All Saints: articles

Jake Blundell: The Cream of the Crop

Jake Blundell has won quite a bit of attention playing Tony Hurst, the ward clerk, in All Saints. Tony is a great character — funny and kind, but also quick with a retort if needed. He's also been keeping Connor (Jeremy Cumpston) on his toes, as initially Connor thought that Tony — who is gay — had a crush on him. Then the two bonded over a mutual love of the Cougars football team, and Connor was on hand to lend Tony support when he discovered he had contracted hepatitis C from a needlestick injury.

Jake is, unfortunately, not a permanent addition to the All Saints cast, but we're sure we'll be seeing plenty more of him in the future — he's clearly a very talented lad who's undoubtedly going to be in demand. We thought we'd grab the opportunity to chat to Jake as his star is on the rise.
Jake Blundell makes an impression on the set of All Saints.
Catch All Saints on Tuesdays at 8.30 p.m.

Jake Blundell

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well I'm Jake Blundell, I suppose I've been acting since I was a wee laddie — since I was very small, doing bits and pieces. I remember jumping up at a window for a Jane Campion film when I was five — that was probably my big break. Two Friends, I think it's called, not a very well-known one. Some of my earliest memories are hanging around in theatre spaces in Melbourne watching my parents argue about aesthetic issue — very important artistic business going on. So both my parents are in the business. My dad's an actor [Graeme Blundell] and my mum was a director, she wanted to become an actor but she ended up working as a director in a theatre in Melbourne.

What other acting have you done recently apart from All Saints? You've done the Showtime ad, we know that.
Recently, yeah… I've done a lot of ads over the years. It kind of funded my university degree.

What did you study at uni?
English, Theatre and Film studies — a BA, at New South Wales. And I went to Berkeley, in California, to finish that off in '96, '97.

So you turned in to a hippy dude?
Oh yeah maaan, sure, it's great, man. It's suppose to be a really hippy, left-wing, relaxed, liberal place… but it's not in a lot of ways, it's quite conservative. I mean, America is in general, and Berkeley was as a university, and that's why you had such a strong reaction from the leftie sort-of kids. But it was just like your normal run-of-the-mill conservative university. Compared to Australia, which is a lot more kind of relaxed and liberal in general.

Well they've probably…
Weeded out the bad element.

The commie-leftist-pinko crowd!
Absolutely, get rid of them, throw 'em in jail. The FBI comes up and takes them away.

Well, they're all easily picked up on dope-smoking charges.
Yeah, right. While I was there they had a decriminalised medicinal marijuana use. So everyone was very happily in Berkeley, let me tell you… I did a sort of Farscape this year, which is pretty exciting to work on, a big science fiction… Do you know Farscape? It's an American — it's actually the science fiction channel kind of new series, their main kind of figurehead series. It's now rating really well over in the States. Made here in Australia, Channel Nine and Jim Henson production. So it will be on Channel Nine later on the year, only one episode. Working on a play, that should come out next year, find somewhere to put it on…

As in, you're writing a play?
No I'm acting in this — it's called A Touch of Paradise, by a guy called Mel Morrow. I play a Jesuit scholastic, like a trainee priest who is trying to work out if he wants to stay as a priest or go off and be this woman that he fancies.

It's always a good struggle.
It is a good struggle, isn't it? He happens to go away to a beach house wita the woman and try and work it all out.

Don't reveal anymore!
No, I won't — I'm sure you can work out some of it. It's pretty good, pretty exciting. And I've just started working on a short film, as the director, so that will sort of be my second main one. I've done a couple of other crappy ones but as a director. So, yeah, I'm just getting that going now.

You've got your thing in a different pile.
Yeah, I think you have to, I think that there's just not enough work around for actors, or it's so tough being an actor and relying on the business to employ you, nobody can do it. It's like the old joke — 'I'm an actor'. 'Oh really, which restaurant?' It's just too hard. People always say, 'Are you able to support yourself by acting?' — 'Oh yeah, pretty much'. 'Wow, that's amazing' — it's just a really difficult thing to be doing.

