Darren Gilshenan on why ‘Harrow’ is unique and his US debut in ‘No Activity’

Darren Gilshenan in the original ‘No Activity’.

After Darren Gilshenan signed on to star in Harrow, he quickly realised the forensic crime series commissioned by the ABC and Disney’s ABC Studios International was totally unlike any other show he’d seen in a career spanning more than 30 years.

Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower) leads the cast as Dr Daniel Harrow, a brilliant yet unorthodox forensic pathologist who solves cases while harbouring a dark secret, in the 10-part drama produced by Hoodlum Entertainment.

Gilshenan plays his colleague Dr Lyle Fairly, an uptight, over-anxious and protective guy who frequently butts heads with Dr Harrow.

“The show is unlike anything I’d ever seen,” he tells IF, comparing the tone to US series Bones and Castle.

Given the dark subject, the show co-created by Stephen M. Irwin (Australia Day, Wake in Fright, Secrets & Lies) and producer Leigh McGrath has a surprisingly high degree of levity, with lots of banter between the characters.

“Each episode is a standalone, there are 20-30 characters and in each episode and it looks terrific, very strong,” said the actor whose extensive credits include Here Comes the Habibs!, No Activity, The Moodys, Maximum Choppage and Devil’s Playground. 

He is relishing the chance to work with Gruffudd, whom he describes as an actor’s actor who is very collaborative and “loves pulling scenes apart.”

Darren Gilshenan in the US remake of ‘No Activity’. (Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.)

The cast includes Robyn Malcolm as the boss of forensic medicine institute, Mirrah Foulkes as a sergeant, Remy Hii, Ella Newton and Anna Lise Phillips.

The directors are Kate Dennis (The Handmaid’s Tale), Tony Kravitz (The Kettering Incident), Tony Tilse (Wolf Creek, Underbelly), Daniel Nettheim (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) and Peter Salmon (Doctor Doctor, Rake).

During a break in filming in July he went to Los Angeles to perform in No Activity, the remake of the Jungle-produced Stan Original comedy commissioned by CBS All Access.

In his first US gig he played a wheelchair-bound despatch worker who gets a hard time from one of his colleagues played by Amy Sedaris. Actually his character does not need a wheelchair: at one stage he stands up.

Patrick Brammall recreates his role as a detective on a stake-out with Tim Meadows (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) in the sidekick role that Gilshenan played in the Australian show. The series is directed by Trent O’Donnell, who co-created with Brammall.

Knowing that the US version would be semi-improvised, like the original, Gilshenan says he only half-learned the script before he arrived on set to work on four of the eight episodes.

He describes Sedaris as “born to improvise and very quick-witted.” He thinks the US version may be a bit edgier and play more like a drama.

One difference he quickly noted between filming in the US and at home: When the director calls cut the actors head straight to their trailers, while in Oz they hang out on the set chatting.

In LA Gilshenan signed with a US manager, Mosaic, and he plans to go back to the US for pilots season in February-March.

By then he hopes his profile will have had a boost from No Activity, which debuts on CBS All Access on November 12 and on Stan on November 13, and from Harrow.