Scottish actor Paul Ireland talks about what it’s like to be in an Australian gay sci-fi comedy - and how he hopes he’ll be invited to the openings of new leather bars
So, how does a British actor get involved with an Australian gay science fiction show?
I’ve actually lived in Australia now for over three years, and like anything else, my agent put me up for it, and I went along and auditioned. Through the whole audition process, and it was a really nice script, and they obviously liked the look of me for the part. I had met one of the writers before, at a night out during the Comedy Festival. The two writers told me that when they wrote the part originally, they had imagined a British guy playing it, so it just so turned out that I was here and available.
What sort of preparation did you have to do to play a BDSM-loving homosexual doctor?
I was in London for 14 years or something, and being an actor I have a lot of gay friends; a large percentage of actors are gay. And I’ve been out to clubs in London…
Tell me about your sci-fi knowledge before you got cast in Outland – did you know the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars, or was it a little more advanced?
I wouldn’t say I was an avid science fiction fan. I did watch Star Wars, but the characters are massive, massive Doctor Who fans. As a kid, I used to watch the older one, but I wasn’t into the new one. I wouldn’t say I was hugely into science fiction, but there are amazing science fiction films I love, like Blade Runner, and I was a huge fan of Star Trek as a little boy, the original one with William Shatner. It’s fantastic escapism.
Do you ever get inspired to look up some of the films and books mentioned in the series? From a geek perspective, they’re really spot-on with references.
I knew most of them, and I’ve seen a few. [My character] Andy is really into a genre called steampunk, so I researched a lot of that. It’s a lot of Jules Verne, and HG Wells and all that old stuff going forward. It was really interesting researching that because I’d never come across any of it before. It was Andy’s whole angle.
This is the first prime-time show in Australia with all-gay characters.
Isn’t it fucking great?
How do you think it will affect Australian television?
I don’t know, I can’t generalise. I find a bigger percentage of homophobic comments here than back home, but I lived in London, so, you know. I just hope that people watch it, a show full of gay people, and realise it’s not about being gay, it’s about friendship and the situations and what friends get up to.
Outland is based on the only short film to play the Melbourne Queer Film Festival and also the World Sci-Fi Convention. Have you and the other cast members seen the original?
I watched it after we finished filming. Have you seen it? It’s rubbish. It was very low-budget filmed in a flat with a bunch of men standing around.
The actor who plays Fab, Adam Richard, was also involved in creating the show. Could you tell us a little more about that side of production?
John [Richards] was the other creator, and they wrote it together. Adam was on set all the time and is a heck of an actor. If you ever wanted to know anything, you could go to him and ask the meaning of stuff. And John is beautiful, beautiful, and was on set all the time, every day.
Outland was filmed here in Melbourne over a six-week period. Where abouts?
We filmed Episode 6 at Catani Gardens in St Kilda, which is where we filmed the Gay Pride Parade, which is the final one. Andy, my character, was supposed to be the second episode but might have scared the audience off too much, so he’s now the third. He lives in a converted church, and that was filmed in Footscray. I spent the whole episode up in a harness with a ball in my mouth. The whole premise is every week we’re having a meeting in another person’s house. [My character] had completely forgotten all about it, and they all come in when I’m strung up on the ceiling. The whole apartment is a shrine to leather.
You acted in Casualty from 1995–2003. What's the next step for Outland? Do you think it will run that long?
Who knows? We filmed it ages ago [in 2010], and it’s taken ages to get a spot. I’d love it to do well; I’d love it to get a good following. I reckon it could be one of those cult shows. Hopefully it gets a really good following, and I know everyone is really keen to do another season. It was so much fun doing it. Kevin Carlin, who is the director, was amazing. He had a real good vision for it, the way he wanted to shoot it; every episode had a different feel and was always linked to some sort of science fiction genre or movie.
Will any of your friends and family back home be watching the show?
I’ve done loads of stuff back home when I was over there, and they’ve all seen me on TV. But I think Princess Pictures, who produce it, are doing a negotiation with a British channel to screen it over there, which would be awesome. I think it’s going on iTunes as well, so they can download it and watch it.
Do you eventually see yourself going to sci-fi conventions and signing autographs in your old age?
I don’t know. No. Maybe I’ll put in an appearance at the opening of a new leather bar and get in that sci-fi connection.
Outland screens on ABC1 at 9.30pm from Wed 8 Feb.