So you have to be a bit inventive and also very willing to diversify.
I think so. I think you have to diversify, be willing to be able to generate projects. When you don't have anything on, you don't have any work, instead of moping about actually just get out there and make it happen. That's what the producers do, people that make… I mean, I don't feel any different or any less capable than people who put things together. So that's probably where I am heading in the long run, but acting as well, love acting, will do it for the rest of my life if I can — hopefully. I can produce films that I'm the big star of. I do it for the love of it that's all

So you would have seen the ups and downs of the industry with your parents growing up in it — it wasn't enough to deter you obviously?
No, but it was enough to convince me not to put all my eggs in one basket and as soon as I finished school just to go off to NIDA or whatever. I just didn't feel comfortable about that, just seeing the difficulty of being a freelance creative person or whatever, like my dad was. My dad's diversified a lot, he's able to do a lot of different things.

He does some writing as well.
He writes, he's written books, he's about to have another biography coming out, about Grahame Kennedy, and he done journalism, reviews of crime novels, you know, it's really the way. I've learned that from him from watching him struggle through the business. I think he was always a director and an actor, but in his 30s and 40s he really got that broad range of skills happening.

So you've learnt your lessons well, in other words.

How long have you been on All Saints for?
Twelve weeks now, I've got one more week, so it will be 13 episodes.

And do you want to stay?
I'm having a great time, I'd stick around for sure if they offered me more work, or if they brought the character back, I'd come back.

That's the problem with the ward clerk, he's not potentially the most action…
No, he's not really. And I have to sort of hassle my way in sometimes, make a bit of room for myself, get my head on.

Well you're doing a pretty good job — you seem to be getting noticed.
Oh good. It's the bright jumpers, I've had a lot of feedback about the bright jumpers, especially gay blokes — some like 'em some don't, it's a talking point, you know, yeah…

And they're not really your decision either.
No…people fail to really work that bit out. Sometimes people will say, 'Jake, what were you thinking wearing that? Why did you do that? Don't you know that brown doesn't go with green?' 'Yeah, I know that, that's OK, man — not my decision.'

Tony slipped in quite easily into Ward 17 — he was fairly unobtrusive, but we noticed him all the same. Do you think that you slipped into the cast easily when you arrived?
Yeah, they're really friendly people, it's a really happy and relaxed vibe. The atmosphere on set is probably the least stressful set I've worked on, I think, and I've worked on a lot of different things and worked on production and worked as producer's assistant and various other things on films before. But I found this relaxed and happy, and when there's pressure people kind of deal with it instead of shouting at each other. And the cast are boisterous, they've certainly got a lot of energy. When you're not friends or you don't know them very well, it can be a little bit off-putting. But, no, they're great. After a week or so I felt comfortable enough just to kind of relax and join in the fun. They're a terrific bunch of people.

Did you know any of them before you started?
No, no, none.

It would be a bit daunting arriving, too, because it's not just the cast it's the whole crew.

It takes a while to settle down, just to warm into and get relaxed with different cast members, work out how the characters fit together as well and how to play the different relationships. You develop those things over a couple of weeks. It's taken less time than I thought it would, you know. I'm really pleased with the way it's gone, you know, it's being made to feel relaxed by the cast and crew.

Have you had any offers flowing in from this?
Not yet, but it's only been on air for a few weeks, but I haven't really. [But] I've been very busy, I've had a needle-stick injury, I've got hep C and I'm involved with the football.

And that flirtation with Connor…
With Connor—we have a whole thing going on, me and Connor!

I thought that was played really well, because Connor that's typical kind of blokey bloke who is acting like he's not that comfortable around a gay man.
He's a bit apprehensive, not totally relaxed about it; he's doing his best and he's learning some stuff, and Tony's learning how to deal with people that don't like gay people. So that 's been a really fun thing. Jeremy [Cumpston, who plays Connor]'seen great; obviously we've had to work quit closely with each other. I think we've developed quite a good understanding of each other and the characters, and he's a good bloke as well.

One of the interesting things about Connor as a character is he could be a SNAG-gy type but he's actually a bit of a boofy bloke.
It's funny, it's a weird mix. Because when he's dealing with patients he's really sensitive about their needs and their issues, but he's got fixed ideas about the way things are. And I don't think Tony dislikes Connor — I think it's just difficult [to deal with] somebody who's got prejudices against gay people when you're gay.

And when they vocalise — or not vocalise, but make it obvious in the workplace.
Yeah, you can't control that urge to sort of… 'He's a bloke, he's trying to hit on me, he's gay, gay, gay'. You know, 'The poof he must be hitting on me'.

