> Gary Files
Following the sudden departure of Max Ramsay in 1986, his brother Tom arrived to take over his role in the Ramsay household. Tom was every bit as brash as his brother and he found himself arguing with many a neighbour during his six months as a regular. Here, Gary Files, the actor behind Tom, shares some of his memories from that time...
Can you tell us about your career prior to your role in Neighbours?
Once in London I was asked to join the touring company of Oh What A
Lovely War which Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop London were
sending to East Germany, West Germany and Belgium. I was very lucky as
it had people like Gaye Browne, Johnny Lyon, Brian Murphy and Nigel
Hawthorne in it. It was a wonderful start and an amazing experience.
After that I became a member of the Bristol Old Vic Company for about a
season and a half when it had people like Gawn Grainger, Jane Asher,
Frank Middlemass, Janet Key. Jane Lapotaire, Richard Pasco, Barbara
Leigh-Hunt, Jeremy Child and many more in it. It was a terrific time
for me. Aside from learning a lot as an actor, I got married to my
first wife there - she was a Canadian and had been at the theatre
school with me. The whole company turned up at the church to see us two
'colonials' get married and gave us a reception on stage at the Theatre
Royal - after that night's show. Wow! Needless to say I have
maintained the friendships that I formed there and try to see as many
of them as possible whenever I go to England.
While in Bristol I sent a voice tape to Gerry Anderson using my
Canadian accent - the one I had to use when working as an actor in
Canada. He was intrigued that a Canadian could do such a good
Australian accent and asked me to try out for a new movie he was doing
called Thunderbird Six and the rest is history. So in between doing
theatre, radio, television and film I worked as one of the team of
'voices' (which included people like Ed Bishop, Francis Matthews, my
fellow Australian Bud Tingwell, Rupert Davies, Stanley Unwin and David
Healey) doing Gerry's puppet series for TV like Captain Scarlet and
the Mysterons, Joe 90 and The Secret Service as well as doing the
first episode of U.F.O. as a 'live' actor. During my time working
with BBC TV and Radio I got to work with and admire some very talented
people - Gordon Jackson, Ronnie Barker, Stratford Johns, Anne
Stallybrass, Michael Coles, Diane Fletcher and Barry Jackson to name a
few. I guess two of many highlights in my first time working the U.K.
were the one day I did on the movie The Dirty Dozen with Donald
Southerland, John Cassavetes and Arthur Kennedy playing the tiny role
of an ambulance driver - as well as being in a rock musical called
Your Own Thing at the Comedy in the West End. Then I went back to
Canada for another five an a half years.
Well, it was quite extensive and covered three countries. I trained in
Canada of all places. I had done some early Oz TV and a bit of theatre
and was on my way to England via the 'other' route - through North
America - which really meant working my way through Canada. At one
point I was shown around the new National Theatre School of Canada in
Montreal (a co-lingual school in French and English, being set up by
the famous British/French director Michel St Denis) and decided it was
a far more exciting a place to be - so I tried out for it. I got in,
did all my training there (three years, the only Australian to have
ever done so) and really started in the profession properly in Canada.
I did about a year - which included winning a 'most promising' young
stage actor award for doing the quirky musical Oh What A Lovely War
in Toronto - and headed off to the U.K.
Boy, I've been doing this stuff for at least forty years now and looking back at it is like opening a can of
worms. - The detail is overwhelming - and probably boring. I've done
everything/anything to keep my head above water in this business,
including stunt fights, muppets, producing and running a theatre
company, writing, directing, dubbing, as well as a television
performance as a human banana chased by a man in a gorilla suit.
O.K. I'll try and tighten it up now. The next several years in Canada
had me developing my craft at speed - as I now had a daughter to
support. The highlights were doing the Hostage in "The Hostage" for the
Stratford Festival Comapany, a season at the wonderful theatre in the
round at Stratford, Ontario, and working in theatre companies right
across Canada from Theatre New Brunswick on the East Coast to the
Bastion Theatre on Vancouver Island on the West Coast. Along the way I
managed to do a bit of television, the best of that being a series with
Frankie Howerd for the CBC called. naturally enough, The Frankie
Howerd Show. That gave me enough money, now that my wife and I had
split, to go back home to Australia - a place which I've always loved.
