Darren Gray manages a number of actors from Home and Away, Neighbours and many other Australian soap operas in the UK. He was also involved in supplying the actors for the OzSoap 2003 Convention, that was recently called off due to financial problems. Back to the Bay talks to him on what a normal day in his life is like.
Interview conducted by Chris in October 2003 for our predecessor site AussieSoap
Apart from Neighbours and Home and Away, what programmes do you manage actors and actresses for?
Well I represent actors who have appeared in various shows, apart from Neighbours and Home & Away, these include Sons & Daughters, The Young Doctors, Prisoner Cell Block H, A Country Practice, Richmond Hill, The Flying Doctors, The Sullivans, Carsons Law, The Box, Skyways, Number 96, E-Street, Echo Point, Pacific Drive, Paradise Beach, Class Of 74, Waterloo Station, Glenview High, The Restless Years, plus many others…
Do you know to hand exactly how many actors you manage, or have you lost count by now?
Well I have lost count to be honest, I look after lots of the current and ex cast members of Home & Away and Neighbours whilst they are working in the UK, plus other Australian actors in general. We specialise in representing Aussie actors only, as well as producers and directors such as Alan Coleman who started Reg Grundy’s Drama Department with Reg Watson. Then I have my office in Australia as well, so I really have lost count!
Are there any Home and Away or Neighbours actors you particularly like managing, and can see going far in the acting world?
I’ve enjoyed working with most of the actors that I have and do represent, I don’t keep them on the agency long if I don’t like them! The late great Colleen Clifford (Enid from Prisoner) was particularly good to work with and was a great friend, as was the now also sadly departed Gwen Plumb (Ada Simmonds, The Young Doctors). Others who are great to work with and still alive (!) include Alan Coleman, Liz Mullinar (who founded the first and biggest casting consultancy in Australia, her company does the casting for Home & Away, and I organised her UK tour a few years back), Judy Nunn, Ian Rawlings, Rebecca Ritters (whom I had working on Coronation Street last year), Annalise Braakensiek (who I had working as Bruce Forsyth’s hostess on the last series of Play Your Cards Right) – so many great people and too many to mention here.
Have you made any good friends in the actors you manage? Do you ever spend your free time with any of them?
Yes to both questions.
When you first started out as a Manager, did you ever get star struck being around so many great actors?
No, I have always worked in the entertainment business so that wasn’t an issue for me. I respect the talent and experience of those people I work with, just as they respect mine on the same basis, but they are actors doing a job and human beings, although some fans may disagree!
I was originally a television presenter on Wire TV and journalist here in the UK. I went out to Oz to send some reports back and stayed, buying into a theatrical agency over there. I only returned to the UK due to the continued interest in employing Australian actors over here and sadly only get to go back to Sydney on business about twice a year. So in other words I’ve always been working in the entertainment industry and representing artists, whatever aspect of the profession they may come from, doesn’t daunt me.
You played a major part in the organising of OzSoap 2003, the first ever Australian Soap Convention that was unfortunately called off a couple of days ago. What was it like putting so much effort into something, just to have it cancelled only a couple of months before it was due to take place?
Well frustrating, annoying and to be honest a total waste of everyone’s time and effort! I was simply supplying my artists to appear at the event of course but it became clear that the producers of the convention did not have the funds to pay the artists which they had agreed to book. The whole thing was run terribly badly and descended into a total farce. The actors were disappointed as they were looking forward to taking part, many having lost out on other paying work, and I only hope that all of the fans who booked receive total refunds.
The only good thing to come out of all of this was that Lyn James (Helen Gordon, The Young Doctors) won the Best Actress Award in the Oz Soap Awards so I had the honour of presenting her the award with Alan Coleman (who wrote, produced and directed The Young Doctors) during my last trip to Australia.
So, talk us through an average day in the life of Darren Gray? Do you spend most of the day meeting and greeting your Actors, is it mostly paperwork, or is it a day just like anyone else’s?
Ok, well this is a tricky one as every day is different. I work seven days a week, every week of the year, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I begin my day with a coffee and cigarette (Marlboro Lights if anyone wants to know what to get me for Xmas!) and then its straight onto the computer around 5.30am to deal with any e-mails or phone calls to Australia, the time difference makes this very important. If I’m in the office I’ll be answering the phone and booking in work and arranging auditions for actors, talking to producers and dealing with the press and media in regard to publicity and promotions.
Other days I’ll be on a train for meetings in London, I generally tend to use the BAFTA Club House (I am a member of BAFTA) and then Joe Allen’s for lunch or dinner- I may be wineing and dining a producer. The mobile tends to be going constantly of course. I’m also often at TV studios and sitting in on press interviews which the actors are doing. In the evening I might go to the theatre to see one of my actors in a play, or I may be at a nightclub where an artist has been booked to do a PA. Other days I’ll be on a plane going over to Europe where one of my directors will be working, or doing the long haul flight to Sydney. Then its a late night answering calls from Australia (it will be morning over there).
So no one day is ever the same, but that’s a bit of an over-view for you.