Discovery: Eka Darville
When it comes to his new Netflix show Jessica Jones, Australian actor Eka Darville is excited: “It’s really good,” he says after his shoot in Brooklyn, New York. “It was a real surprise when I watched the first two episodes. You’re only there for such short pockets of time, and I know what I’m doing, but I don’t know what Carrie-Anne Moss is doing because I’m not working with her that much,” he continues. “I’m a musician, so the sound design is 60-percent of a film for me. Then there are those intimate moments that Krysten Ritter has with the audience where she really let’s them into her vulnerability.”
On the show, which premiered earlier this month, Darville plays Malcolm, a heroin addict and one of Jones’ neighbors. At first, it seems that Malcolm’s main purpose is to highlight Jones’ softer side (she is generally nice to him, and shows remorse when she isn’t). By Episode Four, however, it becomes clear that Malcolm is going to be a significant character.
Now 26, Darville began his career shortly after high school on the teen soap Blue Water High and spent a year on a reboot of the children’s show Power Rangers. He quickly graduated to Australian-based American productions such as Starz’s Spartacus and the Steven Spielberg-produced Terra Nova. After an initial “spiritual pilgrimage” to Arizona in 2011, he relocated to the U.S. for a pilot that was never picked up, instead finding steady work on The Originals. “Since then it’s been snowballing. Since I moved, I’ve met my woman and we’ve had a baby. It’s been a crazy journey,” he tells us. If he seems familiar, it is probably from his arc on Empire earlier this year. “Because of the way I look, I’ve always been highly noticeable,” he says. “But the month my Empire episodes were airing was kind of insane—cars stopping just in the middle of the road and people jumping out to try and get a photo with you and holding up traffic.”
NAME: Eka Darville
HOMETOWN: Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
FAMILY HISTORY: My mum is Canadian and also half Jamaican. She moved and lived all over the world. She was studying marine biology and ended up in Australia. Is she a marine biologist? No. She’s many things, but that’s not one of them. Right now she’s in the Grand Pyramid in Egypt playing didgeridoo and a limba and praying for peace on the planet. Last week she was in Ibiza, and the week before that she was teaching at a tantra retreat in Estonia. My biological father is a pretty well-known reggae artist [Ray Darwin] and my dad that I grew up with is a musician as well—he’s a drummer and makes African drums.
INTRODUCTION TO ACTING: Acting, for me, is part of all of the ways that I creatively express [myself]. I’ve been making music my whole life, I’ve been dancing my whole life, I’ve been acting my whole life, and all of them fade into each other in different ways. I first found a passion for acting in high school. I had a very formative drama teacher there; he saw something in me and tried to really foster that. I got into Victorian College of the Arts, which is, next to NIDA [National Institute of Dramatic Arts], the most prestigious place to study drama in Australia. But I also got offered a role on Blue Water High at exactly the same time. I was like, “A HECs [government loan] debt to study it, or just get paid to do it?” It was an easy choice. I had a moment when that decision was in the air and somebody from the industry, a director, came up to me and said, “Whatever you do, don’t study, just start doing it.” I asked him why, and he said, “You don’t need to do that, you’ll just learn as you go.” It was something that he saw about what I was doing. I’ve worked with a lot of people coming straight out of drama school and they have some pretty skewed ideas about what the industry is and what it actually entails—they’re purists, in a sense. It can be really hard to actually work with them because there’s this expectation of it to be about the scene prep and stuff, whereas when you’re on it, it’s not. It’s about everyone being an autonomous individual that knows their shit and can turn up and just do it. You’ve got such small windows of time when it’s about you and you have to be able to turn it on then.
STARRING IN POWER RANGERS: It was a childhood trauma almost. [When I was young,] all the boys would play Power Rangers. We had a sugar cane field right next to our school and we’d run through the sugar cane field and fight each other with sticks. I always had to be the Black Power Ranger because I was the only black kid in the entire school. So when I booked the role of the Red Power Ranger, it was kind of my revenge on all of the little kids: “Who’s the Red Power Ranger now mother fuckers?” [laughs] I don’t think they’re legally allowed to cast a black guy as the black one or the Asian girl as the yellow one anymore. It was so bad.
