VULKAN Interview: Dan MacPherson

You are certainly no stranger to TV series. What’s your favourite part about the first day
on a new set?

First day is all about possibility. Usually, I’ve worked so hard in pre-production, that I’ve been
physically & mentally preparing from weeks, so that you really just want to get going! For Strike
Back, I’d been training for 5 months before day one on set – gym, weapons, tactics, jujitsu, as
well as reading every single book that I could on the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan – so by the
time the cameras were rolling, I was jumping out of my skin to get started.

Strike Back returned this month, which fans know is intense and action-packed. What
kind of training or preparation did you undergo while getting inside the head of Sgt.
Samuel Wyatt?

I approached it in a couple of different ways. Physically I put on 25Lbs of muscle, mostly
across the top line, chest, back and shoulders, to give the illusion of being bigger. The
operators that I met and trained with were big, strong guys, so I worked really hard on obtaining
that. From a weapons standpoint, I had to make firearms feel like an extension of my body,
which was a challenge, as growing up in Australia, we just don’t have the exposure to weapons
like in the USA. I trained with SEAL and Marine veterans, as well as buying a bunch of airsoft
replica weapons to have around my house. I’d change mags while I was watching TV or making
dinner. The most important aspect was the mental preparation and that involved reading every
book I could, listening to every podcast and interview I could, and chatting first hand with
combat and spec- ops veterans who were so generous in sharing their experiences with me. I
felt a huge responsibility in representing US service men and women, and particularly the
MARSOC operators, on TV.

Are there ever moments when filming a series like Strike Back that you have a moment
of clarity like, “hey, there are real people out there fighting these kinds of battles every
day.” How does that make you feel, as someone that has to portray such profound
stories to an audience?

Absolutely, especially when we were filming in a location like Amman, Jordan. Almost every
bordering country was a zone of conflict. We were training at the Spec Ops training center, KASOTC, alongside international military personnel waiting to be deployed into combat. On our second day of filming in Jordan, we had a sortie of warplanes fly in formation overhead into Syria. It made it all very immediate and very humbling. I approach a character like Wyatt with a
huge amount of respect for those that I’m representing, for sure. I have to say the generosity from the veteran community towards us and the show has been incredible.

Is it important to you to create a character that is as authentic as he is entertaining or are you more open to more creative takes on the subject?

With a show like Strike Back, and particularly a character like Wyatt, you have to find a
balance, and you need to keep a large amount of humour in there. It’s not a documentary
on war, it’s a high octane action series and we kept reminding ourselves of that. There’s
a time for seriousness and gravity, and there’s a time to have a hell of lot of fun on this
set. I think it’s why people have loved the show previously and why they’ve come back to
support the show again this season. I’ve heard so many stories of soldiers in combat, in
high pressure situations, dealing with that moment through humour. It’s gotta be fun, and
if we are having fun, the audience is having fun.

What has been the most challenging part of playing this role and how have you worked
to overcome it?

I think the biggest challenge, outside of dealing with nailing the weapons handling and tactics,
was creating a new, engaging, interesting, fully-rounded character, when fans already had
such a love and understanding of Stonebridge and Scott. Also, having to do that in half the
time, as we were introducing the new team of 4, not two. I think we struck a good balance
eventually, and I’m very proud of where the series takes us all. But I think the biggest challenge
was getting this guy to be fully rounded and authentic, and with this series that just took time,
and I had to be patient.

How will Wyatt cope with the loss of Lila? Do we suspect it will affect his development
going forward?

It’s a tough moment for Wyatt for sure, but I think more telling is the fact of how guys like this
compartmentalize loss and grief, and just get back to focusing on the mission. That focus then
puts them in a place where they don’t really allow themselves to process those emotions fully.
Lila’s death certainly rattles Wyatt, but I think he’s more upset at himself for allowing someone
to get close to him and open himself up once again to that kind of hurt. He indulged, allowed
himself to feel those real emotions and again dream of a life outside of the one he is bound to,
and he knows better than to do that. The compartmentalization is a blessing and curse for many
combat veterans.

Can you tell us what your involvement in the highly anticipated A Wrinkle In Time is?

To be totally honest, I have a tiny, tiny moment in Wrinkle, but it was a day I’ll never forget. The
film I had done immediately prior was an ultra low-budget Indie, and then to step onto the set of
a 100M+ film like Wrinkle was mind blowing. But most of all, to work for a day with the incredible
Ava DuVernay, was a day I’ll remember fondly. It’s the only day I ever get to work with Ava, and
I sincerely hope it’s not the last, it was a great day! I’m as excited to see the film as everyone

What is one role or genre you’d like to explore in the next couple of years?

I’m really enjoying the skills that I’m learning in the action genre, and also the physical
transformations that I’m attacking for different roles. I put on 25Lbs of muscle for Strike back, I
lost 35lbs to play a jockey a few years back, so anything where I get to really change my shape,
I love. It’s only one part of the immersion into character and story, but for me it really helps to
lose myself. I loved films like Logan, when you see Hugh Jackman taking the character into a
darker, more introspective place, but still with this immense physicality. Thats my kinda gig.

Do you have any plans to do more hosting of live events or shows?

Not really. I hosted hundreds of hours of live TV and it’s a skill that I love. The buzz of live
television is addictive. But I’ve hung up my hosting shoes for now. I had to make a decision to
take anything out of my life that was a distraction, or diverting energy away from achieving
success in my acting career. I had to step back at look at my life and my goals, and really self
analyze what I could change to have the breakthrough I needed in LA. So hosting went,
triathlon went, spending hours on my bike in the mountains went, and I focused all that energy
into my acting career. Three years later, it’s been the most satisfying and successful period of
my career, and I couldn’t be happier!

How does hosting compare to acting for you?

The only thing I could perhaps liken it to was live theatre. It’s immediate, you live on adrenaline
and it’s gone in a moment; and you have to bring it and nail it, right in that moment. I love that
about live TV.

Fans of yours know that you’re quite a fitness buff. Do you have your heart set on
any races coming up?

Sport, health and fitness have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.
Soccer then rugby. I did my first triathlon in 1991 at age 11 and went on to compete in World
Championships over every triathlon distance as an amateur, including ticking Ironman Hawaii
off my bucket list. I’m loving putting all that training and physicality now into my work and
characters. My 2018 resolution was a “year of new skills,’ so among a bunch of other things, I
joined a Crossfit Gym and am doing my first Crossfit Open. I seriously had to Google what it
was after I entered hahaha. I’d like to get back and do some good off road running races,
maybe a Spartan or tough mudder. I’ll always be a competitor, I don’t think that flame ever goes

How do you manage to stay on top of your fitness efforts in addition to your busy career?

I just made sure it became part of my career. I’ve adapted my training to suit whatever job I
have coming up, and Strike Back was the perfect role to balance work and fitness. Everyday
we were stunt training, fight training, weapons training, blowing everything up on set, and then
going to the gym every night for 2 hours after we wrapped. To be honest, I slept for about 3
months after that shoot hahaha.

What is one physical challenge you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?

I would love to go back and race the Hawaiian Ironman once again, it’s a magical race and true
test of self. I’d like to see how I go in Crossfit over the next few years, and maybe have a real
run at the Open one year. The only other place left for me would be some Ultra Distance stuff,
maybe into some Ultra trail running, and one day an UltraMan: a 3 day triathlon comprising a
6.2 mile (10 K) open ocean swim, a 261.4 mile (421 K) cross-country bike ride, and a 52.4 mile
(84 K) ultra-marathon run. It’d take you to some pretty dark places mentally and physically, and I
love that stuff. I must sound nuts.

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