It’s a sunny afternoon in early September, but “Last Resort’s” Daniel Lissing has only just woken up.
The Australian actor – one of AccessHollywood.com’s Fresh Faces of Fall TV – admits over the phone from Oahu, Hawaii, that he’s a little bleary-eyed at the minute. While most people were slumbering, he was actually spending those misty hours before dawn shooting scenes as the tanned, toned and highly trained Navy SEAL James King in the ABC drama’s season premiere episode.
“I had like a 3 AM wakeup call this morning for shooting and I did two scenes and I came back home and I crashed out,” he tells Access. “I forgot to set an alarm, so I just woke up again.”
Handling a hectic paced Hollywood-style schedule with early morning starts and late afternoon press interviews is still a bit new to the actor. Daniel had just a semi-regular role on the Down Under legal-themed drama “Crownies,” besides several film shorts and parts on various shows in his homeland on his resume before his audition for James (home taped in Sydney, Australia) caught the attention of the “Last Resort” bigwigs stateside.
“I remember saying to Rob [Woodburn, my agent], ‘This character is just awesome, man. Let’s try and get this one,’” Daniel recounts of his first thoughts on the SEAL, who while seated in a bamboo chair, behind a stiff glass of scotch in the premiere episode, threatens the local druglord with talk of his Jason Bourne-like skills. “So we sent [my audition] off.”
Having started out his professional life as a singer and musician, rocking it out across Sydney bars and music venues before acting called in his mid 20s, Daniel was seasoned enough to be able to keep his enthusiasm for the role in check. Instead of pining away for the part, he played it cool, focusing on another gig in a short film.
Things changed, heating up quite a bit, though, just a week later.
“I got a phone call from Rob… and he informed me that [‘Last Resort’ co-creators and executive producers] Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek wanted to have a Skype call with me,” Daniel explains. “I was like, ‘Really?’ He said, ‘Yeah, you’re getting tested, but they want to have a conversation with you.’ So I get on Skype.
“We just talked for about 45 minutes… just about life in general and living in Bondi [Beach] and working in Hawaii — potentially, and all that kind of stuff,” he continues. “Then they e-mailed through a script to me… We had a bit of a read of it together and they gave me some notes on a new scene. That night, I got my housemate [to film it with me] and I sent it off that night to them.”
A few days later, it was Mother’s Day in Australia and Daniel was spending it with his own mom and sister, who were staying over for the weekend.
“And I get a phone call at like 5 AM on Saturday morning… saying — this is from my agent — ‘Buddy, you’ve got it. You’ve got the role,’” Daniel recalls. “I was lying in bed and I was like ‘Mate, I’m gonna have to call you back.’ [I] hung up the phone and I rolled out of bed, went to the bathroom, washed my face. I was like ‘Did that just happen?’”
The trio celebrated, Daniel called his dad who cheered too, and not long after, he said goodbye to Sydney and relocated to Hawaii.
Impressed by his “Last Resort” co-stars like Andre Braugher (Captain Marcus Chaplin), Scott Speedman (XO Sam Kendal) and Robert Patrick (Master Chief Joseph Prosser), as well as the massive size of the American production, Daniel tells Access he was a little “nervous” those first few days of filming, but quickly found his footing, and his place.
“Initially, I thought to myself, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ I guess I was pretty nervous the first day on set, but once you get to know the people you’re working with — the actors, the director and showrunners, all this kind of stuff — you realize it’s just one big team effort and you kind of find where your piece of the puzzle fits,” he says of settling in. “Everyone’s got their piece of the puzzle. Put it together and [you] create this big picture of ‘Last Resort.’”
For Daniel’s own puzzle piece, the show’s soon-to-be resident hunk (just wait for those shirtless scenes in Episode 2!) found himself training with real military operatives who assured him he fit the profile.
“After training and working with Navy SEALS, you find that the training that they do and the kind of body type that they need is to be more agile and athletic than big and bulky,” he notes to Access. “I like to stay fit — as fit as I can anyway — but I’ve never been like a really big guy. Luckily the camera adds 10 pounds (laughs). But I’ve done as much training as I can with a couple of SEAL guys that have come over and consulted… I’ve spoken to them like, ‘Man, am I cutting it here?’ and they’re like, ‘Your body type is exactly like two of the guys in our unit.’”
With Andre’s Capt. Chaplin and Scott’s XO Kendal dealing with political issues, Daniel’s character — who starts out with his own story line, away from the sub crew — just might be the show’s action man.
“I’ll tell you there is a lot of action on the island,” he laughs a little mischievously, quite possibly a hint at romantic action. “There’s a lot of action out in the sea, as well. We did a fight sequence, actually. I won’t tell you who I was fighting.”
While the rising star is keeping the mystery of who he comes to blows with on the show a secret from Access for now, he’s also keeping future scripts a secret from himself – until the last minute.
“I’m reading the scripts as we’re shooting… We’re shooting [episode] 104 now and I’ve only just read 105. [I’ll] stop there so we can concentrate on what we’re doing [and be] in the moment,” he explains.
One thing Daniel is allowing himself to indulge in, though, is the work of his fellow actors.
“I check out these guys working… even if I’m not in the scene, because I think it’s really important to watch how they do it — guys that have been working for so long and that are so, so talented. You get to see how they work and operate and they’re a really good presence on set. Robert Patrick, Scott Speedman [and] Andre Braugher are the kind of guys that a guy like me would definitely want to have a career like,” Daniel says. “And they’ve got this confidence on set as well. I feel like they’re really bringing some nice gravity to the show.”
“Last Resort” premieres Thursday, September 27 at 8 ET/PT on ABC.
-- Jolie Lash