The sky’s the limit for Terrier.
Credits Include: Blinder, Neighbours, Wentworth, Interface and Occupation. You can find a full list of credits here.
Interview by Matthew Eeles
When did you first realise you wanted to become an actor?
I think the exact moment for me was when I was 18. I was at the movies watching Inception. As I was sitting there, it came to the scene where Marion Cotillard’s character jumps to her death before it cuts to a shot of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character distraught and heartbroken, it was that moment. For me in that moment something clicked. Something I’d always had an interest in but never thought was possible for me changed, I thought to myself, “I reckon I can do that”. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. [Laughs]. It sat in the back of my mind for months until one day I literally woke up and said to myself, “I’m gonna do this acting thing”.
I signed up for Star Now and two days later I was at my first ever audition. I did three of them back to back. I had no idea what I was doing, and yet it just felt right. I felt like I finally belonged, like I’d found something that excited me and that I wanted to a part of.
As a kid, I grew up in an incredibly creative family. I was an only child so I was always trying to keep up with the adults, family and friends trying to entertain them, do voices, engage in deep philosophical conversation, which at the age of 4 was something I knew very little about. I loved making people laugh, and I loved the movies.
My Dad was a massive movie buff, and I feel that was instilled in me at a very early age, watching Brando, Wilder, John Wayne, Jimmy Dean and Bob De Niro amongst others, I was pretty much hooked. Movies were to me like big brothers and sisters, what I couldn’t learn from people I learnt from movies like love, loss, friendship, anger etc. I found comfort in movies and often repeated what I’d learnt in social situations around adults. Reciting monologues that I was far too young to understand, even to the point where I would quote the old piracy warnings as if it were Shakespeare. I think it was always there in me, all through my early years, and high school, just below the surface of Australian sports bravado, I was an actor, but I was too shy back then.
I didn’t do any of the plays or musicals in school because where I went to school it would’ve made me more of a target. Acting found me at a time in my life, when I needed it.
Were you surrounded by supportive people who encouraged your passion to get into the industry?
Yeah I was/am. My parents have always been there for me, and a constant source of support and wisdom for me and this career I’ve chosen. I think my dad’s love of movies was certainly something that motivated me towards becoming an actor, in many feels I feel like I very much do it for him, to bring us closer together.
My mum and dad have always been creative. Dad was a fashion photographer and a painter before I was born, and he retired when I came along, while Mum runs an indigenous art gallery where she represents and helps indigenous artists to showcase their work and give back to their community. I’ve always had art in my life. My grandparents were very much the same, half logic, half wild creativity, and that’s very much what I feel like I am. Once I started to get into the industry I was very lucky to come across my manager Stephen Harmon, who took me on when I had nothing the desire to become an actor, and to this day Stephen continues to give me incredible professional support and friendship.
The drama school I attended too was excellent. Kim Krejus and the 16th Street community will always hold a special place in my heart.
Your first feature film was Blinder starring Jack Thompson. Did you learn anything on that particular production which you still use today?
Looking back, that whole experience was a blur! I had just turned 19, I’d been acting for about three months by that stage, and I was standing on the set of my first ever professional job opposite the likes of Jack Thompson and my childhood football hero Glenn Archer! Who funny story my family and I had actually originally met in Vietnam of all places back in 1998 after their loss to Adelaide in the grand final. I wasn’t a Kangaroos supporter back then, but after meeting the greats like Arch, Wayne Carey, Peter Bell and David King, I very quickly pledged my allegiance to the Blue and White. Which I’m happy to say saw them win the flag the following year, so, not a bad conversion rate, picks a team wins the flag! [Laughs].
There I was, a football fan my whole life, standing on the Torquay football oval where I had grown up playing footy during my summers off from school. It was a dream come true. My first ever job and I get to play football! Amazing man. Amazing.
My first scene with Jack I’ll never forget though. I got called down to set with the guy playing my brother Scott, in amongst this big huddle of yellow and black jerseys stands Jack Thompson and he just stares at us before smiling and saying, “G’day” then it gets kind of fuzzy and the next thing I remember, they call action and I have no idea what’s happening, but down goes Jack! This was the scene where he suffers a heartache and I had no idea what to do, I was stunned. My instincts kicked in and I just went to him yelling, “Dad? Dad! Dad get up”. They called cut, and Jack just got up smiled and said “Good work boys, good work, let’s go again.” I thought to myself “What have I gotten myself into!” [Laughs]. The older actors on set, Josh Helman, Bob Morley and Angus Sampson were all really great to me, incredibly kind and keen to help me navigate my start.
