Callan Mulvey is a popular name in the Australian TV scene, more commonly remembered as the heart-throb of Drazic in the ’90s teen drama “Heartbreak High”. Many of us grew up watching Mulvey evolve his career, from “Home and Away” to the more gritty “Underbelly” and cop drama “Rush”, and then overseas onto the big screen, appearing amongst “The Avengers”, “Batman v Superman” and the more recent “Shadow in the Cloud”.
The Australian still has roots to his home, though, and continues to be a powerhouse in the local entertainment scene, and his recently released film “High Ground” is a proven example that Mulvey is as strong as ever. Starring alongside Simon Baker, Jack Thompson, Ryan Corr and Jacob Junior Nayinggul, “High Ground” is a ‘who’s who’ of Australian entertainment, and director Stephen Johnson has created something truly special – telling an incredible and gripping story.
Mulvey caught up with Moviehole to chat about the film, his character, and the people who have been influential on him over his many years in the business.
Katie: Congrats on “High Ground”, it is a great movie, quite confronting in tone and subject matter. Did you feel that while filming?
Callan: Yes, certainly. I actually haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but certainly, yeah, when we were filming, it certainly had that sense of gravity and respect for the story that we were attempting to tell, and being that I’ve never been up to Arnhem Land in Kakadu before, and it really is, I think the word epic is thrown around rather loosely these days, and even people who were describing their salad. But, yeah, in that landscape, in that area, it truly is epic, in every sense of the word, and also the people there, the original owners were incredible people and very welcoming to us, and you know, I can’t tell some of their stories without their very generous assistance and openness and trust in us.
Katie: The Northern Territory is such a beautiful area of Australia, would have been awesome for filming. Did you enjoy being up there?
Callan: It was incredible, because we’re all staying together in this little town called Jabiru, which is about three hours from Darwin, and then generally it was about 40 minutes to an hour’s drive to the main location of the church was and buildings. So, we were very much immersed in that world, and cut off from the rest of the world, in a sense. And we had a few weeks of rehearsals beforehand, lots of horse riding and just acclimatising, both to the temperatures up there, but also the area and the land and our lives and certainly the energy that you can feel there. And Simon [Baker] and I were often up very early and go and take in the sunset, and it’s really one of the most incredible areas I have ever being to. It is just that word regularly fails to describe what it is like, and only somebody who has been there will understand what I’m trying to convey, or also what I’m trying to articulate.
Katie: So, what originally drew you to the script and the movie?
Callan: Well, I got sent the script to read through first, and then I read it, and then I loved it, I thought it was a unique perspective. It was a story that I had no idea about, it was a story that I don’t think had been told. I was involved, of course, with Simon, who I respect and admire greatly. He is involved in iconic Jack Thompson and that was more icing on the cake, and it was something that I very much wanted to be involved in.
Katie: Yeah, that’s so true, the cast is impressive, with lots of big Australian names and some incredible indigenous actors as well. Did you enjoy it?
Callan: It’s done very little, you know? Yeah, it was great, there’s a wonderful rawness and spontaneity, with some actors, or people who aren’t trained or have no experience. I guess in some ways they can often have less blocks to their feelings and emotions and other things. And there are different ways to get that performance that might not be so structured, as you might find or encounter with actors who are experienced or who have had training. So, it was a treat all around, but I still work with some of these incredible indigenous actors. And then also titans like Jeff Thompson and wonderful people and actors like Simon, who is very experienced and very generous and just an absolute joy to work with.
Katie: So, obviously, as an Australian myself, I grew up watching shows like “Heartbreak High” and “Home and Away”, what are your memories of being in such shows?
Callan: They’re great, that was my training, I was literally selling off the streets and didn’t have inclination to be an actor or whatsoever, and I find myself in “Heartbreak”, and it was a wonderful training, I went on the set, we were rehearsing, learning how to act better. It was theory coupled with the practicality of doing and as opposed to a lot of training into doing a lot of theory, and you’re getting up on the floor, and getting on set and actually doing it. So, I have very fond memories, and then it laid a great foundation for me to turn it into something that I could pursue full time.
Katie: Yeah, for sure. And you’ve had quite an awesome career since. I personally loved your character of Josh in “Rush”, that was one of my favourite TV shows.
Callan: That was good, and quite fun, actually.
Katie: Is there a particular type of role or character that you enjoy playing the most?
