June 15, 2022

Two Unemployed Actors with Shane Withington - Episode 96

Max interviews Home & Away Actor Shane Withington
- The great training ground that is working on set of Home & Away
- How to set up for success on a television series
- Playing ‘John Palmer” on Home & Away for over 14 years and the famous character Shane lent on for inspiration.
- Advice for up & coming Actors looking to work in television
- What a normal week on Home & Away looks like
- How the cast & crew are shooting through Covid

Episode Page:
An Add Kulcha Production

Max interviews Home & Away Actor Shane Withington

-       The great training ground that is working on set of Home & Away

-       How to set up for success on a television series

-       Playing ‘John Palmer” on Home & Away for over 14 years and the famous character Shane lent on for inspiration.

-       Advice for up & coming Actors looking to work in television

-       What a normal week on Home & Away looks like

-       How the cast & crew are shooting through Covid

Episode Page:

An Add Kulcha Production


Max Belmonte 00:12
Welcome back to Two Unemployed Actors. I'm Max, Sam isn't with us this week but I have an
Australian Logie Award winning Actor Shane Withington with me, one of Australia's most
successful actors, I have to say you've been in the business for decades, Shane, a country
practice, and most recently Home and Away I say recently, but you've been playing John
Palmer for over 10 years, isn't it?

Shane Withington 00:40

Max Belmonte 00:41
14? What is the secret to having such a long career in such a tenuous career of acting?

Shane Withington 00:50
I was once in a dressing room and I heard an Actor say or overheard an Actor say to another
act that I just want to make enough money to justify being in the business for so long. It's a
funny business. I don't know why I've been. I don't know why I've been successful. You know,
I'm a jobbing Actor, you know, I've just been lucky. I'm good at what I do. I work hard at what I
do. I've been doing it for a very long time. So I was professional when I was 16. So that was a
different world, then, of course, but I couldn't say why it happened. Or there were periods
where there was no work, of course, and I did voiceovers. And through my early career, it was a
different time. I'm gonna sound really old. But it was a different time because you could do, you
could do a boy a couple of voiceovers and make some money and then you get an ad and ads
paid well back then. Then you do a bit of theater restaurant, then you have a Crawford show
down in Melbourne, then you come back and do a Grundy show, that would be ABC here,
Melbourne or Adelaide. And you've just bounced from gig to gig, we may be or my generation
we may be the last generation to be full time actors. Because all the young kids now though,
they've got a daytime job and they do the gigs that come back to their daytime job. So I, I've
been very fortunate in to be able to just just just act for a living apart from the times when I
was a waiter. But generally, I'm lucky.

Max Belmonte 02:21
I think in a way, some things haven't changed, the fact that you've got to be flexible in your
approach. If you really want to make it a career like the slashy mentality of voiceovers as well
as acting you know, you got to put as many hats in the ring as you can.

Shane Withington 02:39
You've gotta be versatile. I see a lot of young people come through and they do one thing. They
don't do comedy. I don't do this. This is what I do. And that's not No, no, you've got to try the
triple threat. The other thing is the death of the actors. You need to be able to do all that.

Max Belmonte 02:56
Yeah, there's enough reasons not to hire you. I mean, you don't want to give them any more.

Shane Withington 03:03
you get jobs not because they want me? People will get to my age. They know they don't want
that. So only get the jobs they weren't before?

Max Belmonte 03:11
That's a great strategy. Do you remember how you got your start? Did you do you go at 16 did
you find an agent and start auditioning right away?

Shane Withington 03:21
No, I was lucky enough I auditioned for and won the thing called the Elizabeth in Bequest
scholarship in Brisbane. And that step taught me was a for a year that I wanted again the next
year I was 16 and it taught me day one I was cleaned out underneath the stairs of the theater
and day to do something else and then they taught me sound lighting. I'd rig the show taught
me how to all the rig all the lights, wardrobe, tap dancing voice classes and of course acting
classes. And eventually they gave me a small role in the show and they just built those roles up
the second year bigger and bigger and bigger until I was playing leads at 17.

