Alex O’Loughlin talks about his role in Moonlight
AFTER three years in Los Angeles, Aussie Alex O’Loughlin has finally found a role he can sink his teeth into
It’s a typical day in Los Angeles. The midafternoon sun has finally penetrated a gauze-like haze and the atmosphere behind the famous wrought-iron gates of Warner Bros studios is as Hollywood as you can get. A line of star trailers, make-up and wardrobe vans and outrageously expensive exotic cars are parked outside sound stages. While film and TV crew members fly past in golf carts to reach various studios on the lot, a director’s assistant, giving a two-way radio a solid workout, is searching for an actor Aussie Alex O’Loughlin.
O’Loughlin is the vampire-playing star of the drama series Moonlight and there’s concern his hair and make-up routine – including application of his character’s intricately designed, painted-on tattoos – will make him late for filming his first scene of the day.
It turns out O’Loughlin, 32, who rose to prominence in Australia in the mini-series The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant and the movie The Oyster Farmer, is in his trailer, recovering from the rigours of a previous day’s work that kept him on set until 2am.
Later, puffing on a cigar in a break from filming, O’Loughlin says he’s taking none of this sudden international success for granted. Waving away a billowing plume of cigar smoke, he explains how Moonlight just may be the show that rescues him from extended bouts of unemployment and the ever-present prospect of debt.
“I’ve been living here coming up to three years,” O’Loughlin says of Los Angeles. “The government here is f—-d up and it’s hard to find good food that’s not full of sugar, but the people here are great and I’m grateful this country has opened its arms to me and let me work here.”
His Hollywood drama breakthrough, however, has come at a cost. Long work hours have had a huge impact on his life with fellow Aussie, singer-actor Holly Valance. O’Loughlin, as Moonlight’s leading man, vampire Mick St John, spends up to 16 hours a day on set. When he’s done with work for the day, he heads home for a quick dinner, then starts memorising dialogue for the following day’s shoot. Weekends, he says, are for sleeping.
“Time is the thing. A show like this pulls all your time away from you. Usually I’ll get home from work on a Saturday about 10am (after doing night shooting) and I’ll sleep until Saturday afternoon. Saturday night and Sunday I’m usually feeling wiped out and I’ve not seen Holly all week. It’s a pretty full-on life, but what do you do? I love my work and there are sacrifices.”
And working on a Hollywood drama sure beats scrounging for guest roles and dealing with constant rejection on the audition circuit. “The first year I was here I was auditioning all the time and got no work,” O’Loughlin says. “I had no money and a piece of s— car and in the end I had to hock things like my stereo to get by. I was just doing anything to scrape by, working on a building site for $15 an hour.”
“There were times I was thinking, ‘What am I doing, this is crazy’. I was scared because I had no money and no ticket home. That is the time when everyone else packs up and leaves. But I remembered everything my grandfather taught me about the work ethic before he died. He was brought up out in the bush and his advice was ‘put your head down and keep working, son, and you’ll get what’s coming to you’. You just push through.”
“This is the first time I’ve been paid (in the US) and, mate, it’s nice not having to worry about making the rent. I did a Warner Bros film and it actually cost me 10 grand to do it. You might scratch your head and say how can that be, but trust me.”
“You go from doing independent films where you’re getting paid very little or it’s costing you to do work to get your career going. Then, overnight, you start getting paid if you keep pushing through. You accumulate 10 to 20 years of debt and if you stick at this and are lucky, you can start paying it off.”
“I’ve got to tell you, man, it’s (success) not always about having great talent. Great talent does not always equate to success. I do not think I’m a great talent. I think I’m a medium talent, but I think I understand the business and enjoy the business. It’s a rightplaceat-the-right-time kind of business, but it’s also about perseverance.”
- Of course the interviewer made a slight mistake. Alex was most probably not late because of adding his tattoos, but because of covering it, maybe for one of his few shirtless scenes in Moonlight. [Thanks Janno]