All Saints: articles

Erik Thomson and Georgie Parker

All Saints' casualty

Erik Thomson tells ALLEN NEWTON why he quit the highly popular Seven medical drama All Saints.

Erik Thomson is unemployed. He's handed in his stethoscope and puts the pills away after a four-year stint as Dr Mitch Stevens in Channels 7's Australian medical drama All Saints.

After his second day off the payroll, Thomson said he was feeling "weird".

"But I said to the producers at the beginning of the year that I would stay until the end of the year, which gave them 41 weeks, and me 41 weeks, to get used to the idea of leaving," he said.

Thomson says his departure from the series, with his character Mitch dying from a brain tumor, was a tough way to go out.

"It's been hard, but really good stuff," he said.

"I don't know what they would have done with my character had I not been leaving, but certainly by putting a finite time on that it has brought a whole lot of opportunities for me as an actor and it's also a really good story, well executed by the writers.

"It's been draining. But 41 or 42 episodes of television a year is hard work and I can't remember any time in the last four years of not being tired and a little emotionally exhausted at this time of the year."

Thomson said the decision to leave All Saints was made a little easier by the fact his partner Caitlin McDougall, who plays Sandra Todd in another Seven drama Always Greener, was bringing in a regular income.

"id' be lying if I said that didn't help out financially, but the decision was more about the bigger picture of my career and what I wanted to achieve," he said.

"After four years and 176 episodes of All Saints, I really felt like I'd explored the character and the environment and the relationships with the other characters."

He said there was an element of concern that Thomson could become Dr. Mitch forever.

"He's been a fairly popular character and the Mitch and Terri love story has been a popular scenario, and the decision was that if I stayed for one more year I may as well stay for five more," he said.

It really came down to nothing about the show or the people I worked with or my contract, or anything like that. That was never entered into. It was more about the principal idea of what I want to do and it just felt time to move on.

"At the age of 35 I just wanted to take a leap of faith and see what the last four years on All Saints has done for my career and how people perceive me—and will they give me work."

Thomson joins Brian Vriends and Libby Tanner who also recently departed the show.

He says that, while it may change the dynamic, he did not believe their departures would in any way damage All Saints.

"It's part and parcel of the type of work we do. Everyone constantly has to ask themselves what they're doing and why they are there," he said.

"But with people leaving it also gives others an opportunity for their characters to expand is responsibility.

"The fabric of the show will alter but it won't necessarily get any better of any worse. It might get a lot better or it might slump for a while, but you only have to look at the Lisa McCune experiment with Blue Heelers.

"A lot of people said 'surely it can't continue?'—but it did. And not only did it continue but it regained its No. 1 spot because the show itself is bigger than any of the characters.

"I have no doubt that All Saints will continue to be successful."

There was nothing definite coming up for Thomson and he was happy to have a bit of a break.

"But fortunately I haven't walked out to a deathly silence in terms of no interest from anyone out there," he said.

"There have been a few inquiries about things that may or may not happen, but right now I'm more interested in learning how to play my banjo, getting a few waves and spending dome face time with my family."

While Thomson doesn't have any specific projects in mind, he says he would like to tackle something different—"something I see potential in and that challenges, whether that's in television, film or stage, whatever comes along. But I think, ultimately, it would be great to do an ABC mini-series or something like that."

Thomson also has an inclination to get on the other side of the cameras.

"I've done about 500 hours of television in my career in front of the camera, so you pick up a lot of stuff, and I also have training in a lot of different aspects of film theory from when I was at university, so I would see that as a huge challenge," he said.

"It's something I will definitely pursue in the future, but at the moment I've invested 17 years in the acting game. I trained for five years and I've been acting for 12, and I just want to keep focussed on that for the next couple of years."

By Allen Newton
The Sunday Times TV Guide
March 16-22, 2003