Max Belmonte 04:03
That's a great sort of foundation to Yeah,

Shane Withington 04:08
I mean all up when I got to Sydney though we made a little bit but I was still in with the with the
mob you know I was still you know when I came to Philly I had to work as an extra and then a
50 word and then a little guest T role and then that had stopped basically all over again. I'll
climb a ladder from scratch. Yeah.

Max Belmonte 04:28
And I believe while I read somewhere that your your Home and Away character John Palmer
was only meant to appear in a few episodes or be a few months.

Shane Withington 04:38
Six weeks. Yeah. So don't invite me to dinner six weeks and then then they offered me a year.
That's all great. The reason I took the year was I wanted to have a paid holiday I wanted to take
my family on a holiday and be paid like to have an actual paid holiday. Because up until then,
you know I've been making films Yes films and other TV shows, and I did just before HomeAway
I made Out of the Blue, which is a co production in Australia, but his co-production. And we
have the same producer, Julie McGauran was on both of those shows. And when I finished, you
said you want to come over to the bay. And I'd always sort of kept away from Home and Away
and I had quite a quite an old fashioned opinion of what the show was right? Because years ago
it was pretty rough. It's just come ahead so much. I'm sure rail to give me the saying that it's
come ahead in leaps and bounds, the amount of television we make down on that show what
we should, is unbelievable. Unbelievable.

Max Belmonte 05:41
Really, it's really impressive. And as an Actor, I've had a couple of 50 worders on on Home and
Away and I've experienced firsthand and know, you know, just how quickly you guys shoot and
three cameras at once. I mean, if you don't turn up and know your shit, you know, you are
really in for a difficult ride because it just the world works so so quickly in that world.

Shane Withington 06:05
Yeah, we say walking in the studios take one you're on! Yeah. And I say to the younger actors,
you know, you've got to know it's a fantastic training ground. You didn't get a three year gig in
it. Obviously. Everybody wants it now. If you can get three years in them. It will teach you much
more than than the NIDA or The Actors Centre, WAPA in making television. Because it's a
baptism of fire. I've seen young kids come on the first day is a nightmare when it's a big, big
day. Yeah. But it's it's a university.

Max Belmonte 06:47
,No, it's absolutely fantastic. And I think even more important now that Neighbours has has
finished I mean, another breeding ground for talent over decades. So yeah, you know, it makes,
puts Home and Away just up on a higher pedestal now.

Shane Withington 07:07
Yes, it's the loss of Neighbors was felt throughout the whole industry, because we're making
less and less and less Television and now one that one show now I think it's Homers, It's just
Home and Away for long form drama. And what a shame because it's not just the actors. It's
the crew. It's the wardrobe props caterers, everybody makes a living out of that. Desperate
shame to see Neightoburs go. We're all aching for everyone who's in the show.

Max Belmonte 07:32
We're back to to John Palmer. Is he a fun character to play.

Shane Withington 07:38
Oh I love himi. Yeah, he was supposed to be there six weeks. And I thought he won't get... he
won't have longevity. If he's just he was cast originally an angry father. Right? And I thought,
yeah, you angry father. But people won't want to keep watching an angry father that I thought
I'll make him angry funny for them. And that seemed to work. I based him, believe it or not, on
Donald Duck. Because he he reacts the same way, cranky, vain, his vain, greedy, he is all those
things that Donald Duck is. But as I said to the writers, he's got to be likable. They're still gonna
like John, you still want him to succeed even though he is great therapy actually come to work
and be angry, greedy.

Max Belmonte 08:23
Thats fantastic. Let it all out.

Shane Withington 08:25
Although, yeah, tight, tight, tight, as tight as anything.

Max Belmonte 08:29
But you're right, I think making an adding a bit of humor. I mean, it just helps to make the
character a bit more relatable to too many people.

