Blue Heelers: articles

Sacks packs it in

AFTER 11 years and five Logies, Martin Sacks is one of the most recognisable faces on Aussie TV. Now, this Blue Heeler is hanging up his badge to focus on being a dad.

I’m proud of my father. He was a German Jew who escaped to Switzerland and the US during the war and ended up fighting against the Germans. He was in the schmutter business—the rag trade. He was incredibly encouraging and supportive in anything my brother, Steven, and I wanted to do. But when I decided I wanted to go into acting, he said, “What! Are you nuts? You should be a doctor or a lawyer.” It was very much a case of, “OK, I support you, but can you really make a living from this?”

I’d never had any inclination to entertain or be in the limelight. It’s interesting that I’ve joined a profession of public display, because I wasn’t like that as a child. I was into soccer and swimming and being outdoors, but I never had any dreams of the arts. Advertisement:

My brother pushed me into acting. He was doing independent theatre in Sydney and encouraged me to try out for a part on The Love Boat, (while it was filming over here). I thought, what the hell, and I got to spend a few weeks sailing around the Pacific. I think I had one line—“Can I get you coffee?” or something—and it was cut anyway. When I came back, I thought, “That was fun, but it’s not what acting is really all about.”

I was scared witless in my first real job. It was The Restless Years and I had no idea what I was doing. I remember the director calling out, “Martin, I’m going to have to do a tighter shot of you because your leg keeps shaking.” I also had this terrible habit of mouthing the other person’s lines because I was unsure about when my line was going to come up. I was awful, but miraculously I survived, and somehow I got on the treadmill of guest roles on telly, and then theatre and film work.

I gave Hollywood a dip. It was the late ‘80s; I was single and had a couple of bucks, so I thought, “OK, I’ll give it a go.” But it didn’t fit for me. I didn’t get anywhere and I’m glad I didn’t: if that had materialised, I wouldn’t have what I have now. I’m living the life I want to lead, and I wouldn’t jeopardise that for anything. I still like the idea of doing good work, but I’d rather have a career here in Australia.

I wasn’t keen on Blue Heelers at first. My agent talked me into it. I didn’t know if we needed another cop show. I was sure it would fold after a few months, so I kept paying rent on my flat in Sydney while I was working on it in Melbourne. I kept assuming another few months and it would be finished. Thank god I didn’t hang on to (the flat) for 11 and a half years.

I was horrified when I found out I’d been nominated for my first Logie Award. There was a one-in-four chance I’d have to get up on stage and speak. I was even more horrified when they read out my name as the winner. I don’t like public speaking at all; I don’t want the attention. It’s ironic that I’m an actor, which is all about attention, but it’s a different sort because it’s about the character.

I’d always dreamt of having kids. I’d struggled through life in terms of finding the right person. But then I met my wife, Kate, and it was crystal clear. I knew pretty much straightaway that I wanted to marry her, and I was hoping that she wanted to marry me. When I realised the feeling was mutual, it was huge a relief—you just exhale, “Thank Christ.”

Being a family man just fits for me. We’ve got two beautiful boys (Jack, 5, and Ned, 3) and that’s where all my energies are directed now. I want to be around for them. I want to be able to indulge in some of those simple things with them that I haven’t been able to in the past because of my work. I want to take them surfing and fishing and climbing around the rock pools. I had an incredible closeness with my father—it’s a hard act to follow. I just hope that I can live up to that.

I’m not scared about leaving the show. You get to a point in your life when you know that it’s time to go, and in a way the decision was made for me. We looked at the kids’ needs and moved up north—about 10 minutes outside of Byron Bay—in January. We made a choice that that’s where we want our children to grow up—more or less in the country. Since then, I’ve been commuting down to Melbourne for work, but now I can just get on with life up there, and if the right projects come up and people are keen to use me, then great. There’s no guarantees obviously, but I’m excited about what lies ahead, because change is good and it’s the right time to change.

I’ve got a brain and I want to keep busy. I’ve got a script that I’m tinkering away on, and I’d like to push myself on the directing side. I wrote and directed a short film, Crushed, a couple of years ago, which went to the St Kilda Film Festival and LA, and Blue Heelers has kindly asked me back to direct a couple of episodes. If somebody offered me a film role or miniseries, fantastic, because acting is my meat and potatoes, but directing is my next challenge.

Family is everything. It sounds a bit cliched, but all that stuff about always kissing your kids or your wife goodbye holds water, because those things can be taken away from you so quickly. You turn on the television and you see terrible things happen every day. People are constantly having their loved ones ripped out of their arms through life and death. At the end of the day, we don’t have anything else really—just each other.

  • Martin Sacks’ final episode of Blue Heelers screens on the Seven Network on Wednesday, August 10.

By Jane Hutchinson
July 18, 2005
The Herald Sun