My poor daughter Gemma was now locked into going back and forth across
the Pacific - as was I, to be with her.
In Australian theatre I started with a big success doing the lead - a
disc jockey - in Stephen Poliakoff's City Sugar. Other memorable
experiences early on were doing the leads in several plays with the
South Australian Theatre Company when Judy Davis, Colin Friels and Mel
Gibson were there. Doing The Lady From Maxime's and playing Harry
Brock in Born Yesterday, as well as The Senator in Terry Johnson's
Insignificance, at the famous Opera House complex in Sydney. Nothing
like coming out of the theatre and looking across at that bridge on
In television I worked steadily as an actor in some quirky and
interesting series over the years before Neighbours. - Foremost of
which was playing and manipulating the lead (a muppet) called Simon
Smedley in two children's series for ABC TV - I even played and
manipulated his dear old Aunt Matilda as well. My favourites after that
would have to be Prisoner (as the weedy husband who was beaten up by
the leading female 'heavy') Rusty Bugles, and The Great Bookie
Robbery (playing a seedy used car salesman with a love of goldfish).
I was also lucky enough to work then with Bruce Beresford and Fred
Schepisi - a couple of Australia's finest directors in film. The films
concerned were The Money Movers, The Club and Evil Angels. As
well I did two animated feature films voicing The Littlest Convict
and Abra Cadabra.
How did the role of Tom Ramsay come about?
I was actually surprised when Jan Russ asked my agent if I would
audition for Tom Ramsay. Being heavily involved for years with theatre
I didn't know how she had come to hear of me. Also I was not that aware
of Neighbours and had no idea of the plot line or the characters - or
even how popular the show was. So when Jan and John Holmes asked me to
play Tom for just a couple of weeks as Max's visiting brother down from
Queensland I was chuffed but at the same time a bit appalled because I
didn't really know the show. My partner and I frantically watched
every episode for that week before I was due to start - even then I was
not really au fait with what, or who, everyone was. Then when Francis
dropped out in a rather dramatic fashion and suddenly I was taking his
place with an open ended contract - starting immediately - I was
Thank God the cast and crew helped me unstintingly through that first
frantic week of O.B.'s. People would quickly tell me in rehearsals
just before we rolled camera who it was that I was addressing so
familiarly and the general attitude to the character concerned. I.e:
this guy is a shit and we all hate him, because he did so and so, etc.,
etc. By the time we got to studio the week after I was well into the
saddle and very happy to be doing the show and the character of Tom.
Despite all my original early scripts being marked as Max instead of
Tom, I still had hopes that the writers would be able to give me some
sort of character breakdown for Tom. They said they'd be able to do
that after they had watched me for several weeks. It quickly became
apparent to me that I would have to establish just who he was and what
he was like. And so I did.
Did you ever meet Francis Bell during the crossover period?
No, but I had worked together with Francis over quite a few years as a
Voice Over talent on radio and TV commercials. I just knew him as this
talented, but rather strange, garrulous person who would often arrive
on his push-bike to a studio session. - Always in shorts if it was
In the months leading up to his arrival, Tom was often mentioned, and painted as something of a bully. How would you describe the
I wish I had known that. As I said earlier I had no idea of the sort
of person Tom was and certainly no one told me that he had been
mentioned as a bully or anything else. Max's character was something
of a bully too - being over six feet and a big bloke at that - he could
get away with it. If you had him in your face it would be daunting to
say the least. As I had essentially his words to say for those first
few weeks, I came to the conclusion that looking the way I did (168cm
high and rather weedy) I had better play for comedy when threatening
people. So, from memory, that's what I tried to do from then on.
What were the reasons behind your departure from the show after only 6 months?
My contract was coming up to it's regular renewal point and I had been
asked by the Melbourne Theatre Company to do one of the leads in a play
called Hurly Burly. Grundy's - the production company behind
Neighbours - had been asked by my agent to please let us
know what they intended (as to whether Tom was going to go on or not) -
before we made a decision. When we heard nothing, and with the theatre
company having a deadline by which I had to make up my mind, I thought
it would be more politic to accept the part. It was a good part for me
in the end - a quirky, interesting American (so different from Tom) and
the play had been a bit of a success for David Rabe on Broadway.
Needless to say Grundy's were not happy I heard later, and Tom was out
Which cast members did you particularly enjoy working with?
