Australian actor and television presenter Daniel MacPherson is best known for his role as Joel Samuels in Neighbours and as the host of Dancing With The Stars (DWTS). This year, the 34-year-old quit DWTS after seven seasons, landed the lead in the Australian sci-fi film Infini and just completed filming the US fantasy series The Shannara Chronicles. I caught up with the James Boag’s ambassador to chat about taking a risk in his career, the role that pushed his boundaries as an actor and his upcoming wedding with actor Zoe Ventoura.
You have returned to acting, tell me about your latest roles.
I’ve just [completed] work on a US TV series called The Shannara Chronicles, which are a big fantasy series for MTV. So, I’ve been based in Auckland since January, which has been really exciting. We’re just coming up to an epic 10-part series playing Arion, a warrior prince. So, lots of prosthetics and lots of makeup and that’s pretty cool.
When is it scheduled to air?
Hopefully, later this year or early next year. It depends on the powers that be at MTV in America. So that has been really exciting and I had a movie come out recently called Infini, which is Australian sci-fi movie that we did with Luke Hemsworth and Luke Ford and a really great ensemble cast. There has been a great buzz around that.
Where do you call home now?
Home has been LA for the last two and a half years but I’ve been living out of a suitcase since August last year, which is good and bad. It’s one of the best and worst things about the entertainment game – you never know what’s around the corner. I’m coming back to Australia to start work on another feature film later in the year and then I’m up for a job in Canada, another one in New Zealand and another one in Australia. So, I don’t know where I’m going to have to unpack my suitcase next.
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement to date?
I think there has been so many series, and things I am so incredibly proud of throughout my career. I’ve done so many great series and even to be able to jump from Neighbours and 16 years later still have a really healthy career is something I’m definitely proud of. But, I think most recently it would be Infini. It was my first major leading role in a feature film. That film pushed and tested me, not only as an actor, but also as a person, for three months of my life. But it pushed me to unlock a completely new side to my career and maybe further than I’ve ever gone as an actor. So, that has just really changed the trajectory of my career.
How did it push and test you as an actor?
Well, I think for the director [Shane Abbess] to take a chance and give the host of Dancing With The Stars a lead role in a movie was a huge risk. It was sink or swim for him and me. I really put everything into that [role]. I was living on the set. It was a very method, immersive style of filmmaking and I just pushed myself to the brink of my health and my sanity but the reward was incredible. Not many people who knew me thought I was capable of [my performance] and that was a very satisfying achievement.
Did you ever feel that there was a stigma against you in the acting world because you were a presenter on DWTS?
Probably. I guess so. Whether it happened behind my back or what not, or whether it was just imagined in my head, I don’t know. I’ve always just believed that if your work is good enough then it shouldn’t matter. I’ve always stuck by that. It’s helped because it made me work harder to disprove that theory, and disprove that, “he is just a TV presenter or he is just a TV guy”. But actually to go and to put in a worthy leading-man, feature-film performance is something that’s surprising a lot of people and it’s very satisfying.
Was it a tough decision to call it quits on DWTS?
Yes, I decided to step away this year. I’ve done seven series and I just really enjoyed it. I loved working with Eddie [Bartholomew] and I loved that crew and all those dancers. I’ve lot of great friends [from it] so it was a really tough decision but it was time for me to focus completely on another aspect of my career. I really do love live TV but it was time to take a risk.
Would you ever compete as a dancer on DWTS?
[Laughs] I’m the worst dancer! I would love to dance like those guys but just give me a series off – let the dust settle for a while and we’ll see what happens.
If you could play any role, who or what would it be?
Some of my favourite movies growing up were war movies. Saving Private Ryan was one of my favourites. Even recently, Fury was a real favourite. So, I love that World War II genre.
Congratulations on your engagement.
Thanks, we got engaged in December, pretty much after the last shoot of Dancing [With The Stars] finished and pretty much haven’t seen each other since! [Laughs] we truly have an international relationship this year. But, we’ve made it work.
You both have such busy work schedules, how do you make it work?
We just maximise our time [together] and we’re become very good at negotiating airports and travel schedules. But the secret is to make sure your relationship is your main priority. It’s as simple as that. We’ve been going between Los Angeles, Sydney, Auckland and Zoe has been shooting Pirates of the Caribbean on the Gold Coast. We’ve just been managing schedules. But, we’ve done it successfully and I think we’re about due for a holiday, to be honest.
Have you set a date for your wedding?
That’s a great question. That’s a question that both of the mothers keep asking. No, but hopefully before the end of the year. It’s a lot of organisation. We’ll hopefully try and do it before the end of the year. But, we’re still trying to [be in] the same place.
Can you give away any details or is it top secret?
We’ve haven’t planned it yet. But we’re looking at kind of a weekend escape for our family and friends. Maybe down the Hunter Valley or south of Sydney. A weekend getaway with good friends and a wonderful celebration is what we’ve got in mind.
WE WENT TO The Birdcage, Doomben Racecourse, Brisbane.
WE ATE a selection of canapes
WE DRANK James Boag’s beer and sparkling water.
I WORE Scanlan and Theodore jacket and skirt and Nerida Winter bow.