Dean O'Gorman on Westside and getting acting advice from Kirk Douglas
What does a 1981 Kiwi property developer look like? If he's a Westside character, he sports a bushy moustache, gold watch and a smug expression.
Meet Evan Lace, a self-assured businessman who encounters criminal couple Rita West (Antonia Prebble) and her husband Ted (David De Lautour) at a fancy Parnell party.
Evan is played by the versatile and upbeat Dean O'Gorman, one of the leads in the Goodbye Pork Pie remake.
"I think Evan Lace is an appropriate name because lace was very popular in the 80s," says O'Gorman, 39. "He's based loosely on some actual people who were around in the 80s, but what he represents is that corporate ambition that started developing in the early 80s with aggressive takeovers.
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"Evan comes in and employs Wolf because part of his corporate takeover involves some maybe slightly questionable ethics."
This second season of Westside is set in 1981 so viewers shouldn't necessarily expect to see 80s fashion fads like shoulder pads, spiral-permed hair and leg warmers.
"I was really hoping to do the pastel T-shirt with a white suit but that's actually later in the 80s," says O'Gorman.
"Evan is starting to edge towards that so I've got some pink and blue polos. I've got some great BluBlockers and I've got an awesome moustache. It's like a Magnum, PI one.
"My costumes are definitely more modern compared to some of the other characters because they are sort of more late 70s."
O'Gorman is no stranger to immersing himself in a certain time period should the role require it.
Earlier this year he starred in American flick Trumbo which was inspired by blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The film kicks off in 1947 and stars Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren and John Goodman. O'Gorman was cast as Kirk Douglas, an actor who called on Trumbo when he wanted a screenplay written for his 1960 movie Spartacus.
"A huge deal" is how O'Gorman describes landing a part in Trumbo.
"Being a young actor, especially when I was in my early teens, I just chewed through actors' biographies and stories and things like that and Kirk Douglas was one of those.
"I wasn't unfamiliar with him. I've watched all his movies and I wrote a letter to him. I just said, 'Any advice on how to be you?'
"He said, 'Don't try to be me, kid. Just play the scene' which was very apt. He was very gracious and supportive in his reply and I found that very surreal because I'd been watching and reading all about him.
"A lot of times I'd played real people but I hadn't played anyone that was still alive."
For his portrayal of the screen icon, O'Gorman was nominated for a Screen Actor's Guild Award. As to whether he thinks his work on this particular film will open more doors, O'Gorman is coy.
"I never think about that because you either get over excited or you get progressively pessimistic and neither of those ways is helpful."
Over the past 20 years, he has appeared in a range of local productions including The Almighty Johnsons, Shortland Street and Go Girls. He has also featured in Aussie outback drama McLeod's Daughters and played a dwarf in The Hobbit trilogy.
O'Gorman is also a photographer and has exhibited in galleries.
"Photography would take up about 90 per cent of my spare time," he says.
"I've started doing it more seriously in the last few years. I had an exhibition at the Biennale in Frankfurt last year."
Although he is happy to travel for work, O'Gorman, who grew up on Auckland's North Shore, is based in New Zealand. He believes Kiwis should watch Westside not only to support home-grown drama but also because it stands on its own merits as a good series.
"I think New Zealand has found its own voice now especially with TV series and Westside is a good example of that.
"It's got New Zealand characters. We're not trying to be CSI Papakura."
Westside, TV3, Sunday.
- TV Guide