FIRST AMERICAN SERIES: Was Spartacus on Starz. It was a really intense and challenging role, but I’m proud of my work on it. There were so many wild and weird experiences. I was playing a character named Pietros who’s kind of a slave in the ludus and in a relationship with one of the other gladiators. It was a very heartbreaking story involving sexual abuse and a whole bunch of other stuff. I was the smallest guy on the show by about four inches and 100 pounds, and the youngest by about 10 or 15 years. We don’t have unions [in Australia] to the same degree that we do here, so there was so much they could get away with. We all know Spartacus was a highly sexualized show, and they’d just hire 30 male strippers and 30 female strippers as extras and then let them go at it. I’d have dialogue scenes where it would be me—I was 18 at the time—and there’s, like, two dudes going at each other on the table. A guy holding a girl up against the wall right in my eye-line. Then the director’s there throwing water and “Yeah! That’s great! Keep going with that.” It was really intense. The whole experience was pretty full-on, but fun at the same time.
THE JESSICA JONES AUDITION: The only thing that clued me into the fact that this might be important was that the audition sides had Netflix and Marvel on as the two producing houses. Other than that, it was a couple of lines and these weird, obscure scenes with some dude eating peanut butter. I was just like, “Okay, whatever. I’m just going to have fun with this.” It was a series regular role, so I knew that much, but from the initial sides that they sent through it was a total surprise. I think it was my second callback, they gave me all new scenes that they had just written for it and all of sudden the character had some meat to him. Before that it was flying blind.
PREPARING TO PLAY MALCOLM: Malcolm suffers from drug addiction. Part of the prep for a character who’s going through that kind of experience with drugs, and in particular heroin, is understanding the psychology behind that addiction and how it plays out in people’s lives. I did a lot of research. I watched every dude on YouTube filming themselves going through detox. It’s a weird and dark little corner of the internet, and I spent a lot of time going there. The most interesting part is the bargaining and the denial, and just the degree of self-talk and psychosis that goes into convincing those people around you that you’re fine. There’s very definitive behavioral things that come along with that.
OUTSIDE OF ACTING: I play with a group called Deya Dova. It’s tribal electronica. I haven’t been playing with them since I made the shift over from Australia, but they did a West Coast tour earlier this year and we did Burning Man and a bunch of other stuff.
BURNING MAN…Is my favorite place on planet earth. My first time was in 2012. My woman and I, that’s how we ended up together—from Burning Man that year. We’d met in 2011 and we were close from then, but it was at Burning Man, the year of fertility, funnily enough. It was such a powerful and incredible transformative experience for me; it was understanding the full potential of human creativity if unleashed, and the difference between time-is-money and time-is-art. This year we took my son there. I went by myself for the first few days, and then I was like, “This is ridiculous. They should be here.” So I flew them to the playa and my son loved it. We were worried because he’s a little Virgo and he’s super particular about textures, so I was like, “He’s going to hate the dust.” But he was a little dust dragon. We had him literally in a dragon suit for half the time. He was making dust angels. It was brilliant
PARENTHOOD: This is total biased parent shit, but [my son] is one of the most unique and individual little people that I’ve ever come across. He’s so vibrant and full of life. He’s such a musician already. He grabs his ukulele on the daily and jumps up and does little performances for us. My son is thing that made it all possible. It’s the same with all the red carpet stuff; it really puts things in perspective when you go from the glitz and the glam and the cars and the drivers and the ushering and the interviews and the photos, and come home and he wants to sit down and read The Lorax. I get to play with him on that level and then we wrestle. It brings it back down to basics and everything else seems really irrelevant and superfluous.
UP NEXT: I’m going to go back to Australia. I’m going to go chill out on a beach and go surfing every day and get my feet on the earth.
SEASON ONE OF MARVEL’S JESSICA JONES IS NOW AVAILABLE VIA NETFLIX.