Callan: I think that has evolved over the course of my working life. And I guess I kind of liked characters that are generally, or I end up playing or get access to, which is villain or “baddies”. I find them quite tasking to me personally, and it’s a world that’s interesting to inhabit and both trying to find ways to find characters who have a good moral standing, or who are engaging in anti-social behaviour, I find it interesting to try and find a way to why they got to that, and they can be a little bit more fun to play because you get to inhabit situations and circumstances that you wouldn’t normally have in your life. And I’d like the duality of trying to find, what is that person’s “history” and why they do what they do and try to find humanity in reasoning as to why they might be the way they are. Because in the right circumstances, I think everybody is capable of much more than they would like to admit.
Katie: And I think the role of Eddy, in “High Ground” – he’s quite not necessarily a very nice guy, but it’s interesting watching you embody that role and become someone to tell their story. So, I can imagine it’d be nice to have a challenge.
Callan: Yeah, it certainly is, and with characters like that, and genuinely, I’m not the friendly Baker, so I’m more of a villain in there. But certainly with Eddy, it was of that time, it was just a very, very difficult time and a horrendous time for the indigenous population. And he ended up going to war and the horrors of the war is imprinted upon you massively, it could be very damaging. And because he was there with Travis, they formed a very deep bond and Travis became certainly a brother, if not a father figure to him, and that was how he got through the experience of the war. So, after he comes back, it’s such a terrible mistake, but Eddy knows he started that, he knows he started the massacre and the shame and guilt and all he feels within is something he perhaps doesn’t want to face. Then having Travis rejecting and calling him out on that – somebody who was of great standing and admiration to Eddy – is just gut-wrenching for him – the man he admired and cares for the most has rejected him and has been the confirmation of what Eddy already knew – it is being reflected back to him by Travis, which I think really brings him to bitterness and non-acceptance of his responsibility and the circumstances that he then projects or transplants that on to the Indigenous population as a way to vent and attach his pain as a way to blame it on the outside. I don’t think he’s even aware of why he has such hatred in his heart.
Katie: Yeah, I like your way of looking at the characters really deep and not just reading lines, but understanding who they are and where they’ve come from. It’s interesting to hear.
Callan: Yeah, I think that’s the only way you can try and play them. I will try, even if it’s really almost unachievable, but I will always try if I can… it certainly does not absolve the character, or their responsibility or forgive them for what they’re doing, but if I can get the audience to think, “Well, I can see how he ended up there”, that has always been the goal for me. In dark characters, it is trying to find the light in them, and in the light characters I am trying to find the darkness. There is that duality, it is a human condition.
Katie: Do you have a preference for working on TV or movies? Or do you like all sorts of work?
Callan: No, I don’t, not really. It is the script, the director, and the character. In television, you have let’s say one season – you have a 13-hour arc, and in a film it is an hour and a half – 90 to 105 minutes, so it’s different. It is very much about the project and who is involved.
Katie: Have you had a favourite director or someone to work with over the years?
Callan: Oh yeah, there have been quite a few. Robert Connolly – I loved working with him. Kim Farrant – she’s another Australian director. Andrew Prowse, who sadly isn’t with us anymore, who I loved deeply and admired even more so. Really, there are so many directors I’ve loved working with, and more than anything I’ve been fortunate to be under the helm of, including overseas directors. I also just worked with Scott Kane Dale, he is a director from Melbourne, we filmed in Bulgaria last year. I love him, and am always trying to find ways to work together.
Katie: What projects are you currently working on, or upcoming?
Callan: So, I’m currently doing “The Grey Man”, which will be through Netflix, and then I’m going… I can’t really say… but I’m going somewhere, working on a film with some people. And then there are a few things in the works. I mean, often it just comes down to scheduling and releases, it really is the biggest issue of trying to… now you really are projecting a lot deeply, and then it conflicts with another that you have already done and you are trying to make a date for it. It’s a good problem to have, having multiple projects and trying to figure out how to do them all. I’m privileged to have that problem.
Katie: Yeah, I think especially since last year was a bit of a crazy year, it’s good to know that there’s still a lot happening and there is still a lot of good entertainment to enjoy.
Callan: Yeah, absolutely. I think escapism is helpful somewhat in these current times.
Katie: Thank you so much for your time, Callan!
Callan: Thank you!
“High Ground” is On Digital and On Demand May 14, 2021.