At 49, New Zealand comedian Rhys Darby says he’s finally found the confidence to be a leading man.
He joins Summer Times for a road trip with his son Finn.
The Route? Auckland to Nelson. The passengers? Marcel Marceau and Marcel Duchamp. The vehicle? A 1984 Land Rover.
Music comes courtesy of Finn’s indie-folk-rock band Great Big Cow.
Now based in Los Angeles, Rhys has fond memories of childhood roadies with his mum.
“We went from Pakuranga to Orewa which was lovely. We stayed in a camping ground, and I fondly remember that one because I saw a ghost and saw some big footprints on the beach.
“Bigfoot…turns out was just a big man’s foot I think, but you know, when you’re young.”
Last year, Darby returned home to Aotearoa to film the second season of the HBO Max series Our Flag Means Death*.
“We were in New Zealand during the rainy season, which could be any time really, last year making that.
“And it was really special because we got to be home. The first year, the first season, we were here in Los Angeles. I was 15 minutes from my house. And that was cool and then the whole show got moved to New Zealand, which was … it’s a plus and minus on my account because obviously, I’ll leave these guys, but I get to go to the old home.
“And it was really fantastic. Working with the New Zealand crew and just having more New Zealanders in the cast, as well. It’s very Aotearoa-heavy season two. So yeah, I’m really proud of it.”
In something of a career pivot, Darby also hosted the International Emmy Awards last November.
“It was amazing because I thought ‘It’s not my bag. I’m not a host, I’m not a jokes guy. And I also don’t kind of like rib people, my humour is very optimistic and fun. It’s not like the kind of thing Ricky Gervais does where you bring people down to make light of things.
“So when they asked me I was like ‘I don’t know, what I’m gonna do?’ I was picked because it’s international and because I can do physical comedy as well. So, I wrote this monologue and also involved a lot of funny walks and some physical stuff. They worked out really well and I had so much praise from the audience and from the producers saying that was one of the best hosts have ever had.
“Because with a strict English-speaking person who’s just doing quick gags, half the audience, it just goes over the head. So, what I offered was something that I guess they had more universal appeal.”
Darby currently has a number of films in the pipeline in which he takes a leading role.
“Thanks to Our Flag Means Death I’ve kind of proven to myself, and hopefully the world, that I can front something.
“So I want to do more like that. I want to do movies, I want to star in a film. I’m writing a screenplay this year. And I’m also involved in about three movie projects that are likely to come together this year, and which have me leading them.
“I’ve been a character actor for so long, and I’ve popped up in many, many things in small parts here and there, where I’ve made everyone laugh, and then I run away.
“But it’s taking that next step of going, OK, imagine watching me for an hour and a half, letting me lead you down this track and have the confidence that now finally, at the ripe old age of 49, I think I can do that.”
*Max has announced that it will not be making a third season of Our Flag Means Death
‘Iguana Love’ by Great Big Cow
‘Captain Boyfriend’ by Great Big Cow
‘The Last Song’ by Great Big Cow