[26 January 2009]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. - How you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen L.A.? It turns out it’s easy for actor Travis Fimmel, who’s costarring in A&E’s “The Beast” with Patrick Swayze.
The Australian actor hails from a 5,500-acre dairy farm in the middle of nowhere, 10 hours from Sydney and 15 miles from the closest town of 300 people. “It’s my favorite place in the world,” he says with almost no accent.
“My dad and one brother are working the farm. They laughed when I said I wanted to act. We laugh about it,” he shrugs. “We don’t take anything serious. We work very hard but for my family, it’s just another experience in life, y’know?”
Fimmel used to milk 600 cows before and after school, not exactly the best training for acting. Though he always had a creative bent, he says, “I’m not one of those little kids that grow up wanting to be an actor. I’m a pretty shy guy, I don’t get excited about being on TV or being on stage or anything. I don’t know, there’s something in me that wants to do it and needs to be creative.”
He says his parents insisted that he continue his education in college. “I would’ve been on the farm when I was 12 if they hadn’t made me finish school,” he says, leaning forward in the overstuffed chair on the mezzanine of a hotel here.
“Then I deferred to go traveling, and I guess I’m still deferred. I went to university for a year and I’m not one for schooling and have no enjoyment sitting in a classroom all day and ended up going to live in England for two years, just to travel,” he says.
“I worked in a bar in a hotel for a couple of years and had no intention of becoming an actor. That’s where I met my agent. I wanted to see the states and I ended up getting stuck in good old L.A.”
When he first arrived in Los Angles he stayed with his agent for three weeks and borrowed $1,000 to start acting class. Fimmel, 29, is still studying.
“Half of acting is you’re very intimidated,” he says, “overcoming your fears, letting yourself be vulnerable in front of people and that sort of stuff. I’m still in the same acting class, I should be a lot better than I am.”
He was so humble about his talent that he didn’t audition for anything the first two years. “I knew I wasn’t up to par, so I wouldn’t audition then. I’ve been very lucky. My biggest problem is I love Australia so much and I spend most of my time there.”
When he finally summoned the courage to audition he tried out for pilot season and was cast in “Tarzan.” “Don’t write that,” he says, pressing the air with his hand. “It wasn’t very good. Every year I’d come back for pilot season. I had a couple that didn’t get picked up. And then I did a movie at home and a couple movies here, and went home. Came back for pilot season again and this (“The Beast”) was my favorite script and I had a chance to act opposite an acting icon, so I was so lucky they wanted me.”
About his costar, Swayze, who’s suffering from pancreatic cancer, Fimmel says, “Mostly you learn - as a human being - how fearless and inspiring he is. He’s an amazing man. I have so much respect for him. Just shows you, he’s such an icon but he’s so down-to-earth. He’s a bit of a cowboy and I’m a farm boy so ...”
Fimmel missed the first few auditions for “The Beast,” but still tried out in front of the network execs and the studio chiefs. “And (I had to) do the test, it’s not fun. It’s the first time I’ve done the test in front of them, and it’s a horrible experience. I think it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, just the pressure. I don’t like getting up in front of people and being the loud one when everybody’s out quiet and you’re the only one talking. I’m not a fan of that,” says Fimmel, who’s wearing jeans, a navy T-shirt and red baseball cap.
“I’m fine when I get in front of a camera, I don’t care. You’ll never see me on stage. Not at all,” he says.
His parents encouraged his odd career choice. “They said ‘just to live your life,’” he says. “It’s just the family stuff they give me pressure on. Why haven’t I got a girlfriend? Why haven’t I got kids? I’m working on it. I thought I’d have three kids by now,” he chuckles.
He says he doesn’t avoid dating actresses. “I’m not drawn to actresses, but I have no rules about that. I just want to be around positive people. The toughest thing will be to find a girl who will be prepared to live in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the country. I don’t think L.A.‘s the place to find one.”
Maybe a state like Montana, he ruminates. “As long as they shave under their arms, the mountain girls ... I’m on the hunt.”
Kyra Sedgwick is back as the steel magnolia in TNT’s winning “The Closer” this week. Sedgwick was very reluctant to take the part of Brenda Johnson originally because she lives with husband actor Kevin Bacon and teen-age kids in the East. “It had to be a lot about character because I’m not interested in doing a cop show,” says Sedgwick.
“I’ve been offered those ‘Law & Orders’ and I think it’s a great show and amazing the success they’ve had with it, but I would lose my mind on that kind of show. It had to be about character first and plot second. All the personal stuff has GOT to be in there.”
PBS has a treat in store for George Carlin fans. A salute to the talented late comedian will be presented when “George Carlin: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize” airs on Feb. 4. Carlin’s friends and fellow comics like Garry Shandling, Lily Tomlin, Denis Leary, Richard Belzer and Joan Rivers will take part in the 90-minute show, which will feature some of Carlin’s most famous bits.
Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin McCall, recalls what home life was like. “Growing up with my dad, I mean, I grew up in the ‘60s and the ‘70s, so there’s that cultural part of it. My dad was part of - although he was a stand-up, he was a rock ‘n’ roll stand-up. He was part of a counterculture. Our life was pretty insane and crazy, but at the same time, it was a lot of fun.”
Was there pressure to be funny? “No,” says McCall. “Luckily I got the funny in my DNA, so I didn’t have to try or feel pressured. I certainly never wanted to be a standup, no thank you. I could not do that, but, you know, it’s weird being a celebrity’s kid, so you feel pressure in other ways. We’re working on a book right now about my dad’s life, so all of this will be revealed soon enough. It was a crazy roller-coaster ride, filled with lots of love and lots of laughs and lots of insanity.”
“Life on Mars” returns to ABC on Wednesday, right after “Lost.” Irish actor Jason O’Mara plays the time-shifted lead. O’Mara is married to American actress Paige Turco and says he comes from a line of thespians. His mother acted before he was born and resumed it again later.
“We actually did a play together in Cork in 1993 called ‘Oscar and Esperanza’ about Oscar Wilde and his mom. It was kinda cool to do that. I also had a great uncle called Joseph O’Mara who had the O’Mara Opera Co. at the turn of the century. So he traveled Europe doing that. I didn’t realize I had someone like that in my heritage till a few years ago. That kind of made sense. He was an opera singer from Limerick. Now my sister’s going into it as well ... She will go on to do ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ on tour in England. So it’s in the DNA somewhere. From the looks of it my son’s going to be an actor too. He’s very dramatic. At 5 he looks at himself in the mirror and says, ‘Daddy, daddy, this is my sad face.’ It’s hilarious and, of course, Paige and I go, ‘Oh, no! He’s going to be an actor.’”