From 1970s television commercials and The Sullivans, to bit parts in movies and then finally Hollywood success – Adelaide’s Damon Herriman is the quiet achiever who proves that persistence pays. Read his story in the March issue of SALIFE.
Adelaide actor takes the lead
Damon Herriman was just eight years old when he first appeared on our screens in South Australian television commercials in the 1970s. Ads for KESAB, “Say G’Day” and Zest drink were among his big ones. Damon is the young blonde boy in the colourful striped top in the commercial below.
The former Marden High School student was a young actor with a cheeky smile and a big future. But a teenage confidence crisis derailed his acting hopes and it took Damon more than 20 years to finally find success in front of the cameras again.
Read our exclusive interview in the latest issue of SALIFE, as Damon opens up about his time as an insurance clerk, his disastrous attempt at success in America and his determination to finally make it in the tough world of showbiz.
During the frank interview, conducted when Damon was recently back in Adelaide, the actor also opens up playing cult leader Charles Manson in Quentin Tarantino’s award-winning film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Bizarrely, Damon played the role twice, in the Tarantino movie and in an episode of the Netflix series Mindhunter.
“It was strange but it was awesome to get to work with two directors of that calibre,” Damon says. “David Fincher on Mindhunter and Quentin Tarantino on the movie. It was just truly bizarre. I read and watched everything possible about Charles Manson but I still don’t know what made him tick.
“For me, it was about just presenting him as believably and as familiar to people as I could. There’s no point doing my own version – I wanted to capture him as best I could so people believed it was him. In Mindhunter, I was very much assisted in that because the makeup was so extreme, the prosthetics makeup turned my face into his.”
In the Tarantino movie, Damon plays the cult leader in 1969, the year of the horrific Sharon Tate murders. In Mindhunter, he plays Manson 11 years later, once he had been incarcerated. Damon shot the two roles just two weeks apart.
“The reference I was able to find for the 1969 version was an audition tape he did trying to be a musician,” Damon says. “He’s talking a lot and you really get the sense of this impish court jester kind of character, very different to when he’s in jail, when he’s bitter and angry at the world. I wanted to bring that jester quality to the Tarantino role and the bitter aspect to Mindhunter.”
The humble 49-year-old actor says he’s always battled self-doubt and insecurity when it comes to his craft.
“When I watch myself in things I’m probably only happy about 30 per cent of the time, so that’s a lot of disappointment,” he says.
“I go from cringing to being able to put up with it. There’s not a lot of enjoyment. The best it gets is a deep sigh of relief that I got away with it, I didn’t ruin that, down to just complete depression that I can’t believe that’s going to be on screen forever and I can’t do anything about it.”
Today, when young up-and-coming actors who are full of passion ask Damon how he deals with the rejection of acting, his answer is simple.
“The thing is, I never took myself seriously enough to feel that rejected,” he says. “It’s weird. It’s also not something you’d encourage in anyone.”
Read the full story about the rise, fall and rise again of Damon Herriman in the March issue of SALIFE, on sale at newsagencies and independent supermarkets now.