Dean O’Gorman doesn’t need people to like him. In fact, for the Kiwi actor’s latest role, it was quite nice playing someone pretty cold and calculating.
“I don’t think people need to like you, they just need to be interested in you. Each character is different, but it’s actually a real weight off your shoulders to not have to worry about being sympathetic,” he says.
“It’s nice to sit back as a viewer and judge. If you want to see aspirational characters, go see X-Men. This is different.”
“This” is The Bad Seed, a five-part local drama based on a series of books by award-winning New Zealand author, Charlotte Grimshaw.
Playing out over five consecutive nights on Kiwi screens, the brooding story follows Ford (O’Gorman) and Simon Lampton, played by Matt Minto, two brothers with a dysfunctional history, who have raised themselves up from their troubled beginnings.
But everything is thrown up in the air for Simon, a successful obstetrician, and Ford, who is camping out in his little brother’s plush family home, when one of them becomes a murder suspect.
Throw in some political intrigue, cheating, lying, and the growing gap between New Zealand’s rich and poor, and there’s no hiding the darker, dirtier side of the Land of the Long White Cloud.
It’s a step away from the usual portrait of New Zealand we so often see on screen, suggests Shortland Street and Home and Away star Minto.
“I love that at no time have we lightened [the story] at all, which I think has happened in the past with this sort of stuff,” he says.
“We just committed to what it was. I love that we go between these extremes - the wealth and the poverty and the people in between. It felt really Kiwi, a snapshot of New Zealand now.”
Both actors, who have worked here and overseas, say it is time for New Zealand television to start being honest about who and what we are, now the days of cultural cringe are behind us.
“We had this real breakthrough with Shortland Street and Outrageous Fortune, where we had an ironic look at ourselves, and embraced our Kiwi-ness and our funniness, and cynicism,” says O’Gorman.
And he would know, having appeared on the hospital soap and Outrageous Fortune’s prequel, Westside, as well Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, in an acting career that began when he was just 11.
“Now, maybe - hopefully - we are at a point where we can start telling stories that don’t have to have that same style of quirkiness to be ‘New Zealand’.”
“We can commit to it and be who we are,” agrees Minto, who returned from Australia to star in The Bad Seed.
It wasn’t all heavy going though.
The series also stars Chelsie Preston Crayford, Xavier Horan and Madeleine Sami in her first major acting role since the release of her hit comedic film The Breaker Upperers, which caused a bit of confusion for Minto.
“I had to do these scenes with Madeleine and the night before, I had watched The Breaker Upperers and the next day I had to film an interrogation scene with her and I just wanted to laugh the whole way through it. I kept waiting for her to make a joke - but it never came.”
The Bad Seed is playing over five consecutive nights on TVNZ 1 starting Sunday, April 14 at 8.40pm.
* Bridget Jones is a TVNZ publicist and former entertainment reporter.