As actors working together for the very first time, Jamie Dornan and Danielle Macdonald had a more challenging introduction than most.
He’s the 39-year-old Irish actor known for the TV series “The Fall,” and movies “Fifty Shades of Grey” and Oscar-nominated “Belfast.” She’s the 30-year-old Australian-American actor who made her mark in the films “Patti Cake$,” “Dumplin’” and “Bird Box.”
They star together in “The Tourist,” a thriller miniseries set in the Australian outback, and the outback gave them quite a welcome.
“It was the first scene that Danielle and I had together,” Dornan said, speaking on a Zoom call with Macdonald. “And it’s a very pivotal scene in the whole scope of the series.
“There was a crazy sandstorm, dust storm thing that wiped us out. We kept trying to do takes as if it wasn’t that bad,” he said, laughing. “We’re like, ‘I can’t see, I can’t move my eyes, but it’s not that bad.’ So we’re sort of babbling on, trying to act, and eventually they’re like, ‘We have to stop. This is insane. We can’t work like this.’”
So filming halted until the storm settled down, but then came the flies.
“I swallowed two flies in one take,” Dornan said, as Macdonald laughed. “At one point they actually had to spend a lot of money (digitally) painting flies off our faces that were going up our noses, in our mouths, in our ears, in our eyes. So that was a challenging day. It was also my birthday. So it was not the birthday I really wanted or foresaw for myself, but we got through it. I hope that scene works.”
I can attest — having seen that third episode of the six-episode series, which debuts Friday on Prime Video — that you would never guess they had been besieged by insects during that scene.
As it happens, Dornan’s character endures a sandstorm in a different episode, among many other tribulations.
He plays “the Man,” an Irish visitor who gets run off the road by a transport truck in the first episode, waking up in hospital with no memory of, well, anything. Although the man doesn’t know who he is, others do — dangerous people — and death and mayhem follow as he travels around the outback hunting for clues to his identity.
Probationary police constable Helen Chambers (Macdonald) is along for a good part of the ride, taking a personal interest in the case despite the fact it’s outside her job description.
The man also gets help from cafe waitress Luci Miller (British-Australian actor Shalom Brune-Franklin of “Line of Duty”). But he’s on the run from American trucker Billy (American-Icelandic actor Olafur Darri Olafsson), Greek drug dealer Kostas (Australian actor Alex Dimitriades) and Detective Inspector Lachlan Rogers (Australian actor Damon Herriman of “Justified,” who has played Charles Manson twice, in “Mindhunter” and “Once Upon a Time … in America”).
It all adds up to a compelling adventure: part road trip, part violent crime drama, part buddy comedy, part farce. It was created by brothers Jack and Harry Williams, the British writer-producers behind shows like “The Missing,” “Baptiste,” “Liar” and “Angela Black.”
“I’ve never done anything that is kind of so genre-bending and has so many different aspects to it … something with as much action,” Macdonald said. “It was really fun … And it was the longest shoot I’ve ever done.”
It was also a homecoming for the Sydney-born actor, who moved to Los Angeles when she was 18. The nearly six months she spent making “The Tourist” were her longest stretch in her native country since she left, although she wasn’t exactly home since the show was shot in South Australia, including Adelaide and the Flinders Ranges.
Belfast-born Dornan said he’d always wanted to work in Australia, ever since making his first movie — Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” — with Aussie native Rose Byrne. (She played the Duchesse de Polignac; he was Count Axel Fersen, lover to the queen.)
Of course, the material in “The Tourist” was also a draw, for both actors.
Dornan had read several of the scripts but asked the Williams brothers for more, telling them, “I’m probably not going to say yes until I have a pretty decent idea of how it finishes up. They told me enough to try to convince me that it was the right path to take. I could never have guessed where it was gonna go.”
Dornan has played an amnesiac before. In “The Fall,” his serial killer character claims to have lost all memory of his crimes after being shot and nearly dying, but there’s a strong chance he’s faking it.
“In ‘The Fall,’ the audience already have an understanding of who this guy is, this sort of heinous character that he possesses. So the audience is already asking questions … Is it all a game? Whereas with ‘The Tourist,’ I think it’s pretty clear that this guy really doesn’t know anything about himself,” Dornan said. “We’re about to go on this mad journey with him as he discovers who he is and how he got to where he is.”
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