He’s been awed by Amsterdam, unmoved by Miami and captivated by the Kokoda Track. But if you want to meet this LA-based Aussie actor, your best bet might be a country pub. Interview by Jessica Irvine.
Where are you right now?
I’m in Los Angeles, at my house in West Hollywood. I first came here on the back of an audition and decided to stay. Funnily enough, I spend more time back in Australia working, even though I’ve been living here for eight years.
When you walk into a hotel room, what’s the first thing you do?
I check the minibar. I have a sweet tooth so I look for chocolate. And beer. And I can’t resist cashews. I also check if you can open a window – that’s important.
Is there a city you could have given a miss?
In the United States, it’s Miami. When you get into some of the more urban parts it’s really interesting but it’s known for South Beach, which is not the type of beach I relate to. Being from Australia, I think of headlands, beautiful white sand, nice water. Miami felt like a ghost city.
Where would you like to take your son, Levi, when he gets older?
I’d like him to see as much of Australia as possible. If he’s going to grow up in the States, I’d like him to know our Indigenous history. We’re big on travel, Michelle [Smith, Le Nevez’s partner] and I. It’s really important to us that Levi sees as much of the world as possible. It informs young kids. We’re already trying to teach him a second language.
Spanish. I speak French but Levi has a bit of Spanglish – half English and half Spanish. It’s cute.
Do you wander the streets or check maps?
I love a map. I’ll look at it once, try to memorise it and then wander the streets.
Which destination was a surprise to you?
Amsterdam surprised me with just how beautiful it was. I spent a Christmas there 10 years ago, staying in the Jordaan neighbourhood. Sadly, Amsterdam has a reputation for its red-light district and for being the bucks party weekend place. But it’s like trying to judge Sydney on Kings Cross when there is so much more to it.
Have you ever gone off the grid?
I walked the Kokoda Track in 2013. It was amazing – just me, a doctor from Wagga Wagga [NSW] and three locals. Everyone should do it. It is an opportunity for a history lesson on how many young Australians sacrificed their lives and also the chance to step into another culture. We didn’t have phones and we lived and ate by the river. It was the perfect research before I shot Parer’s War [a telemovie about Australian war photographer and cameraman Damien Parer] and I enjoyed being off the grid. I found that the pace of my thoughts slowed, which allowed me to have more clarity. Then I walked back into my world a week later.
Have you ever been on a road trip?
I love a road trip. I’ve travelled across the States but I’ve also driven a Kombi around Queensland and NSW for about two months, sleeping in the back and getting stinky. Whenever I returned to Melbourne for a job, I used to insist on flying into Sydney then I’d drive to Melbourne. Driving can quiet the mind and immerse you in the environment if you take your time. I used to go the long way, via Wagga Wagga or rural Victoria. It was the best way to prepare for an Australian job and to drop the stress of Los Angeles, to get used to the pace again. I’d drive up to a little motel in Wagga or Lakes Entrance, go to the local pub and chat to someone. I still love doing that.
And no-one recognises you?
Now and then they do. After the live episode of Blue Heelers aired years ago – I played a character who committed a crime – I walked into a newsagency in Albury [NSW] and a lady said, “You’re the baby killer!” In Melbourne, I’m recognised for Offspring; in Queensland, it’s Love Child. When I was a kid, I asked someone famous for an autograph and that person was really rude. I was only six and I cried. It really shook me to the core. Now I realise the courage it takes to ask a stranger for an autograph; even to say “hi” is a lot more than it takes for me to be polite.
Do you prefer resort or rustic?
I prefer rustic. But I see the benefits of a resort, especially when you have a little kid. Michelle and I go to Palm Springs a fair bit, to get away from LA, and we have a favourite spot. But it’s no longer our favourite, because we have a three-year-old and it’s a quiet, romantic getaway. Now we’re looking at family places with water slides and a pool [laughs].
What are you most likely to bring home from a trip?
I’m a key-ring guy. I have key rings from Tasmania, Vietnam, Cambodia and Costa Rica. A lot of them are bottle openers. I also have a weird shell one from Nova Scotia. The most interesting one, though, is from my grandad; it’s a bent penny that looks like a digger’s hat.
And if you could be anywhere else in the world right now, where would it be?
I wouldn’t. I’m sitting in my bedroom now, looking at my son watch cartoons. I spend a lot of time away from Levi and Michelle so now that I’m back, I wouldn’t trade it for a trip to the moon. ￼
Main image credit: United Management