Hot property Hugo

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May is a big month for actor Hugo Johnstone-Burt with new work about to hit both the big and small screen.

Tomorrow ABC premieres the third season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, in which he plays Constable Hugh Collins.

On May 29th his first US project, the $140m post-apocalyptic natural disaster San Andreas gets a global release. Written by Lost’s Carlton Cuse, it stars Alexandra Daddario, Dwayne Johnson, Colton Hayes, Ioan Gruffudd and Archie Panjabi. Filmed on the Gold Coast, Brisbane and San Francisco, it even features a cameo from one Kylie Minogue.

“I didn’t even get to meet her! We were staying at the same hotel and we didn’t get to cross paths, unfortunately. Paul Giamatti was so talented it blew my mind. The guy’s a genius,” he says.

If the film takes at the box office it could lead to more US opportunities for the young NIDA graduate, whose other credits include Cloudstreet, Home and Away and Goddess.

“I always go in with my Aussie accent”

Johnstone-Burt recently tried his luck at Pilot season in the US, a merry-go-round of ‘go sees’ and auditions where the competition is hot and the agent calls are erratic.

“Sometimes you can get them in the morning for that afternoon, so you have to cram 15 pages of script in a couple of hours,” he explains.

“Some auditions you walk in holding the page if you’re not too confident.

“You can get a week’s notice or 2 days. I had up to 7 in one week. It’s pretty intense. You can be learning two different projects learning three scenes each night, then getting up and driving to Santa Monica for one, over to Burbank for the second. It’s stressful!”

But for some the determination pays off. Johnstone-Burt puts himself forward for any genre and admits he trades off his Aussie heritage in Tinsel Town.

“I like to have a crack at everything to put my name in the mix. This year there was period stuff, The CW or Walking Dead-type material, a huge range of stuff,” he says.

“I always go in with my Aussie accent but that’s because I’m confident with my American accent. I let them know immediately that I’m Australian. I might even put it on a bit more because we’re hot property right now.

“I haven’t had anyone pull me up so far, so I think I’m ok.”

Represented by United Management Australia and United Talent Agency, Johnstone-Burt has good relationships with agents on either side of the Pacific and says he isn’t in need of a manager right now. So how do the roles differ?

“It depends where you want your career to go. I don’t need a lot of reassurance from my agent. Both my Australian and American agents act as managers as well. They don’t mind me calling at anytime and they’re happy to talk me through things. They also pick up my phone calls,” he continues.

“An agent can sometimes be very career-driven. They get you into auditions, sign the contracts and that’s it. If you want to talk about anything personal, such as how you’re feeling, that would go to a manager who has less clients and more time. The manager might also have connections that can get you through doors that the agent might not have, and vice versa.

“At this stage I have an Australian agent and an American agent and what’s good is that they’re both willing to pick up the phone. But some agents have a hundred clients so they don’t have time to deal with a lot of things.”

“More sleuthing, a wedding and lots of flirting.”

Closer to home, Johnstone-Burt is excited about ABC’s ever-popular Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which promises “more sleuthing, a wedding and lots of flirting.”

Based on Kerry Greenwood’s books, the series has spawned merchandise, a touring costume exhibition and international sales.

“My mum even showed me some scenes where I have an Estonian accent,” he laughs.

Returning to season three are dazzling star Essie Davis, Nathan Page, Ashleigh Cummings and Miriam Margolyes. With its backdrop of period crime, there are personal challenges for young Constable Collins this year.

“He’s questioning himself and his relationship with Dot and it goes on the rocks for a while. He doesn’t really know what to do with himself, so he takes some time off to think about everything,” he explains.

“This year because we reduced from 13 to 8 episodes we had more time and money for each episode. Hopefully it’s bigger and better and the fans can see and appreciate that.”

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries returns 8:30pm Friday on ABC.

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