He is, without a doubt, having his moment: Patrick Brammall, 37 is on our big and small screens this month with both Ruben Guthrie and Glitch and Australian audiences can’t seem to get enough of him. Caroline Baum talks to the actor in Sydney.
The past five years have seen Brammall work almost without interruption on shows such as Offspring, Little Death, Upper Middle Bogan and The Moodys, confirming his gift for comedy and his ability to stretch into more serious dramatic roles with ease.
Which doesn’t mean that plum roles fall in his lap: he has the humility to admit that he had to audition three times for his role in Glitch, even though showrunner/writer Louise Fox created the part with him in mind.
“I had to do the scene in which Sergeant James Hayes realises his wife is back from the dead at the first audition and then again with different people in the room. Then they rang me back and said ‘You’re great at the emotional stuff, but we’re not sure you can be a cop.’ So then I had to go back a third time and yell and be commanding‘. He adds with a smile, ‘it also helps to be a cop if you actually give me a cop’s uniform…!’
Which is what we will see him in next in an innovative new comedy series called No Activity in which Brammall teams up with another very physical actor, Darren Gilshenan. They play cops on a stake-out where nothing happens. They’re paired with a couple of crims played by David Field and Dan Wylie, who also spend most of their time waiting for something to happen, talking about nothing. ‘Yeah it’s kind of like the cop version of Waiting for Godot,’ jokes Brammall.
‘It’s an exciting project because it’s the first piece of original drama commissioned by Stan (the Australian content streaming company) and it’s unscripted, totally improvised. ‘We shot it in ten days, but the challenge at the moment is in the edit, which I’m involved in,’ says Brammall – a hint perhaps of things to come in his career though he denies any desire to direct.
Back in the day when there was down time between jobs, Brammall always wrote material he wanted to develop, suggesting that his future may include more scripting. He wrote an episode of the hugely successful The Moodys (series two) and hosting the 2014 AACTA awards he earned major laughs with his polished joke about how the name Baz should really be a verb ‘meaning to gild or embroider an established thing until it sparkles’. Proof that a sharp wit complements his on-screen charm and kinetic energy.
That signature talent for physical comedy goes back Brammall’s drama school days at the VCA in Melbourne from which he graduated in 2001. “My teachers there used to tell me I was a bit ‘handsy’. When I get excited about an idea, I tend to become more physically expressive. I’m good at roles that involve frustration; it’s a family trait to have a bit of a short fuse of getting upset fast over little things. And also I’m quite controlling by nature” he says with characteristic candour.
Brammall uses his own internal compass to pick and choose projects rather than relying on the advice of others. “I think that’s something you have to develop your own gauge and judgement as an actor”. He hankers for the chance to do more theatre, but that seems unlikely for the moment because of scheduling issues. He shot a pilot in LA recently and is not resisting the lure of working in the US. “Let’s face it, I would’nt go there necessarily because of the quality of the work but because you get paid proper money for what you do.”
One of the few downsides of working continuously is that Brammall finds it hard to relax.
In an effort to counter that he recently walked the Camino across Spain “to try and make some space in my head. Much of the time the experience was uncomfortable and mundane but it taught me to be more accepting of the situation and to surrender to things.”
In his case, that may mean surrendering to success.
Catch Patrick Brammall on ABC TV in Glitch: all 6 episodes are on iview now