> Ben Barrack
When Gus Cleary, an old colleague of Max Hoylandís from the oil rigs
turned up in Erinsborough in 2004, his sinister actions and threatening
attitude made him one of the most villainous of Neighbours characters.
However, as we later learned, Gus was suffering from a mental illness and
his actions were rooted to an unhappy childhood. During Gusí time on the
show he impregnated Isabelle Hoyland, who in turn pretended to the world
that the baby was Karl Kennedyís Ė despite knowing full well who its real
father was. And so began one of the most gripping stories in the
programmeís history. In this exclusive interview, Ben Barrack, the actor
behind Gus, tells us a little bit more about the roleÖ
How did you get involved in acting and did you do anything else before
deciding on the industry?
I studied law straight after leaving school. After that I travelled for 5
years, working in construction and boxing amongst other things. I was
actuallycoaching a guy in Sydney when I returned from England and he asked me if
I wanted to be in an ad. I said "you bet!" and I haven't looked back! I
started off doing a bunch of ads and guesties on the cop and hospital
dramas. I was also lucky enough to be cast in Ivan Sen's film Beneath
Clouds, which was a real kick.
How did the Neighbours audition and casting session come about?
I was in Melbourne filming another guestie, as a drug dealer on Stingers
when I got the call about this gig. Jan Russ wasn't at either of the auditions
that I had to get the gig, although I assume she cast me - she's an awesome chick
and the cast adore her. Apparently they'd seen a lot of people and were
having trouble casting it. However, I got a call 4 days later asking me to
move to Melbourne for 6 months. I was stoked.
Were you aware from winning the role that Gus would be a pivotal
character in the Izzy/Karl/baby storyline?
No. I had an idea of the basic arc of the character, but there were always a
few surprises week by week.
What was it like working alongside Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Alan Fletcher
and Steven Lovatt in most of your scenes?
Awesome. I love all three of these guys. Great actors and great people.
Working with them was always a lot of fun. Although I don't think Natalie
was too happy about the kissing scenes!
Neighbours have been criticised by some organisations for not properly
explaining what mental illness Gus suffered from, and for not doing such
illnesses any favours by making Gus's actions all negative. What's your take
I think Neighbours is a drama first and foremost. There's are many dramas
that don't paint particularly flattering pictures of their villains. I
actually think in the end of people felt a lot of empathy for Gus. He did a
lot of bad stuff, but he was clearly a pretty mixed up fella. That was in
the writing. I think sometimes organisations look for things like this to
publicise their own cause.
How much, if any, research did you do for the role?
I did a little research on schizophrenia and I thought a lot about the
things that had happened in Gus's life which led him to act in these ways. I
always saw him as almost childlike in his need to be liked and accepted. I
think a lot of us have similar needs. Who doesn't want to be loved? Maybe we
don't all go to the same extremes as our little mate Gus.
Some people feel sympathy for Gus's plight, though not excusing his
actions. Do you think the character was misunderstood by a lot of the Ramsay
Yes, but I think that served the narrative. If everyone sat around feeling
sorry for him and being completely understanding of him, where's the drama
Towards the end of your first stint on the show you and Stephen Lovatt were
involved in a stunt involving your characters falling from a first floor
landing. Tell us a little about filming these scenes.
It was a great day. Steve and me were feeling a little upset because our
time working together was coming to an end, which I think probably
heightened the feeling in the scenes. We filmed the fall in 2 parts. First
from the top level where we were harnessed in, then we shot it from ground
level and Steve and me fell backwards onto a mat, but we had to shoot it 4
times because after we'd fallen out of shot our legs kept popping back up
With Gus having returned for episodes for the explosive 2004 series
finale, and his subsequent apparent death at the hands of the Lassiterís
fires, is there any chance that Gus could ever return, and would you want
to if asked?
I guess if the storyline was a good one, Iíd always be tempted. Iíve got a
real soft spot for Gus!
What has public reaction been like towards you since being on air? Have
you had any negative reactions from the public at all?
Nothing negative. I think people just get excited when they see someone they
have in their living rooms every night. They feel a strange sort of
intimacy. Kids get a little bit freaked out. Yesterday a girl in David Jones
said "Hey, it's the guy from the gardening show!"
Finally, what do you have planned for the future?
I'd like to continue working in Australia for a couple of years before
taking a look at the U.S. and Britain. Iíve also got a couple of plays we're
putting on next year.
by Rhys. Added on 15th January 2005