Wolf at the door

Grant Bowler, who plays Wolfgang West in Outrageous Fortune, turned down a role on America's Big Love in order to stay with the New Zealand drama. Photo supplied.
Grant Bowler, who plays Wolfgang West in Outrageous Fortune, turned down a role on America's Big Love in order to stay with the New Zealand drama. Photo supplied.
With a role on Lost a sign that his career may increasingly be based overseas, Outrageous Fortune's Grant Bowler tells Joanna Hunkin why he keeps coming back for more.

It is hard to keep track of Grant Bowler's movements these days.

Talking from Australia, which is officially home, he has just spent five weeks in the United States, filming Lost.

Next week, he returns to New Zealand to shoot Outrageous Fortune for four weeks, before flying back to the States.

Bowler returns to our screens tonight as Wolfgang "Wolf" West, a role he first took on four years ago when Outrageous Fortune debuted on New Zealand television and he was still a semi-struggling actor.

Now, with a recurring role as Captain Gault on the hit series Lost, the offers are rolling in thick and fast.

But Bowler continues to trek back to New Zealand to play career criminal Wolf.

"It's a running gag between my wife and I now, my inability to leave Outrageous Fortune. It's just too good. I should be off like a shot," he said with a laugh.

Just this month, the actor was offered a role, written especially for him, to guest star on the HBO series Big Love.

But it clashed with shooting Outrageous, so he turned it down.

"I fell in love with the show. I can't explain it to you.

"Outrageous Fortune is better than anyone in New Zealand realises. That's what I honestly think."

Bowler knew he was on to something special when he first read the Outrageous Fortune pilot.

"I was backward and forwards to the US, I hadn't really got going yet.

"I'd read everything coming out of the States. I'd read everything that was being made in Australia, and Outrageous was better than everything."

After standing stints on established Australian dramas such as All Saints and Always Greener, Bowler was surprised by the New Zealand cast and crew's modest, almost defeatist, attitude towards the series.

"When I turned up on the first day, the general consensus and culture was, `It's great, and it reads great, but New Zealand dramas don't rate.

"They don't last. It will probably only go one season. Have a good time, enjoy it and that will be it'."

Fortunately, Bowler's instincts were right and the award-winning series has gone on to garner international attention, with both British and American adaptations in production.

"Good Behaviour, the ABC pilot, is a project that's got an enormous amount of interest around it," explains Bowler.

"People in the industry know that it's the show that came out of New Zealand and it is quite special. It's developed an international currency."

Much of the series' success comes down to the cast and crew working on the programme, who Bowler rates as some of the best in the world.

"I actually think New Zealand crews and actors turn up to set a lot better prepared than in Australia. They work harder and they whinge less.

I think New Zealand crews and cast are still doing it for the job, for the love of what they do, than for the industry."

Though born in New Zealand, the Wallabies supporter moved to Australia at a young age and trained at Sydney's acclaimed National Institute of Dramatic Art - a fact that did not sit well with some local actors when Bowler joined the Outrageous cast.

Things came to a head when co-star Robyn Malcolm took Bowler to a local awards ceremony, where a couple of actors, who had been up for the role, had a go at the Australian star.

But Bowler makes no apologies for landing the sought-after role and offers some friendly advice to the actors who missed out: "Audition better".

Likewise, he does not think it is a bad thing that Wolf does not feature in every episode.

"It's not entirely because I'm working all over the place. Wolf wouldn't work if he was there all the time.

He's kind of like a player coming in off the bench. He works when he comes in for impact but if you keep him there all the time, he actually skews the series too much in one direction."

Still, the actor admits it can be difficult reintegrating himself after several months away from the cast and the storylines.

At the end of last season, Wolf made a surprise appearance at Munter and Kasey's wedding - with his new girlfriend Sheree in tow.

"I'd been away from the show for nearly 18 months, and I got back and had a new missus.

"Robyn and I are quite close and it was almost like getting divorced. It was really, really weird.

"When they were both in the room together, I didn't know what to do. It was one of those weird things where art kind of bleeds into life."

Season four of Outrageous Fortune returns to TV3, tonight at 9.30pm.


Lowdown

Who: Grant Bowler plays Wolfgang West.

Born: July 18, 1968, Auckland.

Key roles: Detective Ray Driscoll in Canal Road, Captain Gault in Lost,
Nigel MacPherson in All Saints, Greg Steele in Always Greener.