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The Neighbours star has just appeared in his first feature film, Mental. He talks to us about being tasered by Liev Schreiber, jamming with Dr Karl, and how we’re all a little bit mental.


Tell me about your character, Trout
He’s a bogan surfer that you never see surf, and he’s a lifesaver who you never see life-save. All you ever see him does is serenade girls and really torment Trevor (Liev Schreiber’s character). I based a lot of him on people that I grew up with at school, mainly traits of people that I didn’t really like.

Not too much like yourself then?
I don’t think so. I mean, playing Ringo on Neighbours for so many years, was definitely a lot more like me as a person, partly because you’re doing the same thing over and over and the script writers get to know you as a person and every now and then they put in bits and pieces in that suit you. But I don’t surf and I had to wear hair extensions, that wasn’t my real hair.

Oh that hair was awful!
I know, it was seven hours in a chair on my first day to get them in and it was a very interesting social experiment to see how people would treat me, actually. I had people crossing the road when they saw me. I looked like a bit of a junkie.

What attracted you to the role?
The entire script itself really, not just the specific role. In the first read, you know it’s going to be a good film and then when I got to the second audition, I found more and more layers to it. The comedy just runs right through it, as well as it having real meaning, which is something that a lot of comedies can lack. And then the fact that the character sings and plays music, which is my other passion and something I am trying to combine at the moment.

How ‘mental’ is your character?
Well I think I’m one of the most sane people in the film! But as the film points out, what is normal, and what is mental? In a sense we’re all a bit mental. It’s hard to put your finger on what is mental with Trout because he really does have the best of intentions.

So it tackles the issue of mental health?
Mental health is something that is heavily prevalent in society but no one talks about it. A lot of kids growing up, myself included, want to be ‘normal’, and the older I’ve gotten, the more I realise how much wasted energy is spent trying to be something that you’re not.

How was it working with Liev?
He does a fantastic Australian accent. He’s quite an intimidating character. I mean he’s a big guy and he’s very focused on his work. I was really lucky that I had met him prior to the shoot – I got taken out for dinner with him and Naomi (Watts) which was a big ice-breaker. He can do comedy really well, which I admire in any actor.

The Taser scene – how did you prepare? YouTube clips?
Yeah I watched a few videos to prepare but then I thought, well, it’s a comedy so I have a little bit of leeway. But I mean it’s a pretty big Taser. I don’t know how good someone would be feeling after that.

What’s next for you?
I just got back from the UK, I did a six week tour, playing music. Then I’m going to L.A where I’ll try to find work, do an acting course, continue writing music, and just try to stay focused.

So it is music or acting?
I always get asked that question and I don’t have a good answer for it, I’m afraid. If I could do both – brilliant. I would love to continue what I did for Mental, in writing songs for film. I love writing heartfelt songs but I also love writing comedy songs to make people laugh.

Ever jam with Dr Karl on Neighbours?
Well we were in the same room when he was playing his ukulele and I was playing my guitar, but we’ve never really jammed together. There was talk of teaming up but it never happened. I was concerned that it was going to end up sounding like The Wiggles.

Ever do the Neighbours’ nights?
I used to do them and the times that I did perform with Fletch was on those nights. Unfortunately I don’t do them anymore. I used to do the bus tours as well which were great, but if there are any UK readers over here, they should know that they’re more likely to see me over in the UK these days.

Mental, starring Sam Clark, Toni Colette, Liev Schreiber, Rebecca Gibney and Anthony LaPaglia is in cinemas now. universalpictures.com.au


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