Danielle Cormack is an award-winning actor with wide experience across television, film and theatre. The New Zealander came to prominence in Australia with her performances in Underbelly and Wentworth and is currently playing an ambitious currency trader inBoys Will Be Boys at Sydney Theatre Company. She chatted to me about working on stage, preparing for a role and inspiring people through acting.
What are you up to at that moment?
I’m doing a play called Boys Will Be Boys and I’ve just negotiated my contract for Wentworth series four, so we start shooting in August. I’ve done lots of publicity for series three, which [began] to air on April 7. This play is keeping me really busy; the script is incredibly dense, text-wise, so lots of sleepless nights talking to myself like a mad person. And of course being a mum and the daily grind.
Tell me about Boys Will Be Boys?
[My character] Astrid Wentworth is one of the top female stockbrokers from her firm and she’s unapologetically, vigorously worked her way into that position, and she takes on a mentee, who she wants to mentor. Through that we are introduced into the world of being a female broker in what has been historically a man’s world.
Do you prefer working in theatre or television?
I don’t have a preference. Both mediums are exceptional because they offer different things. [In] theatre you have the luxury of rehearsals for a script that lasts an hour and a half, and then of course the immediacy of performing in front of a live audience – that is magic. [But] there is no break in the hour and a half. And in TV you have the luxury of being able to say “stop”. But they both require a certain discipline.
How do you prepare for a role?
Depending on the work, I try to investigate the world – whatever world is being established. For example, [for] Wentworth I did as much research as I could about women in jail … And then just observing people who might be of that ilk. I think there are so many ways of preparing for a role and I don’t have one particular way as I feel like that’s dangerous for me. If I was to apply myself to a method every single time, I would tie myself in knots.
Do you find it hard to go out of character when you go home at night?
I don’t find that too difficult – but maybe talk to my family as they might differ [laughs]! Sometimes I feel like the character shouldn’t be too far from who you are. Maybe that’s why I’m an actor: because most of the characters I play, they reside in me anyway, and it’s about finding that part of yourself and embellishing it and exploring it and allowing it to take over a little bit more.
What has been your favourite role?
That’s a hard one but I think for me a lot of the time, once it’s done, it’s done, and I move on to the next [one]. So my favourite project is what I’m doing now because it’s where my focus is.
Is there a role you would like to play but have not yet?
I remember always being intrigued by this movie Orlando – it’s a Sally Potter film and it’s the first film I saw with Tilda Swinton in it and it’s the most amazing story and it just messes with gender. Then looking at films like Boys Don’t Cry and I would like to play a man. I’m not sure it has to be a story about transition, but how cool would it be to play a man?
Who are the actors you admire and look up to?
I’ve just been watching Transparent and Jeffrey Tambor, he plays the lead. People [like him] who take risks and really go there with their characters. Obviously your staple actors are Cate Blanchett, Sean Penn, Robert De Niro, who are the royalty of the industry, but the world is flooded with so many great actors and sometimes you just see unknown actors who just move you and inspire you. I used to get a little star struck but now I realise that everyone is just doing their job.
What is the secret to your success?
Maybe it’s just that I don’t think I’m successful yet [laughs] and I keep struggling for what I’m looking for – and I still don’t know what it is! I don’t know … I honestly don’t think I’m that successful, but I’m able to still pay the rent!
If you hadn’t gone down the path of entertainment, what would you have done?
I don’t think that was an option [laughs]… I’ve tried.
What did you try?
All sorts of things. I went back to university because I really wanted to be an architect, and that didn’t happen. I went to university to study philosophy and study languages but I kept on getting [acting] jobs and I kept leaving.
What else would you like to achieve in your career?
I would love to keep working with fantastic people. The scripts that come across my path just go from strength to strength. It’s really lovely to be involved in projects that engage people, and the work that I’ve been involved with for the last few years has engaged people and made them feel inspired. I get a lot of incredible mail in response to Wentworth, especially from women. [TV] changes peoples lives; it can give someone the strength to leave their abusive partner or stand up to bullies, or whatever it might be, and to me that is an amazing thing. Never underestimate that power [of entertainment]. You hear people say “I just do it for the art” and I think that’s naive – what a wanky attitude to have!
WE ATE Salad of Free-Range Chicken with Kale, Red Quinoa, Spring Onion, Almond and Marjoram.
WE DRANK Sparkling water.
DANIELLE WORE Winston Wolfe leather pants and a HAN shirt.
I WORE a Camilla and Marc jacket, top and skirt.