Exclusive ATV Interview: James Mason, who plays Chris Pappas in Australian soap Neighbours talks to ATV Today.
Over the past few weeks you character has come out very publicly, when did you learn that the character was gay and how did you feel?
I knew pretty much from day one, I know from when I was offered the role. My agent said to me you’ve got an audition for Neighbours, are you comfortable with playing a gay character and I said yes, no problem. I was excited to get the role and the fact that the character is the first ongoing regular gay character on the show, it’s such an opportunity and it’s not worth turning down.
What has the response been like?
The response has been absolutely fantastic, it’s been really positive. I mean I haven’t heard anything negative personally so yeah it’s been fantastic. I’ve had people come up to me when i’m out in clubs and pubs and shopping centres saying it’s wonderful work i’ve been doing, it’s really warming all this positive feedback. It makes me feel like i’m doing something right with the character.
Do you think it is having an effect on people in Australia, its helping teenagers who maybe in a similar situation?
Yeah, I think that was one of the reasons why the character was introduced by the producers. They wanted to have someone in this situation for people in a similar situation to relate to, and to know they are not alone. I personally know it has helped quite a few people. I’ve had people come up to me, and send me messages, saying that they are really grateful for the way I play the character, saying they can really relate to it (the story). It’s a good feeling.
Neighbours aired its 6000th episode last week, have you always been a fan of Neighbours?
I had not been a fan as such, but Neighbours is such a huge thing here you can’t really just avoid it. When I was growing up I’d watch it coming home from school, so I was familiar with the show and with the characters. I suppose now I am more of a fan of the show, now I am on the show and knowing everyone behind the scenes, all the characters and who they really are, so yes I can definitely say i am a fan now.
Is everyone great to get on with, I assume they are a lovely bunch?
Yeah they are, they’re a fantastic bunch, really great especially when your coming into a group and your the new guy it can be hard to fit in but they make it very easy and very welcoming. They are really helpful, the guys who have been there for some time they definitely know what they’re talking about, it’s good to listen to them.
What’s in store for Chris?
A lot of light is taken of Chris for the time being, he’s away doing his own thing and I suppose really dealing with his new lifestyle, rekindling his relationships and friendships he has with his family and friends. The good thing is that Chris and Summer remain quite good friends. Chris is determined to help Summer through whatever comes in the future, and really just stick by her. It’s a good friendship that evolves even though it’s been such an ordeal.
Does he make back up with Andrew?
Yes. The good thing is that all the relationships and friendships that…they all work out for the better even if Chris doesn’t get the result he wanted, he is still content with having Andrew as a friend.
Do you know if Chris is going to get a love interest?
It’s a bit hard to tell at this stage, it really depends on…well at one stage it was depending on the audience viewing and response which has come back really positive which is a good step towards something happening. It just depends now on what the network here in Australia will allow. Unfortunately we’ve got strict restrictions on what we can show at the time slot Neighbours is in. It will depend on the network whether they will allow Neighbours to show certain things.
With Neighbours moving to digital next year, it’s my understanding that the restrictions are relaxed, does this mean Chris could get a love interest then?
Yes, very much so. I hope that’s a positive step but that’s quite a long way yet for us but I really hope that means that they can do a lot more with Chris and explore his relationships and everything about him. It’s not on the table yet, but it’s definitely a possibility.
Did you have a fear when you joined the show you would end up being typecast and people associating you with that role?
Yeah I suppose it was always in the back of my mind that I could get typecast or people on the streets could just assume that not only is my character gay but I could be gay, I suppose it did bother me but as time has gone on I realise I don’t really care what people think because I know the truth, so whatever people say they can’t hurt me.
I’m just looking at all the positives. The positive being I’ve been shooting on one of Australia’s biggest soaps for 12 months and I’ve had a ball so far. It doesn’t matter what character I am playing I am going out there and having a ball doing it. If you let it bother you, you don’t get anything positive out of it.
James, thank you!