Jake Blundell

Have you played Tony basically as he's been written or have you injected some of your own interpretation?
Often there's not a whole lot written, sometimes there is just one line here and there, so you have to put in some characterisation working with some other stuff, and it's been working with the directors as well, you know, at first I didn't kind of know how gay or how campy or how over-the-top Tony was, and we really kind of worked and we worked hard on finding a nice balance for him of how to be comfortably gay and not overtly kind of overly campy or anything. You know, he's quite an interesting bloke, he's got some interesting contradictions that were already written into the character in his background. He's kind of like a normal middle-class Sydney kid who just happens to be gay, but not really into the whole gay scene too much… I've known people like that, I've seen people like that. But as I said often the scripts are quite often the rest of my kind of character input , or there's not a lot there sometimes. Tony's just floating around, he just joins in conversations every now and then, you know.

He doesn't have a lot to say but we're aware that he's there.
Yeah, and that's important for him to kind of act as an anchor for the nurses' station, he's always there and I suppose he's kind of like a reference point for people/

And he kind of comes across as a gay man who has worked in a lot of environments where he hasn't had acceptance of him being gay, so he's trying to play it down a little bit..

Absolutely. It's not something he wants to play up on, he just wants to get on with his job, get on with his work and be good at it. I mean, when there's time for fun he'll camp it up a little bit and play around with the boys, but otherwise, you know…

My initial impression of Tony was that he was efficient and professional, but he also brings certain warmth and care to his fellow workers into the ward. and we see him being… in an environment with nurses and doctors, he's actually the most humane person on the ward in a lot of ways.

Because he's caring for the rest of them.
Yeah, right, he's caring for them. And often they get so caught up in the conflicting issues with patients that they'll be at each other's throats. They're all meaning really well, and attention, but sometimes Terry will give something, with trying to deal with a patient or whatever, and that causes tension. And, yeah, because he's not involved with the patients at all — well he is involved with the patients in that he's there to help out whenever he can, but not in the medical sense — that gives him a pretty unique position in relation to those other characters; he can really be aware of what's going on around him. His main assumption is to be keeping his eye out for what's going on around the wards. And he likes the people he works for. He likes staying, he wants to be there, you know, he likes the whole gang at the hospital. So, you know, it's an interesting thing…

He would be a good addition, I think.
Well I hope so, I hope people get behind him and support him. I quite like the character, I think it's good for the show in a way.

What has been your favourite acting experience so far?
Favourite acting experience so far?

And it could be jumping up and down outside the window.
No — I don't think it was that! To tell you the truth, my favourite acting experience so far has probably been playing Captain Corcoran for HMS Pinafore in Year 12. I don't know… I loved it. I loved the music, and it's such a fun character to be the captain of a ship. What is the song… [Jake starts singing a sea shanty]

You sing as well?
Oh yeah! I sing a bit, play a bit of guitar, do a bit of the music stuff. Although Farscape was fun, playing the bad guy.

A lot of actors say that playing the bad guys are fun.
Yeah, fun, fun, good — I enjoyed it. Had a groovy costume, all black, and kind of very military and kind of groovy; hard, mean person. All Saints is my favourite.

Do you think it's more black and white to play a bad character than to play a good character? Maybe a harder thing to achieve?
No, good is easier to achieve. Playing bad's good — playing bad in the way it keeps people interested. Because I think even with a bad guy, you have to endear the audience to them. The audience has to see something in the bad guy to confuse them a little bit, as to who to barrack for. I think if it's too black and white and too simplistic, then it's boring. Some of the best bad guys, some of the [James] Bond bad guys, they're really bizarre and interesting characters, you know, people work really hard. Or Robert De Niro in Cape Fear or something like that — brilliant character. But there's always something about them that's kind of interesting or kind-of… I think there's probably a lot more scope in a lot of ways to create an interesting, bizarre or eccentric character. Especially in television and things like that, because the good guys are the good guys — they're kind of muscular, they're kind of big, they're kind of brown, they kind of beat people up at the end of the day, and they kind of win. And the girl at the end of the day. Oh right, I like playing the bad guy.

You'd take a baddie over a goodie, if you were offered the choice?
Probably. I wouldn't mind having a career as a… got to get my voice all 'aaahhh' [rasping]

Darth Vader?
I'd have to smoke a few more cigarettes, drink a bit more scotch, I suppose.

Well, that's right. Or you could cut one of your vocal cords, that would make it really interesting.
That would be reeeally interesting.

