Cameron Daddo has led a long and fruitful stateside career as an actor, appearing on television shows such as Models Inc., CSI, and Boston Legal, among many others. Fans of his work might have been surprised, then, when Daddo was tapped to host the latest reality show from mastermind Mark Burnett, Pirate Master. However, Daddo has a history of hosting jobs, just not in the States; Cameron got his start by hosting television shows in his native Australia. Cameron took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with us recently about Pirate Master and his history in the business.
Below you will find both the written transcript and the full mp3 audio of the interview.
You’re from Australia, and that’s where you got your start hosting shows. Can you just tell people who might not be familiar with your work your background and how you got into hosting and acting, and then into Hollywood?
Okay. Well briefly, I was eighteen, nineteen years old, I had a really severe stutter growing up as a kid, and I was dared been to basically go on to TV called Star Search that had just begun. That was the first season I had a call. Going there I thought, “You know what, I’m gonna go in there and see if I can speak.” So I did it and actually ended up winning the show. And then from there I was offered an audition for an afternoon television—kids television show called Off the Dish. And I did that and that went into my own television program called The Cameron Daddo Show which was an afternoon show and then I went into a show called Perfect Match which is perfectly like a dating game, I was twenty-one years old, I was told I’m the youngest primetime host in Australian television history and I did that for about a year, fifteen months I did that for. Then I left television then went—started to do acting in theater and movies and television. I’ve been doing that for the past eighteen years. I haven’t done hosting for a very long time. Perfect Match was the last thing. And you know, my wife and I moved to America in ‘92, and since then I’ve been involved in television shows like Models, Inc., F/X the series, and as for movies I’ve been in Big Momma’s House 2 and did Inland Empire with David Lynch last year, and lots of bits and pieces coming out, so you know it’s been quite a busy time.
Back in the early nineties when you made the big move, what was your motivation to do that? Why did you want to move from hosting to acting and what made you finally make that leap?
Hosting into acting, well I had some offers to do some acting and I really found that that was where I felt compelled to go. I’ve been hosting, as I said, Perfect Match for fifteen months, and I felt like my learning curve—I was twenty one, remember? I was pretty much a kid and I felt like you know, I’ve taken that as far as I wanted to go and there was opportunities to come for acting and one of them was the play Big River—play Huckleberry Finn in the play Big River, the musical play, Big River which won five or six Tonys in ‘87 on Broadway and I just felt like that was a way to utilize my music and my acting. And it was a great, fun move for me to do so it was a good move and I really enjoyed it. And then the move to Hollywood came when my agent came across here and brought video tape of me and my work and got a great response so he said it was time to go. So I was like, okay. So we moved across and basically had to start all over again.
Let’s talk about Pirate Master. How did you become the host? Was hosting something you were kind of itching to get back into or did it just come as sort of a surprise?
It was a surprise. I mean, I was the one to pull the trigger on it in terms of…we call the thing the “bush telegraph”, which is sort of like…it’s just people telling each other what’s going on and I got a phone call from a very good friend of mine who said, “Did you know that Mark Burnett’s company is doing a show about pirates?” And I said, “No.” And he said, “They’re looking for a host.” And this just—the timing of this call was pretty amazing. I just finished a conversation with my manager and we were talking about doing ideas for unscripted television based on the fact that there’s a potential strike coming. And I have three kids and my wife and you know it was like okay there’s a potential strike, I remember in the past what the writer’s strike have done to us financially, so I was like, “You know what, I’ll start thinking about ideas. So, up comes this idea about the Pirate Master.” So…and I love pirates. I love the sea, and so I thought, you know I’ll give him a call. So I called up Eden and I said “What’s going on?” And he goes, “Well, mate, we’re doing the show about pirates and we’re looking for a host. Do you want in?” And I said, “I do!” and he goes, “Great!” So I went in the next day they had some host copy to read basically an audition piece, and I read it and then things just went on from there. It was a very quick process. I met Mark Burnett early on and a couple of weeks later Mark and I were sitting in the offices at CBS and it was just neat. It just turned out I was the only one in contention for this so it feels bloody good, mate. Off we go.
How early were you brought into the Pirate Master process? Did you have anything to do with pre-production? Did you work closely with Mark?
Not at all. I was brought in very late and as it turned out I had probably two weeks to prepare for it and you know that was pretty much studying and figuring out how we’re play the game cause it was all new, so you know, just came out of Mark’s mind and Eden and Lisa Hennessey, they’re the ones who created it so I came in, it was like “Okay, let’s learn this thing and figure out what we’re gonna do.”
What were the big challenges for you on Pirate Master? You must’ve had a little rust to shake off after not having hosted for a while.
