The superfluation of content and stories about adapting and pivoting to life during COVID-19 is such that any story highlighting it as a point of difference has become a cliché.
Taking a unique spin on the story however is a profile of Australian actor Sam Delich, acclaimed star of horror hit The Marshes and Home and Away, currently filming a slew of projects in the midst of the pandemic (and associated frequency of on-set testing and masks) and about to head over to the US in the coming months for a few more.
Suffice to say the actor’s blessed during a time when the global industry has been decimated with jobs lost and productions cut short – hence why our editors wanted to profile the actor to determine why thinks he’s been lucky enough to maintain a firm mindset and consistent opportunities when few others are.
“The work itself is what drives me,” Sam begins. “[A] good script, good story and a full day of shooting and I’m a happy camper. I’m easily pleased some would say. It’s been tricky with productions shutting down during covid…It’s nothing compared to what many people are dealing with on a global scale. But I really do think in times of crisis people turn to entertainment as a means of not only escapism but a chance to hear voices of those affected by the issues we all face.”
Sam’s commitment to story is apparent when reviewing his filmography and presence on screen, since he stepped onto the stage playing the vengeful Laertes in the acclaimed final graduating WAAPA production of Hamlet, directed by the AACTA nominated John Sheedy, or on the set for magical realist drama film Back to Earth, which co-starred Spartacus’ star Tom Hobbs (also known for appearing alongside Oscar-winners Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in The Railway Man).
In that film, the surrealist scenario involving the resurrection of his dead brother for one more night on earth would have had any actor oscillating between tones and tropes.
Sam’s handling of the material in the character of Lou however, in moments where he effortlessly expresses unbridled sentimentalism and pure joy, all the way down to deep grief in truly affecting moments, is a clear manifestation of Delich’s ability to suspend any qualms about believability and serve story in a way that very few actors can. He, in the words of co-star Tom Hobbs is truly a “[r]are breed of talent. He’s unafraid. It’s a pleasure working with someone who constantly throws fresh ideas out during scenes. It keeps you on your toes. He’s made me a better actor that’s for sure.”
Sam’s performance clearly resonated with producers and industry decision makers, helping secure Back to Earth’s distribution with ABC iView Australia and its 3 million users.
Successes such as this are irrelevant to an actor of Sam’s caliber however, as not long after that production he stepped onto the set of horror film The Marshes. Reviews at the time of the film’s release frequently highlighted Sam’s gripping and truly committed performance.
When looking back at the film through the lens of what Delich is currently accomplishing in the midst of a year that many have described as real-life horror, Sam’s uniqueness as an actor is even more apparent.
In one moment Sam’s character Will has to hear the news that his friend has almost certainly been brutally slaughtered by the terrifying spectre that haunts them, all the while needing to make the rapid decision to run into the unknown marshland or stay and fight tooth and nail for survival.
“That was a bloody hard day,” Sam explains. “It’s a pivotal scene and required everything I had in the tank. Accessing emotion has never been hard for me but to perform in that environment tested all of us….After all the tears and yelling were done thankfully we were all able to shake it off and have a laugh,” Sam adds with a smile.
“I will never forget my co-star Eddie Baroo (Australia, Wolf Creek) getting stuck waist deep in the mud. He kept asking for help but nobody could stop laughing. You always remember day’s like that.”
The extremities of The Marshes may have been demanding, but pushing himself to the limits of filming in the Australian outback in high-heat must’ve made subsequent appearances a breeze, as Delich’s on-screen appearances thereafter are truly easeful. In Home and Away, for instance, where Sam’s portrayal of Mark sees him pursuing the affection of acclaimed actor Sophie Dillman’s ‘Ziggy’, Sam balances charm with an underlying edge that hooked viewers at the time and is frequently cited upon as a critical moment in the self-actualisation of Dilmman’s protagonist.
“I remember the moment where the audience was going to realise my intentions were a little more sinister. Grabbing Sophie’s arm and saying “Where do you think you’re going?” After playing a charming surfer for every other scene was fun. Sophie kept saying between takes “I wonder if girls watching will still think you’re cute.”
Clearly Sam likes to keep the viewers guessing.
With all these memorable appearances considered, Sam’s success is unsurprising. Like most actors, it’s been a long-road but consistency and discipline over many years obviously has a cumulative effect which has attracted directors, casting agents and producers seeking to collaborate with Sam in a manner that, in hindsight, seems like an inevitability.
At the end of our conversation, Sam echoed a sentiment that borrowed from Al Pacino’s character in Any Given Sunday, one that will undoubtedly resonate not just with actors reading this but anyone in need of inspiration during what has undoubtedly been a challenging year.
“It’s a game of inches”: You just gotta get bit by bit over the line and eventually you have an opportunity to score. Sometimes work comes easy, sometimes you gotta hustle. The industry is always trying to blitz you. Outsmart it and find the play that is going to get you to the end.”