Shane Withington 08:37
You have to be your people, the good thing, be the man, or a lot of the kids come in with them
to their Acting school lessons in their head. And they they struggled when I first started. My
advice to them all is 'be the guy'. That's all you have to do. You got to just be the guy be the
person during the take, ideally. And it happens a lot. When they call Action. And you go and
you're the guy, you go in and you do them. $1.50 a scene is a minute 50 you call it the dollar
fifty. So for that minute 50 You are that guy, you will trick yourself into believing you are that
guy. And that's the only thing that matters. And I say don't worry about what they look like, like
I just did before we started filming, but I have no choice. But just man if I worry what I look like,
but it's not about how you look. It's about what you're doing and who you are. It's all that
simple. To keep the role running.

Max Belmonte 09:40
That's that's that's, that's really interesting and I think particularly with Soap Acting do w...ould
you say it has its own particular style of performing
Shane Withington 09:51
television or Homers?

Max Belmonte 09:53
Yeah, yeah,

Shane Withington 09:54
is very different from theater. But obviously it's a whole world it's not even a job, it's a lifestyle
because you live and breathe it. Because we are there for 12 hour days, bang, bang, bang,
bang, we do a lot. We make a lot of television. And it is a different style. You got to back
yourself. There's no no room for insecurity. Because if there's no one there to support, there's
no time for it. Absolutely. And the crew bless every single one of them. insecure, because they
merciless. With us and our performance.

Max Belmonte 10:27
It's certainly it's certainly like coming in as a 50 word, it can be tough because you know you
just literally there for a moment in this what appeared to me to be this really well oiled
machine. These people have done it before. And I could just shut up and watch and just learn
so much from them. It did feel like one sort of, you know, big family in a way.

Shane Withington 10:51
All long runners are. All long personal connections become families, you know, whether you're
on a bus tour around the world, or whether you're working in a television series, but we spend
more time with each other with our fake wives than we do with our real lives. We spent a lot of
time together. And, you know, for all its warts. HomeAway is a very familial setup. We know
we've known each other. I was working with some of the cameramen when I was 21. We've
known each other our whole lives and we go and they are I think they are the possibly the best
television crew on it.

Max Belmonte 11:25
Well, I guess the true test is that you've been there for 14 years. I mean, I think says that more.
That's fantastic. And we'll look speaking of family and on screen wives. I mean, you famously
married your on screen... she was your on screen wife at A Country Practice.

Shane Withington 11:42
And it yes, she was Yeah, but but didn't marry her. We're still both waiting on a better offer but
we're still together Although right now she's actually on a Camel in the Flinders Ranges.

Max Belmonte 11:53
The lengths she'll go to to get away from you or...?

Shane Withington 11:56
I think that attract a camel more attractive. Annie of course, was Molly in A Country Practice.

Max Belmonte 12:06
The casting director is... props to them for that. Wonderful pairing. I grew up watching A
Country Practice that was fantastic. I used to love that. And Cookie was another favorite
character of mine from the show as a little kid, I used to love him a real larrikin.

Shane Withington 12:21
He was, what a joy it was, how lucky were we to get to fall into a show like that. With all those
wonderful people. It was a tremendous, tremendous stuff. And it's never goes away. I mean,
I've changed. I'm older. But people walk down the street and people go, Brendan! Wow, you're
doing all right remembering me!

Max Belmonte 12:43
If someone was to land a role on a soap, or land role on a television show what advice would
you give that up and coming Actor to prepare?

Shane Withington 12:57
It sounds really silly, but a lot of young people come in a lot, a lot of young kids come in, and
they have only half learnt the dialogue that they're struggling for that they can see them
thinking, what's my next line? It's so basic, you've got to have those answers, you've got to
have the lines in your bones. So if they just fall out, then you can do something with it's not just
a case of standing and saying them. And you'll see many, many, many young actors standing
there and saying the lines, it's that it's not about that. The lines are the last, you know, the last
thing, you put them in your bones, so you know them backwards. You come on, then you've got
dark time to play with it to change a little to play with the timing and, and I'll get back to it. But
you're the guy. That's really important.

