'It Really Is Like A Pressure Cooker': Michael Dorman On The Tension And Release Of The Secrets She Keeps
When Michael Dorman first read the script for The Secrets She Keeps, he hesitated for just a moment.
While filming the screen adaptation of Michael Robotham's thrilling novel meant the New Zealand born but now Los Angeles-based actor would get to spend some time in Australia, he knew the emotional depths he'd have to plunge for the role.
Jack is a TV sports journalist and husband of mummy blogger Megan (Jess De Gouw). The couple seem to have the perfect life -- a beautiful home and two kids with a third on the way but both characters are holding on to some pretty explosive secrets.
We're two episodes in to the chilling series and have learnt that both Megan and Jack have been unfaithful, but an outside force in the form of meek supermarket worker Agatha is about to create a much bigger concern.
Speaking to 10 daily via the phone from LA, Michael explained how he approached a script that sees his character hollowed out by several layers of guilt and one very traumatic event.
"I was apprehensive because of the places that I’d have to go emotionally in order to tell the story in the best way and it was tricky at times," he said.
"There were a few days there where our days were long, you’d sort of be in this place, this emotional state and you’d stay there for most of the day."
Without giving away what's about to happen in tonight's episode, Megan and Jack are about to experience the stuff of nightmares -- which meant the actors had to inhabit a very dark place to tell the story.
"It was tricky to hit it in that right place where you want to be as a storyteller, the only way I know how is to have it kicking in the background until it’s time to shoot -- but it’s always there … you have an inkling of that daunting fear," Michael told 10 daily.
Michael added that he and De Gouw relied heavily on each other for support throughout their shared scenes that will send a cold shiver down your spine.
"We’d immerse ourselves in that state and then be sort of bouncing around together to get each other through," he said.
"But everyone was so open, and we’d sort of chat to each other. When things were getting a little dark, we’d have a little bit of a chinwag and then we’d kick on. "
The Secrets She Keeps is a masterful example of the kind of psychological thriller that creeps along, drip feeding us the characters' secrets -- some of which are red herrings.
"Tension and release, tension and release," said Michael of the show's insidious pacing. "It’s like a slow build, it really is like a pressure cooker."
Michael's contribution to the pressure cooker stew is gradually adding layer upon layer to Jack who, we as viewers might be quick to judge but Michael approached in a different way.
"When I take on a character, I love them and then from there it’s like, ‘Why are you the way that you are, what happened to you?’
"You’re seeing a character that’s kind of a jerk, and you don’t know why and its never explained why but, for me, as a player, I try to create a character that comes from a place of love first and foremost.
Michael noted that a character's flaws often bubble to the surface when they "can't express themselves or open up about what’s causing the tension or friction".
For Jack, a sports journalist whose dreams of being a pro athlete and feelings of inadequacy snowball into stress and the need to relieve pressure in some form.
"Jack was the type of character that, for me, I felt needed to release tension through physical activity, which is why he wanted to be a sportsman -- but because he doesn’t have that release and he hasn’t quite figured that out yet, he’s constantly walking around with stress and no release."
Michael told 10 daily that being able to hit those nuanced notes was fostered by the natural collaboration of The Secrets She Keeps director, cast, and crew -- and the inherent understanding he has of Aussie TV sets.
"It’s like you’re speaking the same language, even though you’re still speaking English in America, there’s a shorthand that’s kind of lost if you didn’t grow up in the same culture or with the same references," Dorman, who is part of the Apple + cast of For All Mankind.
"So It just takes a little bit to figure out exactly what’s being said or being asked and where the jokes are. Whereas when you’re in a place that’s familiar, it just makes it easy.
"You feel at home, you feel safe, you feel like you can go to whatever emotional places you need to because of that."
Got some burning questions you need answered about The Secrets She Keeps? Head along to the Channel 10 Facebook page today (May 5) at 5. 30 pm for a live Q & A session with the TSSK cast and creatives.