Known for his roles on Billions, Daredevil and the movie John Wick, Aussie actor Toby Leonard Moore is back home, starring in The Unusual Suspects. I spoke to the actor about his ‘unusual’ new role.
Tell us about your role in The Unusual Suspects.
Toby Leonard Moore: It’s a wildly fun ride, centered around rich and fabulous people in Sydney’s glamorous Eastern Suburbs. It’s hilarious, unapologetic and all the action is driven by some amazing Filipino-Australian women. My character Jordon is a bit of a wheeler-dealer and coming from Billions, I’ve met a lot like him. He’s very entitled and thinks he’s invincible and indestructible. When we were filming, there was a different family in the White House, and the world was obsessed with them. So we were seeing these types of characters on television all the time, and I really embraced the opportunity to tap into that. When you’re playing an objectively unlikeable character, why not go hammer and tongs!
As well as having a heist plot, the series also embraces diverse characters?
Yes, and of course the wonderfully talented and beautiful actress Michelle Vergara Moore happens to be married to me! It was a lovely opportunity to finally work together and it was also an important project for her. I was humbled to be part of it.
You also had an interesting education outside of acting?
I went to university before I went to NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) and got a double major in Japanese linguistics. I was also an exchange student in Japan at fifteen, and that’s been a huge part of my life. I really didn’t enjoy studying law, but since then I’ve played a lot of lawyers on television, which is the irony of it all. I get to be a fake lawyer!
You’ve done some extensive work in the US. What was your big break moment?
A year out of NIDA I was lucky enough to work on the big budget Australian production The Pacific, but then I guess John Wick and Daredevil were the big breakthroughs. John Wick just exploded and Daredevil, being part of the Marvel Universe, was also extremely popular.
“If a character is part of the LGBTIQ community, then it should be played by someone who identifies with that.”
You’ve also had roles on Billions, White Collar and Blue Bloods. Has any one particular experience stood out to you?
Every time I’ve played a character on television, the cast have become like family and I’ve made lifelong friends. I was on Millions for five years and it’s such a New York show, that New York itself is very proud of it. So living and working there, I really felt a part of something special. When I go back, people are very enthusiastic to talk to me about it.
Have you made any particular close actor mates?
Absolutely. Speaking of Billions, Paul Giamatti and I are pretty great mates. He’s an absolute riot, and it was wonderful to watch him work. It was like a MasterClass!
Can you tell us about playing David O. Selznick on Mank?
That was a dream come true. In terms of a pinch yourself moment, I found it pretty crazy that before the world went on hiatus, I got to work with two of my heroes, Gary Oldman and David Fincher. It was astonishing to watch David Fincher direct, as he’s such a perfectionist and I also had a lot of time to talk with the lovely Gary Oldman. Now Mank is up for ten Oscars!
Have you ever played a gay role?
I auditioned for Holding The Man, pretty much straight out of NIDA and was told I was a good actor, but not believably gay. In fact, Tommy Murphy, who wrote the play, was at NIDA with me and he’s a great bloke. We’re also now in this era where if a character is part of the LGBTIQ community, then it should be played by someone who identifies with that. Hopefully we’ll see more of that in Australia and get more ‘gay for pay’ as they say.
“I said, “you’re coming with your Uncle Toby for a night in gay New York City!”
Have you been to Mardi Gras?
In my first year at NIDA someone suggested we should march at Mardi Gras. I didn’t have a costume, but somebody gave me a pair of elastic angel wings! So I marched with those and it was heaps of fun. It was amazing considering I was born in Sydney and grew up in Tasmania when it was illegal to be gay, and here I was years later back in Sydney marching in the parade!
If you were gay, who would be your man crush?
Because I’ve worked with him and he’s a laugh a minute and an impressive human being, I’ve got to say Matt Bomer. He’s really funny and a lovely bloke. The only thing I hate about Matt, is that when I see myself on camera next to him, I look like a twisted old shoe. It’s not fair! He’s perfect!
Some people might think the same about you!
(Laughs) Certainly not while I’m standing next to Matt Bomer!
Who’s your music diva?
Beyoncé or Aretha. It’s hard to go past Aretha singing Respect and Think from The Blues Brothers. She also nailed Nessun Dorma out of the park at the Grammys!
What’s your irresistible dance floor song?
I can do choreography, but left to my own devices, I’m not much of a dancer. At uni someone said to me, “Just let your body feel the music”, so I did and afterwards they said, “You should not let your body feel the music!”
“It was a big gay bar pub-crawl, and we got home at about four!”
So it was like Elaine on Seinfeld?
(Laughing) Very much like Elaine! But there was the ‘pop star’ exercise at NIDA, where we had to emulate one on stage. We had to really embody the physicality, mannerisms and nuance, so I chose Freddie Mercury. I had special pants made and a cane, and even teeth. I did Another One Bites The Dust and now, any time I hear it, I get into that physicality almost immediately. My shoulders are moving now! So that would be the song!
Who has been your biggest influence in the acting profession?
There was an incredible acting teacher named Harold Guskin, who famously coached Kevin Kline and Glenn Close, and he wrote the book ‘How To Stop Acting’. I had a two-hour session with him and afterwards I immediately got John Wick, Daredevil and Billions all back to back! It wasn’t complicated. He just encouraged me to get out of my own way. I’d also have to say that my guy is Sean Penn. I would watch Sean Penn read the phone book! He’s an astonishingly good actor. After all, he won the Oscar for playing Harvey Milk!
Do you have any gay family members?
One of my nephews came out as gay, and visited me in the US. He wanted to check out the scene, went to LA and then came to stay with us in New York. He went out on the town, and came back within the hour, saying the LA scene was way better! I immediately became very New York City proud, and was like, “How dare you! You’re coming with your Uncle Toby for a night in gay New York City!” I took him straight downtown to Stonewall. I mean, he had to know his history! We went to Julius and Therapy and did drag shows too. It was a big gay bar pub-crawl and we got home at about four. Needless to say, he fell in love with New York.
Have you ever had an onset wardrobe malfunction?
Oh yeah! On Billions there was a very emotional scene with a man collapsing into my arms. I fell to my knees, and the second I dropped, I tore the back of my pants wide open. There’s a camera above us on a crane and I’m thinking “Oh my god! I hope my bits aren’t hanging out!”
On that note, is it briefs, fitted boxers or freeballs?
KC briefs! I find them comfortable, especially when I’m on camera wearing a suit and I love Ermenegildo Zegna andCanali suits. The KC briefs fit snuggly and disappear under the suit pants, giving a better look.
And wearing top shelf suits and briefs would also help with character?
One hundred percent! In fact, I spend a lot of time on the knot of my tie. On The Usual Suspects, Billions and Daredevil, all my characters have ties and I feel the knot of the tie says a lot about the character. I never did anything other than a double Windsor on Daredevil, but playing public servant Defender Bryan Connerty on Billions called for a single knot!
The Unusual Suspects premieres Thursday June 3, 8.30pm on SBS