our straight mates With Matthew Myers
As the new resident doctor on Neighbours, Ben Barber is making hearts flutter on-screen and off. Will this be the next boy from Ramsay Street to make it big? 34 DNA
DNA: You play the troublesome new doctor on Neighbours. How do you feel about being a bad boy? Ben Barber: I love it. It’s always exciting getting the scripts because I never know which way they are going to turn or who I’m going to be turning on! I’m always wondering who I’m going to manipulate or screw over. But at the core of things Rhys has a heart of gold. Ramsay Street is an Aussie icon. When you first did a location shoot at Pin Oak Court was it a bit surreal? Yes. In fact it’s always completely different to what you would expect. I had an image in my mind of what it would be like, as well as the actors, but of course it was totally different. Did you watch Neighbours as a kid? Yeah, as a teenager I watched it on and off. Some of the old guys are still there working with me. They’ve been really good at mentoring me, especially in the early days when I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing! [laughing]. I had quite a few scenes earlier on with Susan [Jackie Woodburne] and Karl [Alan Fletcher] and they were great to me. Considering Neighbours has been a launching pad for many now-famous actors, do you feel the world is your oyster? [Laughing] I’ve always thought the world is my oyster! It’s a great job to start off with… well, it’s really the second for me after Home And Away. But it’s such a good learning environment because I hadn’t had that much television experience and training beforehand. It’s really about learning on the job as you go and it’s fantastic. If you had the chance to join a soap opera from the past, which would it be? Hmm… I could never be on a soap like Days Of Our Lives, but Melrose Place or Dallas would be fun. Well Dallas has been resurrected, with the children now grown up and doing all the scheming. Maybe you could play the long lost Australian cousin? Now that would be an interesting role! You ooze sex appeal. How do you feel about gay men checking you out? I have no trouble with that at all. I consider that a compliment! There are a few YouTube clips of you titled “Ben Barber shirtless”. Yeah, I’ve heard about those! Funny how that’s the first thing that pops up! Nothing to do with the intellect or acting [laughing]. But again, it’s all a bit of a compliment. Do you have gay friends? Yeah, I’ve got plenty of gay friends, especially being in the acting business which is flooded with gay actors. But interestingly, I wasn’t always like this and I used to be quite judgemental. Not that long ago I was against gay marriage and against this and that, and it was a bit of a turn around for me to realise how judgemental I actually was. My sisters
used to put the hard question to me. And after a while I was ready to scrutinise my own beliefs, which had been too easy to adopt. Wow, that’s a brutally honest journey. When I was growing up it was commonplace to take the piss out of gay people, not that I did that, but those beliefs were commonplace and it was easier to adopt that rather than look at why it made me feel uncomfortable. But it’s good to realise when you are being so judgemental and to finally open up to new concepts. Do you think gay marriage will happen in Australia in your lifetime? Yes, I think it’s bound to happen. It’s just a matter of when. A lot of people are still against it, but I think it’s surely at that point now where people are beginning to realise that being against it is just ridiculous. I think it will definitely happen in our lifetime. Sooner rather than later! Currently on Neighbours there is the gay story line between Chris [James Mason] and Aiden [Bobby Morley]. Do you think Rhys will stay supportive? Yeah, Rhys is supportive and I think he
“Not that long ago I was against gay marriage, and it was a bit of a turn around for me to realise how judgemental I actually was.”
Is there anyone in the business who you look up to or are in awe of? Richard Roxburgh and Sir Ian McKellen. I’d love to sit down and have a beer with Sir Ian. I reckon he’d be a very funny guy. Those two guys can bridge between the theatre and screen very well. They are both captivating and convincing to watch. They have a dynamic range that stretches from drama to comedy. Who is the most famous actor you’ve met? Russell Crowe. It was the one and only time I was an extra and I did it because he was directing. I was a bit star struck. You’re compared to Hugh Jackman… Yes, I have heard that one before and I have no complaints with the comparisons! What is the campest thing in your house? There’s no mirror ball, but there are some trippy lights in there that may be a bit camp. There are a few internet forums that discuss you and your Neighbours character. Do you ever read them? No, I haven’t really got onto those. I’m a bit of an old man when it comes to keeping up with technology. I don’t really get onto things like forums or Twitter and it was only last year that I got onto Facebook. Actors work a lot of long hours. How on earth do you keep so fit? Well, I’ve been a bit lazy since I got back from Brazil and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the hammock instead of the gym. But I go swimming and occasionally to the gym and sometimes I do boxing. Where do you see yourself in the future? I’d love to go to America at some stage, but at the moment I’m thoroughly enjoying life on Neighbours. I love the cast and crew and I’m very intrigued to see what’s in store for Rhys down the track. Neighbours airs 6.30 weeknights on Eleven.
finds the relationship kind of humorous. He gets on well with Aiden and I think he sees him as a bit of a gossip queen [laughing]. But he’s definitely not against it. Have you ever been hit on by guys? Yeah, I have been to a gay bar and I’ve been hit on. To be honest, I’ve felt a bit intimidated but also complimented at the same time. If you were gay, who would you go for? Probably the Pope, just to purely see how he’d react. And if he was busy, I’d go for Al Pacino. He’s got the fire and the charm. Having studied at NIDA, and now with a role on Neighbours, what advice would you give to people wanting to enter the profession? Don’t take it too seriously. We’re not saving lives! If you love it, go for it! Who is your diva? Beyonce. She’s got an incredible stage presence and amazing energy. Plus she is very, very sexy. DNA 35