Australian actor Ben Lawson has traded Ramsay Street for Hollywood Boulevard, but America’s response to the pandemic has made him homesick.
You were born and raised in Brisbane but moved to the US in 2008. In that time, you’ve appeared in a number of films and shows, including ‘Bombshell’, ‘Modern Family’, ‘Don’t Trust The B—in Apartment 23’, ‘The Good Place’, ‘13 Reasons Why’ and ‘Designated Survivor’.
At this point, your role as Frazer Yeats on ‘Neighbours’ must seem very far away.
The novelty never wears off. Every time I’m on set doing anything, I kind of feel like I snuck my way in. I don’t know, I think all Aussie actors share a bit of that “imposter syndrome”, where we think, “How did I end up here?”
I’m always pinching myself. Things are always up and down in this industry but it’s been going well so far. Who knows what will happen on the other side of this massive lockdown?
You mentioned Neighbours. I still talk to a lot of those people. I love my Neighbours family. They were formative days of being in front of a camera, trying to improve. When you say all my credits in a row like that it sounds like I haven’t stopped working, but that’s not the case [laughs].
It’s been a long journey to get even just this far.
How are you doing in LA during the pandemic?
I’m doing OK. I’m reluctant to complain because everyone is going through a hard time and some people are going through a much harder time than I am. It hasn’t been easy.
In the US in general – because of the whole “freedom” thing over here – I feel like there’s a great deal of frustration with even being out of the house and trying to walk to the pharmacy or something.
There are so many people without masks on, and you just go “OK… now I have to take the back streets to get to the pharmacy or if I want to walk anywhere.” I’m getting ready to come home to Australia for a couple of months – touch wood my flight isn’t cancelled.
Besides seeing family and friends, what are you looking forward to the most about being back in Australia?
Australian summer is my favourite – I don’t want to be anywhere else – and everything that comes with it: the surf and sand, live music, drinking beer, just taking it easy.
Which is a little counterintuitive because you could argue that I’ve been taking it easy for a lot of this year, but I think just being away from the stress of the US and everything going on in the political world with this country, as well as the very real possibility of a second wave of infections.
I’m very happy to be getting away from all of that.
Films and TV shows are slowly getting release dates. Do you have anything coming up?
The big one is a show called Firefly Lane for Netflix, which will be out February 2021 and will hopefully do well. It’s with Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke. I play the third person in a love triangle.
That’s not a bad love triangle to be part of.
[Laughs.] It’s not the worst. I get paid to rock up and be part of a love triangle.
You’re also about to release a book called To My Country, which is the published version of a viral poem you wrote about the bushfires and then read out on Instagram earlier this year.
How did the poem come about?
Like a lot of people around the world, I was glued to the screen every day and checking for new updates, and it just got worse and worse. I think it was the first time since I’ve lived away in the US that I really felt I should be back [in Australia].
I don’t know what I could have possibly done back there, but there’s a real pull to be there in the country’s time of need. And I think every Aussie around the world felt that. I never anticipated it would be shared like it was. I was nervous putting it out there.
I felt very exposed. I felt I might be ridiculed for it.
What was the reaction?
People immediately started getting in touch from all over the world. I went from feeling like I was very far away to feeling kind of embraced, in a way that was unexpected. Knowing that people were seeing it and donating to charities, that was like, “Wow, this is actually doing some material good.”
Hopefully the book will continue to do that. [All proceeds from the book, which is illustrated by acclaimed artist Bruce Whatley, will be donated to the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie.]
Since the poem has done so well, does this mean more poetry is on the cards?
I think it may be one and done [laughs]. I’ll quit while I’m ahead. I don’t think I’m going to be able to follow it up.
To My Country by Ben Lawson with illustrations by Bruce Whatley (Allen & Unwin, $29.99) is available December 1.