David Lyons is being quite a familiar face to American audiences. The Australian star is a graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), Australia’s most prestigious acting college, and has performed onstage with both of Australia’s leading theatre companies—the Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company. Building his resume with roles on the Australian series ‘Blue Heelers’ and ‘Sea Patrol’, in 2008 Lyons was added to the cast of the wildly popular medical drama, ‘ER,’ as Dr. Simon Brenner, the doctor who ends up being the third person in the final season’s love triangle between Parminder Nagra and Shane West’s characters. His impressive body of work landed him the lead role in NBC’s 2011 drama, ‘The Cape.’ The Aussie actor is currently a series regular and fan favorite on the J.J. Abrams-executive produced drama ‘Revolution’ for NBC.His work on the silver screen is no less impressive, as he starred alongside Julia Roberts in the Ryan Murphy film ‘Eat, Pray,Love’.
His latest project is certainly his most challenging to date. ‘Safe Haven’ is based on the novel from Nicholas Sparks, the best-selling author behind the hit films ‘The Notebook’ and ‘Dear John’. The film is an affirming and suspenseful story about a young woman’s struggle to love again. It begins as a mysterious young woman arrives in a small North Carolina town, her reluctance to join the tight knit community raises questions about her past. Slowly, she begins putting down roots, and gains the courage to start a relationship with Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children. But dark secrets intrude on her new life with such terror that she is forced to rediscover the meaning of sacrifice and rely on the power of love in this deeply moving romantic thriller. David Lyons recently sat down with Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon to discuss his inspiring journey as an actor, the challenges of his dark role in ‘Safe Haven’ and what the future holds for this actor on the rise!
You are getting to be quite a familiar face on television and in film. What was it about acting that intrigued you early on and made you pursue it as a career?
That is a good question, Jason. I started out pretty late in the game. It wasn’t until I was about 26 years old that I finished my degree. I had traveled the world and I tried desperately to do the 9 to 5 job, always with this thought in the back of my head of really wanting to tell stories. It was through the goading of some of my best friends saying, “Why don’t you just go out and do it!” That is when I came to the realization that I would rather be poor and happy than poor and unhappy, which was what I was at the time! From there, I just kinda jumped on in. I, for a long time, thought it was such a fickle environment, such a weird industry to try and tether yourself to. I was a little apprehensive to say the very least.
With that being said, what kept you inspired?
It is a love for it. The inspiration comes from the people you meet, the work they produce and the scripts they write. The inspiration is found everywhere in this industry. Everyone is trying to tell stories and you find one that really inspires, it inspires the crew, the director, the actor and all of the things in between. That is what makes people get up and go to work with a smile!
This latest project, “Safe Haven,” seems like a perfect one for you then.
That is a great segue into Lasse Hallstrom. You ask about what is inspiring, working with a man like Lasse Hallstrom is that to an nth degree! He is such a wonderful spirit as well as a wonderful director and storyteller! Inspiration was all around on this project.
What was it about this script and the character or the people involved that drew you the project?
Obviously, working with Lasse was at the top of the list. I had gone in for an audition for this role. We worked on improvising with this character. I knew in working with him, we would really start to be able to penetrate this character and getting to what makes him tick. He was able to do that with all the characters in the film. After meeting with Lasse and working with him on only a few scenes, I knew I really wanted to pursue this role and felt very much I would get it.
What did you bring to the character which might not have been in the script?
I really don’t know what I brought that no one else would have brought. I don’t know if anyone really understands their own quality in that way. My version of Kevin Tierney would be different to someone elses and I am not sure how or why that would be. I guess what I tried to do with that character is understand him and try to swim around in that darkness for a bit to figure out what it is he is acting upon and why he is the person he is. It was important for me to figure out how he responds to Julianne Hough’s character and how he fits into that environment. Who knows if I was successful or not but that was what I tried to bring to it! [laughs]
As you mentioned, this is a dark character. This is a tough question but, even in that darkness, do you see a little bit of yourself?[laughs] It is definitely a tough question considering the nature of that guy! Just for self-preservation, I would have to say no! [laughs] It is a fascinating question that you have asked. This is a man who loves and loves very deeply. All people are capable of that but he demonstrates it and it fills him with something darker than anything I would ever anticipate in myself.
From what I read, you had a bit of writing and work on some of the scenes with the director. What was that experience like?
It was a great scenario because once we started to explore these characters, Lasse was really willing for us to add our own flavors to it. When dealing with relationships and so on, you might see something on set that won’t be picked up later on in the film as it is written, so you start to add little pieces in order to create a truthful portrayal of all the characters. In each house, whether it was Josh, Julianne or myself, we all brought things everyday to every scene to make them sing and be more real. It was fantastic! It was something I have not been privy to too often, for someone to have confidence in his actors to say, “You do what you think you should do in this scene,” as opposed to sticking so closely with the script. It was incredibly liberating in that respect. It was daunting at the start but, after awhile, you start to realize he is allowing you the space and updraft to spread your wings and fly a bit. It was good.
What was the biggest challenge for you as an actor on this project?
I think the nature of the role was the biggest challenge. The emotional space that my character inhabits. It goes a bit to your question before because it is not a space I ever inhabit. That was probably the hardest aspect but it was made a lot easy working with Julianne in those scenes and working with Lasse. They were both incredible to work with. I know that is something everyone seems to say when talking about a film, “Oh, they were fantastic to work with!” But, honestly, I can’t say enough good things about either of them. Considering the nature of our relationship in the film, Julianne and myself, we felt safe with each other in that tumultuous environment constantly. With Lasse helming, it was fantastic. It was all good, all good!
Looking at your career so far, it is easy to see you have a wonderful range. How have you evolved as an actor since you started out?
They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something. I am nowhere near 10,000 hours! I think, as an actor, you start to understand the blueprints of your body and your emotional makeup. Through the years, when you need to access it or evolve in certain ways to inhabit a character, you start to see a landscape of what is available to you a little bit more clearly. I have a long way to go, I know that but I guess the more you do something, the more comfortable you become with it. I have been very, very lucky that most of the characters I have done more recently have been way out of my comfort zone. That means you start to explore areas of your own emotional state and also see the potential you have as an actor.
Is there a genre or type of character you are looking to take on in the short term to keep moving in that direction?
I have been doing darker characters more recently and I have really enjoyed that and, to an extent, endured that. I think maybe I might start to pull that back a bit and perhaps delve into the light a little bit more. We will see. I never really know what is going to inspire me from day to day. It is not until you see something that you really start to fall in love with it and start to realize it is where you want to go as a direction. It is kind of like sculpting in the sense I keep taking away more of the clay to figure out what it is I am sculpting. I am not sure what I may be doing next but I am enjoying the process.
What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to young actors looking to pursue a career path similar to yours?
The best piece of advice is to just go and do it. I think I was shackled by fear for so long that there were parts of me that regret not doing it sooner. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to not run from your fear but run towards it. There will be times mistakes are made and the times you are rejected but you have to understand that is OK. Run towards the fear and you will never die regretting it!
Thank you for your time today, David. All the best to you in the future!
Thank you! It was lovely to speak with you.