It’s official. They have slowly invaded our culture, stealthily growing in number and influence while we didn’t even recognize their presence. They look like us, they sound like us, but the place they come from is another world, a strange world, where the red desert sand stretches for miles, mysterious deadly creatures lurk around every corner, and sustenance is gained from a black sludge that tastes of hops and salt. No, I’m not talking about some subspecies of creature on The X-Files (although technically that almost matches their description.) I’m talking about Australians.
Well, specifically Australians on TV. Australians have achieved acting dominance in the movies years ago, coming in with a casual grin and a tendency to throw phones to prove themselves particular chameleons, able to shed their skin (and their wide vowels) and disappear into a character on screen with nary a hitch (I have a theory for that, but that’s for another post). In recent years, there has been a more subtle takeover. Slowly but surely, some of the best shows on television have benefited from the peculiar alchemy of Australian actors, and often they are so good at hiding their origins that you would have no way of knowing whether they grew up thinking that Santa arrived down a showy chimney or in stubbie shorts via boat to a barbeque. So, I have amassed this little field guide to my top five favorite Aussies-you-maybe-didn’t-realize-were-Aussies delighting us all with their awesome on a television near you. In no particular order, they are:
Okay, maybe I lied about it being in no particular order. I love John Noble. Hailing from South Australia and currently starring as Walter Bishop on Fringe (which I assume you all watch because it is excellent), Noble also appeared as Denethor in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which gives him extra awesome points and also means he has pretty much cornered the market on playing slightly crazy men who have issues with their sons partially because they love them too much (think about it!). But as Walter Bishop, Noble has created a complete portrait of a tricky character; a genius who has lost part of his mind (quasi-literally) and must attempt to rebuild his work and his relationship with his son, Noble’s Bishop can be childlike, coldly calculating, sometimes too whimsically off (writers of Fringe, enough with the ‘Walter wants to make candy AND dissect disgusting things at the same time!’ quirkitude) but heartbreakingly loving and completely vulnerable at the same time. It would have been very easy to play the part as a loon or as an imp, but Noble’s simply-played Bishop is entirely real. Also, I would like to note that in addition to being a truly excellent actor, John Noble is a fairly prolific Director in Oz, which also puts him on the list of ‘people who have unfairly high talent levels in many fields’.
I know, I know, I didn’t have to put the beefcake shot. But really, it’s hard to find one that isn’t beefcakey when you’re dealing with Ryan Kwanten, who is, let’s be honest, as hot a slab of beefcake as was ever thrown on a grill (woah, THAT metaphor just got weird). Anyhoo, Ryan Kwanten, hailing from delightful Sydney, is (in addition to being easy on the eyes), a really fucking good actor. Playing Jason Stackhouse on the holy-crap-once-you-start-watching-it-you-will-NEVER-BE-ABLE-TO-STOP HBO series True Blood, Kwanten makes what could easily be a one-note dumb manho jock (who is also, in the books, sort of an asshole) into a loveable, stumbling, striving manho dumb jock, who realizes his own limitations. I dare you to watch the scene in which he says how hard it is to have people like him for his “good looks, athletics, and sex ability” and not for who he really is inside without laughing at him, pitying him, and loving him at the same time. It’s a tough sell, and pulls it off to perfection.
Yep, another Fringe-er. What can I say – with two Aussies leading the cast and the realization that the only thing you need to do to Michael Cerveris to make him the perfect alien is shave his eyebrows off, I think the casting people at Fringe are my soulmates. But I digress.
Hailing from Melbourne, Anna Torv proves that no country produces smart blondes who have equal parts glamour/handsomeness/ethereally strange beauty like Oz. And like her fellow Aussie Cate Blanchett, you can’t quite look away from Anna Torv. Playing Olivia Dunham, a haunted but no-nonsense detective, Torv manages to be both rawly open and full of deep impenetrable mystery. She anchors the show easily and without resorting to any of the standard ‘it’s a tough detective – but a LADY detective!’ stereotypes -(with her hair down or in a ponytail, minimal makeup, and the same boring wardrobe of suits every week, Olivia Dunham might be the only female detective lead on a major network show who actually wears flat boots, and not ‘sensible’ stilettos, in a job THAT REQUIRES RUNNING). She’s good.
Digging the flower accessory, Rose Byrne!
Alright, Rose Byrne, born in Sydney, gets a nod for being on Damages (which I don’t watch but many people I know do and are obsessed with), and being able to hold her own opposite Glenn Close, no easy feat. She also gets a nod for starring in many fine indy films such as ‘Two Hands’ (with a young Heath Ledger! And the always awesome Bryan Brown! Netflix!) and ‘I Capture the Castle’ (with my current girl crush Romola Garai). She was on the line for me for a little bit for being snoresville in ‘Troy’ (but maybe she was stunned by the mediocracy around her), and for momentarily seeming to do the disappointing Kate Beckinsale ‘trade in quirky smart indy cred to become shiny, puffed and skeletal for Hollywood love’ dip. But when she’s good, she’s good, and did you know she was Aussie? Probably not.
I was going to write something about how Simon Baker was in L.A. Confidential (making it a movie that stars THREE AUSSIES, Kevin Spacey, and my ‘if I were far more attractive’ doppelganger Kim Basinger, in addition to just being excellent – no wonder it’s a favorite), and now he’s on the Mentalist, and how he’s really good friends with Nicole Kidman, which only goes to prove that my theory that all cool famous Aussies hang out together and how much do I want to be at THAT party, but then I saw that his wikipedia page features a handmade drawing of him by a Czech person. So I will just let that speak for itself:
Okay, I broke my own rule here, because technically Ben Lawson was on American TV with his own accent, so it was probably very obvious that he was an Aussie. But I broke it for a reason – my own blogger vanity. You see, I watched Ben Lawson’s show, the short lived The Deep End, and I noticed him. Not only because he’s studly, Aussie, and seemingly ginormous, but because he was also very good, very charming and very funny, in an entirely un-self conscious way (it’s what Ryan Kwanten does, too – what IS that?). So I will add him to this list because I suspect that very soon he won’t just be an ensemble player of that lawyer show on which Norbert Leo Butz was a crazy person, but that he will be a glittering gigastar in his own right, with or without his accent. And when that happens, I want those future people who google Ben Lawson to find this post so I can tell them I told you so. So hello, future people. Isn’t the delightful and charming Ben Lawson, from Brisbane, now a big well-deserved star? I told you so.