I got some really helpful advice from Josh who echoed the wise words of my manager Stephen Harmon back to me when he said, “Mate, you just do it. It just happens, and you just go with it.” Like getting on a rollercoaster, don’t resist it, it might be scary but that’s part of the journey and the joy of it. That’s a lesson I hold very true today, “Just do it. Just keep going”. Come to think of it, Lachy Hulme who I met when the film came out at the premiere, was a great source of advice too and echoed the same sentiments, of which I was incredibly grateful for.
At the risk of sounding like I’ve gone overboard with my research, the AFL guernsey worn in Blinder is almost identical to the one you wear in Occupation. Was this ever a topic of conversation during the Occupation shoot?
[Laughs]. Mate you have done your research! Fantastic! Yeah it was. Luke, our director, is a fierce Richmond fan, while Stu our 1st AD is a hardcore Fremantle Dockers fan! So you’ll definitely notice some familiar colours when you watch the film for sure!
I found it a bit hilarious myself that here I was in my second football related film and I was wearing the same colours!
It wasn’t even two months later after finishing Occupation that I found myself in a friend’s short film called Shepherd, wearing the exact same colours again!
It was like the universe was telling me something… and then they won the premiership last year! So talk about irony!
The first trailer for Occupation dropped recently. Can you tell us about your role in that film as well as what it was like working on such an epic shoot?
Without revealing too much, I play the role of Jackson. Jackson’s a local footballer with big city dreams, he longs to provide a better life for himself and his long time girlfriend Vanessa. Trying to make his move to the AFL he sees this as his chance for his big break. However, the invasion puts Jackson’s plans inevitably on hold as he, Vanessa and the others are forced to band together in order to survive and figure out what exactly happened, and what that’ll mean for their future! All while carrying a particularly big secret, which leads to plenty of tension and disagreement between him and Dan Ewing’s character Matt. It’s safe to say they don’t exactly see eye to eye on most things. [Laughs].
Working on that film was an absolute joy, man. We had a really fantastic and talented cast and crew, who were so hospitable and really sought to make sure everyone felt involved.
To be a part of that concept, an Australian action/sci-fi is just so unique, and courageous. To stand on set there and see the scale of the production, and it coming to life with the explosives we had rigged, and all the extras fully decked out, it was like being a kid in a candy store. And so much of the world just came to life naturally, it really did feel like we were the last survivors of an alien invasion after a while, especially on those night shoots, when we had the rain machines going, and it was completely silent but for the crunch of a few twigs underfoot, it was such an amazing experience. Getting to work alongside great actors like Temuera Morrison and Felix Williamson they always kept morale high, and really motivated people to do their best. Jacqueline McKenzie and Charles Mesure were fantastic as well. The whole cast really came together as a family and I felt very much like I was a part of something special, something which my fellow cast mates Zac, Izzy and Rhiannon all expressed too. They all did a beautiful job, and I’m really excited to see the final product and everyone’s great work, I hope the audience gets a real kick out of it!
Did working on such a big production like Occupation fuel your passion for writing and directing even more?
Definitely. As I’ve grown as an actor and a performer, and gained more experience, I’ve found that I’ve become increasingly more and more interested in working behind the camera. I’ve always had the desire to create things. Build things, take the images in my head and find a way to put that down onto the page or capture them on film. I used to write a lot of short stories or poems when I was younger and I think once I went to acting school I started to turn towards narrative a bit more. Trying to create all sorts of stories whether they be a novel, or a short film, a feature, etc. There’s something incredibly fulfilling when you finish a project and can look back on it and say, “I made that”. And watching Luke, a guy who essentially had an idea and did whatever he had to to turn it into a reality was inspiring and very much echoed the same thoughts and wisdom I’d heard from fellow mentors and teachers.
You recently wrapped on a new Aussie web series, Interface. What can you tell us about that?
