The role of Aaron Brennan on Neighbours is the first major acting role for 27 year old Matt Wilson.
Yet while playing a gay character might have triggered second thoughts for some young actors, Wilson had no concerns. If he had any nerves, it wasn’t surrounding his sexuality.
“It’s not really a big deal. That’s the character you’re playing, so you have to completely embody that person regardless of what it is.
“In my first scene I had to strip! I can’t dance so my biggest concern was dancing on national television!” he laughs.
It was a memorable entrance. Arriving as a male stripper at Erinsborough’s Waterhole, Aaron Brennan recognised his brothers Mark (Scott McGregor) and Tyler (Travis Burns) and settled into Ramsay Street.
Wilson drew upon his own gay friends as research when he joined the long-running soap a year ago.
“When I got the job I had wardrobe consultations so I went through all my mates’ photos on Instagram. They don’t know this but I took screenshots of them and made a “big look” book!” he recalls.
“They’re all around the same age who hang around a surf town in Sydney, both gay and straight. And that’s what Aaron is. He’s similar to them, so I thought ‘There’s no-one better to base it on.’ I might tell them one day!
“Now they love it. It’s awesome. Every now and then they give me a little ribbing if I have a topless scene.
“But I haven’t seen too much negative stuff. Someone bagged me out on the type of shoes I was wearing once.”
Wilson was a trained carpenter who crossed the boards into showbiz when his mother entered him into Australia’s Hottest Tradie contest. He won a car and along with it, a co-hosting gig for the contest the following year.
“So I went to NIDA and did a 2 week course in presenting. The teacher suggested I do some acting courses, so I enrolled in some of those and then I did some outside workshops for about 5 years,” he continues.
“Whenever somebody made a short film I’d put my hand up and my mates made a zombie feature called Wormwood. I built some of the props, I played a zombie –anything I could do to do with production I put my hand up.”
There were modelling gigs, a minor role on Underbelly and a Neighbours audition.
Learning on the job alongside seasoned performers is synonymous with the ELEVEN soap, and is something this hungry young man embraces with open arms.
“Because we shoot so much you don’t really get the time to rehearse other than on set with the other person in front of you,” he explains.
“I did a comic scene with Jackie (Woodburne) and Fletch (Alan Fletcher) the other day and they pretty much re-wrote it and made it into something absolutely hilarious. They can see how it looks on television and they know how comedy works. So when you get tips from people like that you think ‘How good is this?’
“When you first begin the writers don’t really know you because they haven’t seen much of your stuff, so they haven’t found your strong points. So the writing changes as you are on the show longer. If you do something really well they remember it and write it. I’m getting more comic relief scenes, where Aaron is sort of the one who is left out, but it’s really funny. He just brushes it off, he doesn’t get depressed or anything. So they know he can bounce back.
“Sometimes you read the line and think ‘How am I going to say that?’ and then you workshop it with someone like Stefan Dennis. It’s great!”
Neighbours airs 6:30pm weeknights on ELEVEN.