Andrew MacFarlane graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1973, with fellow classmate Tina Bursill. Yet as he edges closer to 50 years in the business, he is still in demand.
Seen recently in Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, Glitch, Pulse, Seven Types of Ambiguity, Newton’s Law, The Code, Cleverman and Devil’s Playground, he is about to premiere in Foxtel’s Secret City.
“Once we turned 50 the work started to re-energise with new and interesting characters,” he tells TV Tonight.
“Tina’s in a long-running television series with Doctor Doctor, and I’ve had a handful of great acting opportunities in the last 5 years. It’s been fantastic.
“So there ain’t no slowing down for the grey nomads!”
Anna Torv returns in the 6 part political thriller and alongside Jacki Weaver, Sacha Horler, Marcus Graham and Justin Smith. New cast include Danielle Cormack, Don Hany, Rob Collins, Joel Tobeck and Louisa Mignone.
McFarlane joins as Air Chief Marshall Lockwood, ensnared in a political cover-up, surrounding a military operation in Pakistan so secret not even the Prime Minister (Hany) is aware of it.
‘This is so secretive they went in without authority, from either side really, to get this job done but it goes wrong and they capture somebody. Then the blame game starts,” he explains.
“It’s geo-politics, Game of Thrones stuff. You never know who’s telling the truth at any given moment.”
“Everybody has something they don’t want exposed”
So grey are the lines between the virtuous and compromised characters that not even McFarlane could be sure during filming whether he was inherently a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie.’
“Even as actors we were asking ‘Am I being deliberately obscure here? Do I have something to hide?’ Everybody has something they don’t want exposed to the light of day, but I think there are many shades. There are obviously people who are downright ‘baddies’ if you want to put it that way, and others who are compromised,” he continues.
“My character has an unblemished military record. He’s been decorated, worked in Afghanistan & Iran, and has links with characters in the story. But there were dealings in that area that he doesn’t really want exposed because it will compromise his reputation and position.”
“Whether she comes out battered and bruised is another matter.”
But the hero’s journey, as depicted by Anna Torv as ex-journalist Harriet Dunkley, says true.
“I think we can be assured Harriet will see the light of day. Whether she comes out battered and bruised is another matter. She’s such a strong and interesting character, but she is the one who wants to expose the truth,” MacFarlane assures.
“She has the flaming torch.”
Filming of the Matchbox Pictures drama was granted privileged access to the corridors of Parliament House, during non-siting weeks.
“We had access to board rooms and committee rooms that would normally be unavailable to us.
“We used the Prime Minister’s courtyard and his anti-chamber which has about 4 reception rooms, which in itself was eye-opening.
“Only a matter of weeks later we saw Malcolm come out of those doors to announce that the spill was on.”
“You can’t tell what’s going on inside a lot of the buildings there.”
Written by Matt Cameron, Belinda Chayko and Elise McCredie, the production shot from February – April in Canberra and Sydney and stark ACT locations serve as a backdrop to its cool intrigue.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the warmest city because Canberra has this brutalist architecture and the way the city is planned and designed it has a certain emotion to it. But there’s a slight mystery to it because it still has a country atmosphere and there are mists around the lake. We were filming in autumn so it lends a slight mystery without being able to define what it is,” he continues.
“You can’t tell what’s going on inside a lot of the buildings there. They have reflective glass or ¾ of them are underground. It’s a bit of a Secret City in itself.”
“They all came from the Crawfords stable”
McFarlane is now busy in theatre circles, but I can’t let him go without a nod to the great TV dramas of his early career. With titles such as The Sullivans, Division 4 and The Flying Doctors, he remains indebted to Crawford Productions.
“Crawfords was a major employer, at one stage doing maybe 8 shows with a cop show weekly, miniseries like All the Rivers Run, Flying Doctors, they had soap operas going… so there was a huge opportunity to work in a variety of fields, as a young actor. You learned so much with other actors and technicians,” he recalls.
“A lot who were cameramen, or clapper loaders and boom operators, are now heads of departments, producing and directing. But they all came from the Crawfords stable in Melbourne all those years ago.
“Hector Crawford kind of established the television industry in Australia.
“My career was really set up because of that and the opportunities given to young actors.”
Secret City airs 8:30pm Monday on FOX Showcase.