Actor: The OC, Lost Neighbours, Ugly Betty
How did you first gain an interest in acting?
I grew up in New Zealand, where television didn't arrive until the early sixties and my parents were members of several amature dramatic societies. I would often spend weekends with my parents, building sets and preparing for productions. I was in my first stage play, "Seagulls Over Sorrento", when I was about fifteen. Although I first performed, as a thirteen year old, at my High School Concert imitating an American comedian called Shelley Bermann.
What would you consider your “big break” into the business?
I was driving my milk truck one night and at about 4-00 am the radio announcer I was listening to decided he had had enough and walked off the station, leaving the sound of the record in the wash. I went home, had a shower and drove into the radio station and asked to see the manager. The guy said I could use their spare studio and as soon as I was ready I should bring him a tape of my work. After about three months of practice, I received a phone call from the Manager asking me to fill in on their midnight to dawn show. Three months later I was the afternoon announcer.
Having pulled that off I went to the local Television Station and asked about working as an actor. I was told that they didn't hire people without experience, but none the less, I received a call from them a few weeks later asking me to audition a role in a new series they were making called "Radio Waves". I took the part and worked on that show for seven months.
After “Neighbours” you went into publishing for a while, what made you go down this path?
I published a "Neighbours" magazine because we were having trouble controlling the publication of similar magazines, with unauthorised pictures, by other people. A lawyer told me that the only way to have control over our images was to publish ourselves. It was quite lucrative.
What gave you the push to move to the States in 2000?
I came to the United States ten years ago, to see what would happen. I had always thought that Hollywood was the Mecca of our business and wanted to see if I could make it here. My wife, Tracey, was a great supporter of the idea and it has worked out wonderfully.
Since your move, your career has been bigger than ever, do you think you have finally left the character Jim behind?
I have been able to move out from "Jim Robinson's" shadow, but when I am in Britain or Australia, I still have loud "Jim" days.
You have had had guest roles on Lost over the last few years, do you keep up with the show? Where you a fan before you were cast?
I am still working on "Lost" and just arrived back from Hawaii, where it is shot, two days ago. I leave again on Friday. Tracey and one of my older sons, Simon, are huge fans and have always encouraged me to be part of it. When I was in London in 2008, playing King Arthur in "Spamalot" on the West End, they brought two cast members to London to shoot scenes for the show.
Lost is going into its final season this year, is your character going to be featuring more prominently in this season?
My character "Charles Widmore" is still heavily involved in the story lines of "Lost", but more than that I cannot tell you.
Along with your work in America, you have also guest stared in some British (Torchwood, Midnight man) and Australian (Sea Patrol) shows, how did this compare to your work in America?
I am always amazed at how similar the experience is when working on shows in different counties. There are a few little differences. For example, when a First Assistant director in Britain or New Zealand or Australia wants someone to act silently in the background, they ask the people to "mime" their work, while in the USA, First Assistants always ask them to "pantomime". ( I always thought a Pantomime was a stage show?) You were recently in the musical “Spamalot”, how was working on this different from working on a TV show/Film?
"Spamalot" was the most fun I have ever had in this business. I played King Arthur and we filled the 2,000 seat Palace Theatre in the West End almost every night.
Are you working on anything currently?
I have just completed three feature films which are due out this year or next and, as I mentioned, I am still working on "Lost". I begin work on a new Kate Hudson, Kathy Bates movie, "Earthbound" later this month.