Max Belmonte 13:44
That's That's great advice. Yeah, I think, you know, there's nothing feels better than when
you're in the moment as an actor and, and you're able to just relax in a way and act and react
more so naturally, because you've got you know, the bits you can control down pat. And you
can still be free in the moment. And sometimes you end up making choices, character choices
that you wouldn't have consciously made.

Shane Withington 14:12
The absence of time between action and cut, you know, really, you shouldn't be the guy, you
shouldn't be in that zone. So well, you're almost that you owe what happened, you know, you
and knowing your lines and knowing knowing what you're doing and being confident. There's
nothing worse than then feeling like you're acting like you're struggling for a line and you've
suddenly become aware of everybody around you and you start getting uncomfortable while
you're doing a scene and you're not 100% the character and hate that you've come to some
days I come off going on today, three or four things I just, I didn't feel like I was I was in the

Max Belmonte 14:51
I mean, I'd imagine there'd be a few days where you feel like you have to work just a little bit
harder to make it work. Are there any sort of Tips and Tricks you use just to help you know
kickstartand get in the right mindset.

Shane Withington 15:07
I always before I started taking enormous breath, enormous big breath, fill my lungs up, look
up, and just go, I'm John Palmer". "I'm John Palmer". And I pick and do everything he would why
he would do a bolster up the way he would do it. There's nothing else it's just hard work hard
work and be focused. And don't worry, as I said, I'm repeating it. But don't worry about what
you look like. It's that's the job of the makeup artist, the camera, they'll do all that. They'll
make sure that you look the way you want to look. But sometimes you might disagree with the
Director. But it's the Actor's job to give the Director what he wants. So if he says, Do this, play it
this way. And you go, and I always put my case. Oh, hang on. I think maybe it would be better if
we did it this way. Because no, no, I want this. There's no argument there is no, that's what I
want. It's not it's not about the actor, giving his amazing performance. It's about the act of
giving the Director what the Director is asking for. And sometimes it's not the way you want to
do happen this week, after player Theo wouldn't would not apply to that way. In that case, I
think I was right. Yep. But many times the director gonna try this. And you'll do it You go, boy, I
didn't even think of that, you know, you didn't even think of playing it like that.

Max Belmonte 16:27
And I guess it must be really interesting for you to to be able to work with so many different

Shane Withington 16:35
Yeah. And so many different Actors is one of the big joys, we roll through a lot of Actors, and
the young ones come in, I get to steal all their ideas on the go. And I do, it's so lovely to see
them work with you, you get the energy from the younger ones too often the senior cast, we
call the senior cast, because we've been doing it a long time. Yeah. And generally we'll do one
to one or two takes, or as I say if you can only do one thing and only takes one take. But the
older cast or that senior cast of data sort of move along and be and keep the structure the
show going and keep the floor moving. And that's nice. It's it's a privilege to do that. And as I
say the younger the younger Actors coming through with their image in their bodies, and their
approach to their characters, with just some beautiful people. I've fallen in love with so many of
the young cast and all the young ones that I've had serial relationships with in the show, they
all keep in touch. And they all read and we're friends and we're gonna go sailing with some of
them. And that's that's been I'm so lucky to have that side of the show the social side of the
show and meet these incredibly talented young people and follow their careers as they go off
and overseas and become stuff you make more money in Ireland. I've got huge stars overseas,
which is lovely. It's lovely to be a part of that.

Max Belmonte 18:01
Yeah, I guess it does. That, of course is another testament to to the series being a great
grounding, you know, if you can, if you can survive, working as fast shooting as much footage
as you do on Home and Away, you know that that really will set you up.

