You’d never know it from looking at Rush, but Callan Mulvey never had any formal training as an actor.
Mulvey, who plays Sgt. Brendan “Josh” Joshua, became an actor almost by default.
“I came in off the street really and didn’t want to be an actor, but I ended up getting a gig on Heartbreak High (1994). Nico Lathouris was the dramaturg and he trained us,” he says.
“It was the most amazing acting school I could go to because it was on the job training. It was the most wonderful foundation to start out with and there was a big focus on doing things for real.
“It was such an amazing experience. I grew so much on that gig in every way.”
Now with 16 years in the industry, including on Home and Away, Underbelly, Sea Patrol, Beastmaster, McLeod’s Daughters and All Saints, he’s perfectly at home in front of the camera.
But he’s never once performed in a theatre.
“It scares the shit out of me because I’ve never done it,” he admits.
“You’re in there for over an hour and we never go longer than 30 seconds at a time. So it’s a completely different medium and I’d be interested if the right project came along and the timing was right. But my focus is film and TV and I’m continually working towards that.”
Four seasons into TEN’s cop drama, Mulvey is one of Rush‘s poster boys, a term he awkwardly accepts. While other action and procedural dramas have departed (City Homicide, Cops LAC, Rescue Special Ops, East West 101 and Sea Patrol), Rush remains on the schedule. But it’s future isn’t yet confirmed.
To give the fourth season a point of difference, this year there has been a major arc unfolding with each episode.
“It’s fantastic to have a one-story arc for 13 episodes because we did have singular episodes that didn’t really connect to each other. There’s so much that happens this series with big journeys for each character,” Mulvey explains.
“There are things that happen that Josh feels very guilty about and he should have been more vocal about his position to the things that occur. It really affects him that he didn’t and there are some heavy consequences.
“Each episode reveals more about what’s going on and it just keeps getting deeper and deeper. It’s really just one big episode split into 13 parts.”
Unlike CSI detectives, Rush has also strived to put its characters in the middle of the action.
“In the genre we’re dealing with things as they unfold and they’re fast-paced as opposed to the traditional way of something happens and the rest of the episode is working out who did it,” he says.
“So it’s more on-the-edge of your seat entertainment. It seems to have struck a chord with a wide variety of age groups.”
The base for the Tactical Response Team, which features Sam Johnson as Intelligence Officer Leon Broznic, is housed in a Footscray warehouse that doubles as the show’s Production Office.
Much of the work for the actors playing T.R. members takes place on location, but this entails compromises for cast and crew.
“We get no rehearsal,” Mulvey insists. “There’s just no time because we’re making a Telemovie each week. So I’m very proud of firstly the quality and secondly how much we get done in the amount of time we have to do it. Everybody is extremely competent at their job.
“We rock up at a scene and sometimes we’ve gotten the script the night before and everybody’s hustling very hard to get it done, because we don’t have enough time or resources. We rock up to a location and we’re seeing it for the first time and we’ve got to work it out on the fly and come up with solutions really quickly.
“Everyday it’s a different location. It’s nice to be moving around and apart from the characters back at base we rarely have days back at the studio. We’re always out and about which we love.”
Rather cruelly, all four seasons of Rush have been filmed in Melbourne winters.
“It’s certainly not Port Douglas, but we’ve all got our thermals. Thankfully we’re not shooting winter for summer when they spray you up to look sweaty. So it’s not a bad con.”
Blue Heelers was always produced with the co-operation of Victoria Police, but while Rush only has access to experts, it prides itself on actors following police procedures.
“We have great emphasis on doing it the way it would be done, or as close to. It lends a reality to it in when you’re watching it, and we hope that it’s the case that people don’t sit there and think, ‘Oh that’s bullshit that wouldn’t happen.’ We try very hard to have everything make sense and be believable,” Mulvey insists.
“At the beginning of each season we do a bit of a refresher and we have access to people who can advise us. But we know what we’re doing and we know how to enter a room and where the possible threats might be. The great thing about our show is the actors dictate what the cameras do as opposed to the other way around.
“So we get what we would do procedurally right and once we work that out the Director and the DoP (Director of Photography) work out how to cover it, as opposed to a lot of other shows where the cameras dictate what the actors do and how it’s lit. For us the whole space is lit and we work out where we will go tactically and procedurally, which makes it a lot more real and interesting.”
Having now completed shooting, cast and crew must await news on the show’s future. Having passed 65 episodes (the margin where Screen Australia’s 20% Tax Rebate vanishes) and with ratings under pressure, a positive outcome will likely be a challenge.
Mulvey is keen to explore US opportunities, while trying to remain available for more Rush.
“I’m certainly interested in spending some time over there and getting some work but I really love Australian projects. If something did happen overseas I would always be interested in working at home and being involved in our industry here because we’ve got a lot of great stories to tell.
“There’s a shitload of things that are possible but you don’t bother talking about them because there’s so many variables that contribute to whether something happens or not. I might have a go at Pilot season but there are a few things in the pipeline.”
“Rush is an amazing show and I’ve been so grateful to have been doing it for the past four years. I know everybody says it, but I love the cast and I’ve never laughed so much in my life. There’s no ego or bullshit and everybody wants the show to be the best it can be.”
He may be optimistic but with sixteen years in the business, Mulvey is also pragmatic about the commercial realities of television drama.
“It all depends on how much soap powder we sell.”
Rush airs 8:30pm Thursdays on TEN.