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Ben Winspear (Rene) Plays Opposite Wife Marta in A Place To Call Home–SMH 26 June 2014

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The Sydney Morning Herald has a great interview with Marta’s husband, Ben Winspear.

Ben makes his first appearance in A Place To Call Home Episode 8 as Sarah’s husband Rene who has been psychologically damaged by being in a concentration camp.

Actor Ben Winspear plays opposite his wife Marta Dusseldorp in A Place To Call Home
Sydney Morning Herald

26 June 2014

For actor Ben Winspear playing Rene on A Place To Call Home is a gift. Not just on account of the part itself, but the opportunity to play opposite his real-life wife Marta Dusseldorp, who is nurse Sarah Adams in the 1950s-set drama. Rene was thought to have perished in the war, but in a melodramatic twist no one saw coming, in particular Sarah who is now engaged to George (Brett Climo), he has returned from the dead.

You’re mostly known for your work on the stage in Sydney.

My father was also an actor, writer and director, so I grew up around the theatre before I even started acting work. For several years I was resident director at the Sydney Theatre Company. I’ve had a fascinating time since I left drama school, but after the kids came along I started doing a bit more screen work because it’s more family friendly. Also, it’s great to get to an age where there’s a new aspect of a craft to learn. Until a couple of years ago I wasn’t aware of the scale of the difference between acting on camera and acting on stage. It’s a great time to be a performer.

 

Your wife has received glowing accolades for her screen work of late.

It doesn’t surprise me because she’s such a hard worker. Marta is one of those people who whatever she’s doing in life won’t rest until she has it as close to perfect as possible. It drives me crazy sometimes, but it certainly works on camera.

Have you worked together before?

We worked together on a STC production where I was a co-director, but this is the first meaty screen time together. It’s a very precious thing because there’s no guarantee in life this opportunity will arise again.

Did Marta lobby for you?

Originally I auditioned for the role of George. I’ve a long history of being cast as ‘‘the other’’. My previous roles have been as Polish, French, Italian, Greek, Iraqi and here Jewish (characters). I’m a garden variety Anglo-Scot-descended Aussie, but I always seem to attract these more exotic roles which are great. I have to say that the role of Rene is an actor’s gift. It’s a role with very little text (and) masses of subtext, a very physical role because he’s basically a mute character which means you have to solve everything through action, inflections and body language. Normally your concern as an actor is the meaning of the language, but this time I have barely any of that. He’s a seriously damaged soul. He’s physically, emotionally and spiritually neglected and adrift. He’s carrying deep wounds from the war, deep sensations of loss, hope and abandonment.

Do you and Marta quarantine work from the rest of your lives?

We live and breathe it, unless it’s something to do with the children. If we’re not running lines we’re talking about projects we want to get started, or one of us has an audition. Quite often as an actor on screen you spend very little time with the other actors, you turn up for a big scene with an actor you’ve met one hour before. This level of trust and familiarity and respect in each other’s work is completely different to any other acting experience I’ve had before.

Are you critical of each other’s work?

I’m also a director so I’ve had many years of blending criticism in a way that allows people to digest it and respond positively to it. Marta is the same. We have a very similar aesthetic and work ethic and in some ways style of performance as well.

So it’s not like a scene from Adam’s Rib?

We’ll pull each other up if we think someone’s being lazy or repeated something from a previous role, but it’s an incredible advantage to have someone who has that perspective on your work.

Is it awkward playing a romantically connected couple on screen with your life partner?

I think if we were playing a couple in a contemporary piece and the characters were closer to ourselves it would have been much harder, but there are big masks at play in this work in terms of background and language and life experiences. Personally I was a bit nervous. I thought I better be good in this or Marta might turn to the director and say ‘‘where’d you find this guy’’?

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