Yeah, I mean, hosting is an interesting beast because you can’t play traffic cop, guiding people in different areas and you’re imparting information. So you know for me it was like okay just treat it like a script. Treat it like learning information and then deliver it so that these people understand it and and then they can play the game. Because I’m the main artery for their information of how to actually play—to do what they have to do. And so it was just learn it like that and then inject any kind of my own personality as far as that goes. And the moment that that was going to air is pretty strict, it’s strictly, basically me giving the information. That’s what’s happening at the moment so it’s clear to everyone.
Can you take us through kind of you know a day on Pirate Master set on the boat. How much are you on the boat and how much do you get to see all of the treasure hunts and just kind of the day to day life of the contestants?
Well I would arrive on the ship in the morning, on the day of the expedition, and you see, you see the…when I split the crews up, we do a random selection of the crews so who’s going to be on the black crew, who’s gonna be on the red crew. And then I’ll be present while those pirates goes over those clues, pulled out of the chest of Zanzibar and give them some time to prepare and then I’ll send them to the starboard side or the port side of the ship and then tell them to jump or to hop in their long boats and they row or paddle to the shore. So that’s—I don’t see them after that. They go off to their expedition and I wait for them on the ship. So I wait for them to come back, losing crew comes back first, send them downstairs and wait for further orders and then the winning crew comes back and we divide the gold up, what they discover. We divide that on the deck of the ship, if the red crew’s won, we elect a new captain or they elect a new captain, I should say, and the outgoing captain will have to hand over his hat and his coat, and then all the pirates basically they return to being one crew again, and the captain takes over the ship with his two officers and at that point I leave and let them do what they have to do. And so I’ll come back usually the next day, and after they’ve handed out the black spot for Pirates Court, and then we’ll hold Pirates Court. And then someone’s cut adrift. And they’ll all start over again.
Being an insider on the show, you have a pretty objective view. Did anything strike you about how the game changed people while they were on the ship?
Yes, I mean it’s an interesting scene how this works because I’ve felt when I first took it on, a pirate…you gotta be ready to pull out your compass or your musket, you know, and use it. And, at any time. And I felt like, well, this is gonna be pretty heated out here and we had a lot of those moments particularly in Pirate Court because during that period, during that time, I’m not privy to what happens on the expedition. I don’t see what happens and after I leave the ship, I’m not observing them. I don’t see what’s going on, so during Pirate Court, which is what we don’t see on the show cause it’s there’s just not enough time in the hour to cover it, I fire a lot of questions at those people and throw a few bombs in there to try and get some information out of them because that’s when I find out what’s going on. And, so…to answer your question, what surprised me the most is how they live as one pirate community on that ship and in order to stay on that ship to make you rich,you have to be get along. So on the surface of getting along, they’re sort of creating this harmony, this nice approach but underneath, there’s this very covert aggression happening with people who don’t know what’s going on. And as I’m watching Pirate Master on Thursday night along with everybody else, I’m looking at Jay, and I’m going, “This guy, man. I mean, he’s really playing it.” You know, he’s working both sides. He’s working all angles as several of them have yet to be highlighted, you know. So it was more of that covert behavior that surprised me. I thought it was gonna be a lot more sort of on the surface aggression and there’s a lot of covert scheming happening underneath.
Watching the show from home, is the way it’s playing out on TV, the editing, the whole package, is it how you envisioned it while you were there?
Oh yeah, you know, it’s sometimes better than I imagined it. In a lot of ways it’s better, actually. In terms of cinematography and the music and the sailing. I love the sailing and how that’s being covered and cut together and watching the crew sail with the magnificent ship, you know. As well as the competition cause I didn’t see that. I wasn’t there for that. I’m loving that process, watching that, looking at the beauty of the island and what it has to offer and you know, that really excites me, watching that part of it. The bits of it I’m present for, yeah, I mean, we see the edited—we have to cut the show just a few days in the air that’s cut into one hour. So, I know that there’s a lot of good stuff that isn’t going to air just for the fact that there isn’t the time to play it. You gotta make that choice as an entertainer and as a producer what do you put, what’s the best thing for the story that we’re attempting to tell.
Alright, Cameron, can you talk a little bit about what’s in store for your future there in Hollywood? Are you gonna try to do some more hosting or are you going back to acting? What’s in store?
Well, you know, it’s interesting you go back into acting, because I haven’t left it. I just feel like this is another arrow in my quiver. And it’s something else that I do. And in terms of hosting, like I said I haven’t done it for a long time and I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. Particularly being on the ship, as it was, that’s what really drew me to doing this project. As far as the future goes, I would love to do more seasons of Pirate Master. I would love to do that because as you will see, it gets better and better each week as the stakes rise. There’s more treasure on board, and more to be found. So I’m in post production of a movie I’ve produced and I’m the lead in, which we’ll be releasing actually later this year. I’m in preproduction on another film that I’ll be producing and will be the lead in later on in the year. I’ve got my agent to continue looking for more acting gigs and we’ll see what presents itself as a result from the exposure of Pirate Master. So I’m just open to everything that’s coming at the moment. Feels really good.
(Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl)
(Image Courtesy of CBS)