Shane Withington 18:17
Yeah, the Americans watch the show, like the big Casting Agents get sent out and they watch
it. And they watch the young ones and they go, 'Oh, well, he's done three years, he's done his
training at Home & Away University, he will hit his mark, know his lines, you'll understand what
the shadows are, you'll understand you know, how to avoid shadows how to do how to do all
the answers'. And that's that's great credit to the show.

Max Belmonte 18:42
Yeah, totally. And what so what would a normal week look like for a normal work week? We've
got some scenes in the studio and some scenes on location, what would it look like?

Shane Withington 18:56
Every week is completely random. And there's no pattern at all, because it does depend on
what they can shoot for what the schedule is they can put together and what sets are built so
you can't ever say 'I'll get Thursday mornings off.' And so on my phone, my spell checker, if I
just say if I type in, 'I won't know', into my phone. What comes up after that. What I'll be doing
until my schedule is released on Thursday night for the following week. And so we can have we
might have people go. What are you doing Wednesday? I don't know. I've got a schedule. What
a Thursday. But for a schedule that you understand. And with COVID Now we've been shooting
24 hour on 24 hour call. The day before yesterday. I was in bed playing Wordle and phone goes
at seven o'clock in the morning you're on we've had a cast down so leaped into the car. Do the
driver to the studios. That's unusual, but COVID is really, really not fussed about.

Max Belmonte 19:57
It's certainly a bit harder, isn't it?

Shane Withington 20:00
It is, we can't really... difficult to plan anything ahead and see if an Actor is sick overnight. And
they call it seven o'clock in the morning, all the sets have been built in the studio. So we have
those sets. So we've got to find something that's on that set. And so we go scrambling forward
blocks, and go, there's these two Actors put them together on this set. And it may not even be
the block - a block is five episodes - It may not be the block we're shooting. And so Oh, where
are we? And so the continuity people that have come get this is you're saying, I mean, we often
not often, but sometimes you're learning them as you're working on. The this is the same this is
what's happened. Oh, is that what happens? But your average week is we should Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday, generally on location, which is Palm Beach or any other whatever prisons
or whatever locations we need. On the side, that's a unit one and the second unit in the studio.
We should Monday, Tuesday every day in the studio. And then you've got crossovers, so you'll
shoot a morning on location, then jump in your car and go to studio sometimes you go back to
location Double Crossover. That's when the actor start whinging.

Max Belmonte 21:12
Because the studio is not around the corner from "Summer Bay".

Shane Withington 21:16
No, I'm lucky I am very close to the beach location.

Max Belmonte 21:20
You've done well yes. You can almost sail onto set.

Shane Withington 21:23
Yes I do.

Max Belmonte 21:24
No you dont. Do you?

Shane Withington 21:28
I do.

Max Belmonte 21:29
I can almost see you as Captain, sailing onto set.

Shane Withington 21:38
The crew hates that when you get to work your way. I'll get to work my way. Okay.

Max Belmonte 21:45
The admirals arrived.

Shane Withington 21:48
They certainly can dish it out. Their lovely the relationship with... between the actors and the
crew is just, it's just as I said, it's familiar. It's just... it's just beautiful.

Max Belmonte 21:58
That's wonderful. That's wonderful. Look, thank you so much for your time to help other up and
coming actors with with the tips and tricks and your advice. It's been great. I do appreciate it.
Thank you.

Shane Withington 22:10
It's all pretty basic Max, but I look forward to seeing you in something more than a 50 worder in

Max Belmonte 22:16
You never know indeed.

Shane Withington 22:17
I'll go and give you a plug now... Max Belmonte. Thank you.

Max Belmonte 22:20
Appreciate it! Shane, it's been a pleasure

Shane WithingtonProfile Photo

Shane Withington


Best known for playing lifeguard John Palmer on Home & Away for over 14 years, Shane Withington is an Australian Actor with credits across Television and Film over several decades. An experienced Actor, Shane provides some insight into what its like working on a fast moving set like Home & Away.