Spotlight on 2018 ACA graduate Damon Manns

Damon Manns

Thai Cave Rescue, is a docudrama series currently playing on Netflix and staring Actors Centre Australia 2018 Graduate Damon Manns.

“Take responsibility for your ability, work on it. Read books, listen to kickass music that makes you feel. Watch interviews with actors you love and take inspiration from others. And most importantly, be yourself! ” – Damon Manns

We recently caught up with Damon to talk about his experience auditioning and filming this Netflix show, plus what advice he has for current ACA students.

Tell us a bit about the series/show and your character.

Thai Cave Rescue is the incredible true story of the wild boars soccer team who got trapped in a cave for over 10 days. Our show will visit the untold stories and conversations focused on the boys this happened to. My character is Master Sergeant James Nichols who is loosely based on the real MSGT Derek Anderson who was involved in the Rescue.

How did you get the role? What was the audition process like?

It was PEAK covid times. So I basically did the self test with no reader. The scene was “a mission briefing”, so it kind of worked because there were no responses. My eyeline was at the edge of my balcony so it felt like I was speaking to the world.
I think it must have been 3 rounds. The final round was on Zoom with one of two directors on the show and we worked the scene together. It felt good to just be working with a director again in ANY capacity after so long. A week or two later my agent called me and told me to update my passport because I was going to Thailand.

How did you find the overall filming/rehearsing process?

TOUGH. The Thailand Jungle is unforgiving. It definitely took some overcoming of imposter syndrome too. But it was such an amazing experience and taught me how to love and appreciate what I had achieved. After the first day we were greeted by the memorial of Saman Gunan. A man that had given his life trying to save the wild boars (the Thai soccer team at the centre of the story). That was outside of the real cave which we had spent a lot of time filming in already. All people involved wanted to tell this story truthfully and get the job done. I wasn’t going to allow myself to get in the way of my own performance. They had hired me for me.

How is this Series/show different from other screen/theatre work you have done?

Oh god where do I start ? Well the sheer scale of this project was daunting. Bigger than anything I had ever worked on before and the responsibility that we all felt was immense and so recent! Even the cave sets in the studios were outstanding. Everything about this show made it so easy to just BE in the world. The people that I worked with were so talented and different! I learnt so many things. Spending five months on a show during covid meant that we really had to have a tight crew. We travelled everywhere together to avoid any risks of plague. We spent most of our downtime together and I now have many memories and experiences that I will cherish forever.

What have you learnt at ACA that has helped you to prepare for this role and a project such as this?

Voice. I can’t stress this enough and neither can the wonderful mentors of our industry. Because of my character’s age (above my own) and the command that the US military teaches in its leadership. My voice had to be most important in my opinion. The switch between when my character is briefing a lot of people and talking one on one is very different. I wanted my voice not to be loud, but be resonant and sustained. Which I think is a very important distinction between the two.

I could go through the many techniques of the greats that ACA taught me. But I feel like that could be a separate article in itself. I think the biggest thing I took away is how to conduct yourself in a professional environment (yes this seems like a given), but that too isn’t stressed as much in the industry as you would think. I don’t just mean looking professional, but being able to work efficiently, offering ideas, knowing when to let ideas go and when not too. How to prepare when you don’t have much time. Side note – I got the role about a week and a half before I flew to Thailand, which can be daunting, but not uncommon. ACA gave me great tools to be able to just go and act.

What advice would you give current students of ACA?

Honestly ? I was never really able to grasp the “believe in yourself and it will happen”, or “fake it to you make it” and all of the rhyming words of wisdom out there, but this show really slapped me in the face in terms of my belief in myself. Yes it did take a show for this to happen. But I dont think it’s about believing you’re Meryl Streep or Marlon Brando. Because you’re not. There’s only one of them and there’s only one of you. You are all great. Take responsibility for your ability, work on it. Read books, listen to kickass music that makes you feel. Watch interviews with actors you love and take inspiration from others. And most importantly, be yourself!

What was the highlight of ACA for you?

One highlight ?! That’s all I get ? Um … doing different things. Creating, in all forms. It doesn’t hit you (until later) how useful the things you did at ACA really are. I wasn’t the greatest student or let me rephrase. I thought I came to ACA to learn how to act. But to be real. Acting is not just about acting. There are a million things that go into it. I didn’t figure that out till later but that’s why it’s a school. You learn things ! Wonderful things.

What’s next for you?

I’m trying to keep the feeling I had on that show going. I’m working on stuff that is challenging me, doing classes and reading. I’m also writing a show!

Check out Damon’s performance in Thai Cave Rescue now playing on Netflix

Join our community

Stay Updated