Interface is a sci-fi/drama series that explores the world of online gaming/the Dark Web, the underground scene and the world of cyberpunk, blending all of these elements into a really compelling storyline with interesting character and narrative plot twists. It was written by Ellie Popov who also plays one of the main characters Frey, and it follows the journey of this young man named Wyatt Hoskings, which is the character I had the great fortune of playing. Wyatt, is an intelligent and talented computer engineer and IT specialist, but has so far amounted to not much in his life, working 9-5 in an insurance company providing tech support to his peers. He yearns for more, but has no idea how to go about getting it, that is until he is drawn into this mysterious underworld. When I read the script it really felt like the combination of The Matrix and Ender’s Game. Playing on similar ideas to The Matrix of “What is reality” and the emotional psychological implications of choice, and what it really means to pursue your passion rather than just simply existing.
We had a fantastic cast and crew, from our talented director Nick Kozakis, to our production team led by the great Amie Casey and Giuseppe Cassin, we were really lucky to have such a great team on board, it was one of my favourite productions I’ve ever been a part of so I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone’s reactions moving further into the story in later episodes. I think this is another really exciting original concept for a TV show that again we don’t really see done in Australia so I think it’s going to really capture everyone’s imaginations!
Your Occupation co-star Dan Ewing also stars in the series. What’s it like to work with Dan, who is one of the hardest working actors in Australia?
Dan’s a great guy. Having worked with him twice now, it’s been a real pleasure. He was a great co-star on Occupation, and in Interface, very much adopting a big brother mentality. He’s incredibly giving, does whatever he can to help people and that’s something that I really resonate with and try to give back to everyone I work with. Especially as we’re both repped by the same company, I’d heard about Dan for a number of years, and all the great things he’d been doing so when I finally got to meet him it was a bit like meeting an old friend, it felt familiar in a way. It’s great to see fellow friends and people I’ve worked with like Dan going from success to success, and it’s a funny story, but the first time we ever really got to hang out was one of the nights before we started shooting. He took me to grab a bite to eat and we just hung out like mates would, talking about the film, and life etc. before I started noticing all these people kind of whispering amongst themselves and looking over like, “Holy shit. That’s Dan Ewing”. It was a really funny experience, and really great to see how kind he was interacting with his fans, it’s something I admired and strive to do with anyone who comes up to me, kindness and compassion above all else.
I’m really keen to hear more about your feature film, A Little Resistance, which you co-wrote and co-directed with your friend, Michael Loder. What’s it about and when can we expect to see it?
A Little Resistance tells the story of a young woman, named Princess Sophia, a royal from a country called Preanna that is ruled by her Tyrannical father King Oleander. After the death of her mother, The Queen, Sophia attempts to escape the country by fleeing to the Preanna’s arch rival, Nantio. The two countries are currently locked in a fierce civil war, that looks set to break out into complete destruction. The revolutionary force of Nantio led by Chester is seeking independence and freedom from the kingdom of Preanna after years of injustice and oppression, and the two countries are set to face off on an island set between the two nations called Ibevene. A resource rich island, that has been the scene of many atrocities over the past decades.
It’s a type of toybox warfare, a brutal fairytale with an antique charm is how Mike and I most commonly refer to it.
This story was originally the brainchild of Mike. He spent years cultivating this idea, through movies and his imagination, and then shortly after we met, he mentioned “I wanna make a film” and he showed me this massive trench he’d dug up in his backyard to which I simply responded “This is fucking awesome!” [Laughs].
And the rest was history really, after I got back from overseas, Mike and I went full into pre-production, which as a complete novice at the time was a trip! But we did it! And since then have been working on post and rewriting snippets which we’re actually about to step into and shoot. We call it Phase 2. But we’re excited with the cast and crew we have on board, not content with good, we want to create something that everyone involved can be proud of, and really do justice to Mike’s original idea.
We’re aiming for the backend of this year, once we finish shooting and get the new scene through the edit and into the assembly we think we’ll be ready to finally show the world this little war film we’ve made!
What have you got coming up next?
2018’s a really exciting year for me. With Occupation due to come out and a couple of other projects I was a part of last year too, I’m looking forward to building on the successes of last year and taking that further! I’ve got a couple of my own projects which I’ve just finished writing I’m planning on making, and with pilot season approaching its shaping up to be a really exciting twelve months I’ve made some big goals for myself, and I’m feeling really good about achieving those while having a ball along the way. At the moment, Mike and I are about to step into shooting some new additional scenes for A Little Resistance. I’m scheduled to begin shooting on a new Aussie feature and there’s a couple of exciting new projects on the horizon but I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself! So, it’s safe to say I’ve certainly got a lot on my plate which is great!
Interface The Series and Occupation will be released this year.