Who or what inspires you in your craft — either now or when you were getting into the business?
There's several actors who I respect and admire. I love Jack Nicholson. Some of the actors I admire, they're not hugely good actors. I mean, Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford and all these great big movie stars — they're great but they just play themselves, so it's kind of hard to aspire to be an amazing person like that. So I suppose I got into other performers like Daniel Day Lewis, and directors, you know. I've always been sort of interested in directing and directors. I've been getting into Luis Bunuel — there's really dream-like sequences. It's magical film-making, I reckon, Bunuel's film-making. More recently than Belle du Jour.

It was really quite shocking at the time.
Yeah, and when he was working with all the surrealists, in the 1920s and '30s. And I like literature, I studied literature, so I read a lot of books. I just finished Catch 22 — brilliant.

What do you like most recently?
I was reading satire. I was reading Evelyn Waugh and other satirical kindof… and a bit of Aldous Huxley, early Huxley. Will Self — that kind of satirical edge is something I like and I'm interested in so, yeah.

If the acting genie appeared out of a saline drip in Ward 17 and offered you a role you really wanted to play, what would it be?
The one role I really wanted to play… hang on, give me a second here... Mad as a hatter, bloody Danish people.

Wandering around empty castles?
Crazy Danish princes, they're all the same.

They look good, apparently the entire nation of Denmark is good looking.
Gorgeous, I'm sure. The one role… you know, I don't know, I don't know.

Maybe it hasn't been written yet.
Hasn't been written yet. I'll write it first and then I'll get back to you, OK — and if you can give me the funding then we're on.

What advice would I have for aspiring young thespians?
My advice for aspiring young thespians is to grow a thick skin, and an even thicker coat of armour, because you've got to be able to take a lot of knocks. You've got to be able to accept rejection — it's a lifetime of rejection. I'd also say not to be too star-struck or carried away, but to think of acting as a job, like any other job, except that you have to go for an interview every time you want to work for a day or so. It's ridiculous. So it's tough and you get a lot of knockbacks and it's a job, the glamour is really not really happening, it's just an image. It's a hard slog: long days, early mornings. I'd say to young actors to do it, but only if they really felt that there was a passion there, a really strong desire to create in that way. Otherwise do something else, and come back to it later maybe. It's a good idea to have something to fall back on, you know.

Is there any other career you would pursue if given the chance?
Given the chance I would probably want to be — I flirted with the idea of being a musician or a carpenter.

A carpenter — your dad was a carpenter?
He was a carpenter first. Scrap all that — architect which is what I have dreams of being, an architect. It's too late now, I've missed the boat. If I really committed the next 10 years…

Do you think this is an exciting time to be working in Sydney as an actor?
Absolutely, except there has never been more actors than there are right now.

Everyone's on the bandwagon.
Yeah, there's never been more actors, but I do think it's an exciting time, I think if you're a versatile person and you're creative about the way you go about getting work and stuff — or, of course, if you're Marty Lynes, then you'll… [said as All Saints actor Martin Lynes walks past] I think there's a lot of interesting work to be done in Sydney at the moment. It's like the new Hollywood or a new…It's like Pinewood studios in England in the '50s. And I think you'll probably see the rise of certain actors, character actors, in Australia — well, you're seeing it with Geoffrey Rush already — who work form Australia and get these incredible film careers happening because of the activities here. In the way you did in the '50s with [Peter] O'Toole and [Richard] Harris and whoever in the '50s and '60s in Pinewood studios in England.

And then Heath Ledger will take on the other roles.
Heath will take everything; everything that I go for Heath will have.

Oh no, I think Heath's a different thing — Heath's still got a few years left in teen movies, actually.
Am I an adult now ? Oh wow.

Oh, maybe.
I've made the jump. I'm an adult. Wow.

You never know — you and Heath…
I've always — for the last couple of years I've been right in between teenager and young man.

It's a fine line to walk.
It's tough — too old for teenagers but a bit young for young man.

But it sort of depends on how they make you up.
True, true. I tend to look young — which is a good thing, good thing, not a bad thing.

Now, are you in favour of a republic of Australia?
Oh yeah. Why do we need the Queen of England as the head of state of Australia? But then again I'm not a hugely nationalistic person. So maybe we could have a Ugandan as the head of state. My choice for head of state would have to be Georgie Parker.

That is probably going to be a popular choice. Lisa McCune might have the edge.
Nuh, Georgie.

And, finally, what rocks your world?

All Saints! What rocks my world is having a big night with my friends. Five-day weekends rock my world.

Seven Network Limited