Australian actor Daniel Henshall has had a crazy year, like all of us. Recently in Adelaide to shoot A Sunburnt Christmas for Stan, he chatted to Glam from his home in Melbourne.
Previously based in New York, he returned to Australia just in time.
“At the top of the year I was back in Melbourne shooting a US TV series for Netflix called Clickbait after which I went back home to NY. Then we decided to come back at the end of March, moved back into our home here, started doing some work on it and then the four-month lockdown happened. But then I got the job [Sunburnt Christmas] so I can’t complain really.”
A Sunburnt Christmas has been produced in record time, only receiving the green light in August, and about to be screened. Henshall’s involvement was similarly fast-tracked.
“It came across my desk through my agency who also represent Christiaan [Van Vuuren, director]. I read the script in record time because it was one of the better scripts I’ve ever read, regardless of genre. It was funny, it knew what it was, it felt fresh even though some of the characters are very recognizable and very Australian, and it’s a contemporary representation of these characters. So I put down an audition tape. A couple of days later I was offered the role, and a week later I was on a plane in quarantine.”
Although COVID has, of course, had an adverse effect on film production and distribution, Henshall sees that it also gives rise to an energy, which he certainly felt on this production.
“People were wanting and willing to work, and knowing that you’re coming to work on something that’s hopefully going to relieve some of the sh***ier experiences of this year, in a family setting, where you can sit around on Boxing Day and have a bit of a laugh and maybe a bit of a cry.”
As producers still struggle with the situation in the US and Europe, Henshall believes that Australian film production may be able to fill the void.
“With Australia being a relatively safe country, it is bringing more productions here so in the near future I predict things will go gangbusters. And a lot of people who have pulled up stumps here and walked across the pond to US or Europe or UK have come home, so there’s a plethora of people here to make stuff. I think that’s also bringing interest in shows here from overseas.”
In A Sunburnt Christmas, Henshall’s character, Daryl, crashes into a drought-ridden family farm, whilst dressed as Santa Claus.
“The character on the page is very funny and very human. My interpretation of him is that he is scraping by. He makes some pretty sh***y decisions, trying to scramble out of situations. And there’s an endearing quality about how this particular character goes about that. Through meeting the family that he comes across in the film he’s challenged with his own inability to address the past, or reality. And he’s pulled into line by these three powerful, incredibly enlightened children. Within the genre of comedy, there’s some meat on the bones there: it’s not just gags. I think I brought a bit of humanity and empathy outside of the comedy: the struggle of the character.”
The three children are played by local actors, Lena Nankivell, Tatiana Goode, and Eaden McGuinness.
“They’re all really good little humans. They were incredibly willing, and open and fun and brought a great sense of investigative curiosity. The playfulness of a ten-year-old can really lighten the situation when there’s rainfall outside and it’s supposed to be 40 degrees and a drought. You have little Lena just smiling and dancing and happy to be there. Every one of them gave their all. I think they are going to steal the show.”
Due to the distribution bottleneck caused by the pandemic, Henshall has at least two projects coming out in 2021, with Clickbait set to drop in March and Catch the Fair One (filmed in Buffalo, New York) playing to festivals early next year.
A Sunburnt Christmas premieres on Stan on December 11th.