Breakers: profiles


Heath Bergersen…

So impressed were the producers of Breakers when they saw Heath's screen test, they decided to rewrite the role of streetkid Reuben as an aboriginal character. But, unlike many of his previous roles, the fact that Reuben is aboriginal is incidental to his character rather than its central focus.

"My last role was in Ocean Girl when I played a spiritual Aboriginal ranger, and in Sweat I was a bit of a blackfella, so it's great to play a real character rather than something dictated by race," says Heath. "And it's good for all Aboriginal people to have these kinds of roles in mainstream drama; it makes them feel part of things."

Heath's own background is quite different to Reuben's, but just as busy. He was adopted at the age of two months by a white family and brought up in Kalgoorlie. He played didgeridoo, taught tourists about aboriginal culture in a tourist park on the outskirts of Perth, and did a three-month course at the Aboriginal Musical Theatre Training Course. After that, he appeared in the musical Bran Nu Dae, performed with the Warda Dance Group, and acted—and toured—in various plays, including Wicked, No Prejudice and Runumuk. In TV, he worked in Sweat, Ship to Shore, and Ocean Girl 4.

"Now Reuben is a great part to play," says Heath. "He's very happy-go-lucky but keen to impress, but when he's pushed too far, he knows when he's had enough and has this tendency to snap. He's a genuinely nice kid but can be a bit wild. It's very interesting to play!"

…as Reuben Neeson

Reuben, 16, is a nice kid, which is surprising considering he's been in and out of institutions since he was tiny and has been the victim of abusive foster parents. Rueben was a pretty wild street kid who was in danger of going to jail for a long time if he didn't find a job and a place to live. That's when Kate, no doubt motivated by what might have happened to Alex, stepped in.

It was a turning point for Reuben. He realised that there was more to life than just surviving on rat cunning and that the more he put in the more he could reasonably expect to get out of it. Reuben is hard-working, genial and eager to please, but he doesn't take kindly to bullshit or people who look down on him.

However, the transformation isn't absolutely complete. Although he is maturing quickly he is capable of reverting to the street when the pressure gets too much for him. But he fulfils a vital role as a bridge between the kids who turn up at the drop-in centre, where he works part-time, and the adults. After a stormy start with Steve, he becomes his right-hand man at Against The Tide.