is the main difference between there and Australia?
Daniel MacPherson: My wife Zoe and I have been in the U.S. now since 2012. I love it here. We were living in West Hollywood, in L.A., but moved to Santa Monica in 2014. I need to be close to the beach, and we have Malibu nearby also. I think the California beach culture is very similar to Australia and that’s why so many Aussies feel at home here. It’s also the center of the universe for film and TV. I see Arnold Schwarzenegger riding his bike to the gym in the mornings and Zoe got parked in at Starbucks by Lady Gaga one day. It’s a surreal kind of town sometimes.
DAMAN: We see you post your bike a lot on Instagram. Did you build your own bike and how many bikes do you own?
Daniel MacPherson: I’ve been fortunate enough to be sponsored by Giant Bicycles for the last 15 years or so. They are good friends and I always have a bike with me wherever I travel. I have maybe 15 bikes in my garage in Australia. Road bikes, tri bikes, some mountain bikes and off road CX bikes too. My current favorite is the new Propel Advanced Disc. I have it with me in L.A. and I’ve been riding with friends up in the mountains of Malibu and the Hollywood Hills. Cycling is great to get out and get some fresh air, explore new cities and places. It’s a great way to spend time with my friends and best of all, it always finishes with coffee. I think there’s not much that compares to the simple joy of riding a bike.
DAMAN: Tell us about your latest tattoo. How many do you have in total and are there any special stories behind them?
Daniel MacPherson: I have three tattoos now, all on my inside right arm. The two main pieces are by an Australian artist in L.A., Sara Bowyer. They are both black and red, with themes of life and death, love, family, nature, ocean and balance. My mum says that they look badass, so I guess ill get some more, but I like to keep them hidden.
DAMAN: Can you play any music instruments by any chance ?
Daniel MacPherson: I have played guitar for 20 years. I began by teaching myself while I was babysitting my brother and sister. I have a Gibson songwriter deluxe, and I just bought my wife a Martin Mini for Christmas, which I’ve been playing with lot when she’s not looking!
DAMAN: Any exciting projects waiting for you in 2019?
Daniel MacPherson: I’m developing a couple of TV and film projects, one of which is set in Indonesia and Malaysia which is exciting. So, i’m getting my producer hat on. We are set for more “Strike Back”, so back training and off to Croatia for our next season of action!
DAMAN: You have quite a following on Instagram. What was the weirdest comment/message you ever got? And do those kinds of things bother you?
Daniel MacPherson: I’ve had some interesting offers over the years. [Laughs] But no, they don’t bother me at all. I love chatting to fans of the show and people from all over the world. It spins me out how far around the world a show like “Strike Back” actually reaches.
DAMAN: What was the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Daniel MacPherson: Never believe your own publicity. That, and to start meditation. It’ll change your life and it did.
Photography Joshua Tendero
Styling Lisette Mora
Grooming Robert Ryan
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