Animation work continues for me as an actor with TV series like Ocean
Girl and Quads as the latest. And last year I returned to musical
theatre playing Father Smythe, the catholic priest at the famous
stockade in Eureka. With leads like Barry Crocker, Nancye Hayes, Ian
Stenlake, Rachel Beck and two fabulous new talents everyone should look
out for - Trisha Crowe and Simon Gleeson - Eureka was an exciting new
musical and was directed by Gale Edwards the internationally acclaimed
Australian director. It was a tremendous and very satisfying experience
All of them really. They were such a supportive and 'user friendly'
bunch. We really looked after each other and the different people that
we worked with over my time there. I think you could safely say that it
was a happy, hard working set. I have a couple of people that I would
regard as special 'old mates' from my days on Ramsay St. - principally
dear Anne Haddy (sadly now dead) Annie Charleston and Peter O'Brien, to
name a few. But the cast members I knew then always have a touch point
with each other - whenever and wherever we meet around the world.
How did your return to the series in 1990 come about?
I think I was chatting with Jan Russ around about that time - we have
stayed in touch from time to time. I had been saying that I was still
interested in doing Tom again. She thought a short visit might be
possible - I just didn't know how short it would be.
Were there any plans for a more permanent return for Tom, as his
daughter Gemma became a full-time cast member?
Not that I know of.
Are you still in touch with any of your former cast-mates?
Probably about three or four on an irregular basis.
The funeral of Madge in 2001 was criticised for being extremely light on relatives for the deceased. Were you ever approached to return
for these episodes? If not, what would have been your response?
Not approached at all. And I would have been proud to have been there.
However, I suppose my not being considered makes sense when you look at
the sheer number of writers and editors and executive producers that
have passed through Neighbours over the years since I was in. I would
say that, to my knowledge, Jan Russ would be the only person in
management with total continuity on the sea of characters and their
relatives that have been on the show over all those years. And though
she does sterling service she could not be expected to keep tabs on us
all, in order to organize such a thing.
Could you ever envisage a return to the series for Tom?
Yes, I would love to be back as Tom. I think, as with all characters
in a soap, that it would not be too difficult to work up a storyline
around Harold as my only 'on camera' relative for example. Tom would
certainly 'stir the pot'. Though as you can see from the photo at the top of the page, I have changed a lot physically of late. I started losing weight (11kgs) before the musical last year (thank God) and had
grown a beard for the show. Come to think of it, it might be rather
intriguing to explain how all that happened to Tom.
What have you been involved in during the 14 years since we last saw Tom Ramsay on our screens?
In TV my favourites since Neighbours were The True Believers (a big
series for the ABC - playing a beloved politician called Fred Daly)
Rafferty's Rules (playing a transvestite in high heels at one point)
The Flying Doctors, Skirts, Correlli (the series where Hugh
Jackman was discovered), MDA (with Jason Donovan again) and Pig's
Breakfast (a kind of Sci-Fi children's series in which I played a TV
station manager - in charge at last!).
In the years since I have done a lot more Australian theatre and
television, a British series The Shadow of the Noose and a couple of
more films as an actor. I also started working as a director in
theatre. As well I really started to write seriously for the first time
- winning an AWGIE award from the Australian Writers Guild for a four
half hour radio comedy serial called Uncle Vinny's Wireless. I also
formed a theatre company called Period Pieces which (using some of
Australia's finest actors) did performed readings of the classics for
three years to much acclaim. As an actor in theatre I had a ball doing
Oscar Wilde in Oscar Wilde at the Cafe Royal at the Melbourne
International Festival. And to name a few favourites more, the Rev.
Gerald Gannet in Woman in Mind, Stalin in Master Class and Paddy
Cassidy in A Hard God - as well as Mickey in Hurly Burly, of
You were part of a TV Week photo shoot to commemorate the show’s 15th birthday. Can you tell us a little about that experience?
The contact came out of the blue. The good thing was seeing Annie
Charleston there. It was a screamingly hot day and we shot in a
warehouse type place - rushing through in groups.
As the show is now in its 20th Anniversary year, what do you believe lies behind its enduring success?
It's escapism at it's finest. Who wouldn't rather have been a Kylie or
Jason or Guy or whoever, that slog it out daily in the humdrum real
by Steve. Added on 9th April 2006