From the floor to the big screen: Damian Walshe-Howling

I remember the scene vividly. He lay motionless on his back. Blood streaming from a number of gunshot wounds. He stares blankly back at us. Lifeless. Dead. The year was 2008 and 'Underbelly' was on our TV screens.

Andrew 'Benji' Veniamin, aka DamianWalshe-Howling, had been shot in the kitchen of the La Porcella restaurant inCarlton, and we were transfixed. Though the show depicted a dark period ofMelbourne's underworld, 'Underbelly' gave light to some stunning performancesthat birthed many careers.

Damian's performance life started on the flooras a child, though thankfully under much more delightful circumstances. Curiouslyplaying with marbles in Melbourne's iconic La Mama and The Pram Factorytheatres, as a young boy Damian couldn't have imagined the wild adventures hiscreative spirit would take him on.

To look at him he certainly has the clichédMediterranean features one might expect from someone of Italian descent, thoughhis surname would suggest otherwise. 'Walshe-Howling', far from his mother's'Romanella', bridged the beautiful union shared by his parents. His father the'professore', of third generation Irish background, found love with Iris, histalented Italian migrant partner. Iris, a wonderfully gifted actress anddirector with a career spanning decades, serves as a positive influence overDamian's own love of performance.

"“I had a colourful upbringing. Mum's been awonderful influence, and Dad has always encouraged us to go after our dreams."


Damian laughs joyfully, recounting the storiesof his parents' youth. He explains how his mother was bullied at the age of 9for being a 'wog', while learning to box on the streets of Collingwood with hertwo sisters. "“Mine's an Italian family. You know, 'an Italian family'",speaking of the Romanella sisters - "“they are my 3 mums, but my Mum is my Mum".

Damian's life journey has enabled him to travelto Italy to immerse himself in his mother's native culture. "“I always feel likeI go 'home' when I go to Italy. Talking with my hands"¦yeah, I do feel a realaffinity with Italy." He shares tales of a particular trip taken in 1990 withhis cousins, in which they returned to their 'grass roots'. Speaking with him,it's plainly clear that Damian, irrespective of professional success, remainsgrounded in what's truly important in his life: his family and their incrediblestories. It's no surprise that he is such an engaging storyteller, as I listentransfixed to tale after tale. "“I come from a storytelling background. As a kidit was so natural", he clarifies, and explains that he was always immersed instorytelling contexts, between his family's stories, curiously observing thestories playing out.

Despite his bubbly and vivacious nature,there's a calm and collected side to Damian. He is poised, thoughtful andcontemplative. "“Our strengths are the things we play to, too often," Damianstarts. "“You've got to enjoy what you're doing." That's exactly what he's doingat the moment. Drawing inspiration from Buddhism and M. Scott Peck's book, 'TheRoad Less Travelled', and its famous quote "“Life is difficult", Damian remainsgrounded in reality and focused on hard work. "“Life has its challenges. If youcan't start at home, if you can't give yourself some TLC"¦" he trails off. "“Asartists, you've got to remember that everything expands and contracts."

Life may indeed pose its challenges anddifficult moments, but 2018 seems to have a great deal of positivity in storefor Damian. He has had significant recent success creating his own work, aswell as teaching other budding actors. In 2016 he won the Lexus Short FilmsSeries with 'MESSiAH', following on from the immense success of 'Suspended'(2012) and  'Bloody Sweet Hit', whichdebuted in 2007. He is enjoying writing, producing and consulting on a numberof exciting projects that will hit our screens in 2018.

You never know when he might just pop up"¦