In our screen dramas he’s been utterly convincing on both sides of the law, but actor David Field is happy to centrestage in the much lighter drama of Seven’s Secret Daughter.
“I always say ‘There’s not much difference, it’s just the suit,'” Field says of playing good guys and bad guys.
“City Homicide was 3 years, BlackJack was a cop, Catching Milat was a cop. Everynight Everynight was a crim, Ghosts of the Civil Dead was a crim, Chopper was a crim, Two Hands was a crim, Gettin’ Square was a crim.
“I’ve had enough of killin’ people, rapin’ people, robbin’ people….”
“We have quite a few melodramatic moments”
Thankfully as Gus Carter on The Secret Daughter he adopts a lighter style in a show he happily acknowledges as melodrama.
“(Director) Sidney Lumet talks about the difference between drama and melodrama in his book. When it’s put that way some of the best stuff we’ve ever seen –in the ‘30s & ‘40s- were melodramas,” he explains.
“We have quite a few melodramatic moments because of the nature of the story and it’s fun to play that stuff.
“We’d all love to be doing Shakespeare and getting ten grand a week. But when you take a job with someone, you take the job. I’m a real believer in that. Bring it, otherwise why did you take it?
“Gus is more of a grifter, a bit more in-between. A poor bastard with a good heart who loves his kid more than anything in the world, which is not hard to do considering who is standing opposite me.”
Indeed, opposite him for much of the series is Jessica Mauboy as Billie Carter, a relative newcomer to acting on screen, following her success in Bran Nu Dae and The Sapphires. Field is full of praise for his co-star.
“I say to her some days ‘There’s gotta be a devil in there somewhere!’ She’s friggin’ angelic! She really brings her persona to this everyday, it’s unbelievable.
“She has such an intelligence that she just grabbed everything very quickly. She’s a dead set star –there’s not many people I would say that about,” he continues.
“It was easy to have the chemistry straight away.”
Field credits many of the projects he has done with Indigenous performers as underpinning the relationship he has with Mauboy, and indeed helping him bring context to a role that could have been misunderstood.
“I know pretty much all the blackfella actors around, I’ve either worked with them or known their mothers and fathers, uncles and aunties. So Jess knew who I was in that regard,” he says.
“So it was easy to have the chemistry straight away.
“If you have a young Koori kid on your arm blackfellas will be spotting you, and wondering what’s going on.
“Ultimately at the end of it there is a deep, loving relationship. I really enjoy that side.”
Field got his start in show business by training at the Ensemble Theatre with director Hayes Gordon. In addition to roles with Belvoir Street Theatre and productions in Melbourne & Adelaide, it was 1986’s Ghost of the Civil Dead that he credits as the start of his screen career. Now he is one of the country’s leading character actors.
“It was mostly film and theatre but then in the last 10 or 12 years there has been a lot more television. I’m still doing films in between but I haven’t done theatre for about 8 years. I wouldn’t mind it if there was the right role. I really miss it.
“When you get the opportunity to play a real character I love that. Something like Chopper was a good character role. Last Cab to Darwin was adjusting across, a bit. That’s the truth of it. You rarely get to play a real ‘character’ where you have to change your bio-rhythms or physical tempo. It’s more than make-up and hair to really play character. When that comes along I love it,” he declares.
““Seven have been really good to me the last 10 years.”
“But I suppose most people think of me as a character actor. I don’t know what the difference is. I don’t really get it.
“I don’t really mind what people want to call me.
“Seven have been really good to me the last 10 years. City Homicide, Wild Boys, Milat and this one. They are good to work for. Screentime has been a good company too, I have no hesitation in saying that.”
When he isn’t performing on screen Field can be found doing voice-overs, playing music in The Number 4 Band alongside Geoff Morrell & Tim Oxley or directing his own film projects (The Combination 2) .
“I would do television if they asked me,” he says of directing.
“If they asked me to do a block, I’d be in, in a minute.”
The Secret Daughter continues 8:35pm Wednesday on Seven.