Packed To The Rafters: articles

Craig McLachlan packs in the top roles

FORMER Neighbours heart-throb Craig McLachlan didn't care if he had to fly halfway across the world for a role in Channel 7 police drama City Homicide.

He just wanted to be part of it.

That was more than a year ago. Fast-forward to the beginning of this year and the actor,who has been somewhat absent from Australia's TV screens since playing Ken Morgan in rural drama McLeod's Daughters in 2004, finally got his wish when City Homicide's producer sent him a letter inviting him to join the show in a guest role.

"It's funny how things turn out," 43-year-old McLachlan says, with a slight touch of astonishment in his voice. "I didn't seek it out and as it turns out the producer of the show is a fan of my work and sent me a most beautiful letter inviting me to come and join them. I was back in Australia working on crazy Johnny Jarratt's film Savages Crossing and there was no way I was saying no.

"I would have travelled across the world for that one," said the actor who sent female hearts aflutter with his remake of Bo Diddley's song Mona in the early 1990s

Expecting to return to the UK following his role as the "white cowboy" in Jarratt's dark thriller, which revolves around a group of people forced to survive in a Queensland roadhouse with, as McLachlan puts it, "a pill-popping, alcoholic psycho", as floodwaters rise outside, McLachlan has been busy lapping-up work in his homeland.

Now, viewers and Dave Rafter (Erik Thomson) are in for a surprise when McLachlan shows up in the high-rating Channel 7 drama Packed To The Rafters as "much-loved ageing rock guitarist" Steve Wilson.

When Dave sees his old mate being interviewed on TV, it brings back a flood of memories. The pair had been in a band, The Front, 25 years earlier and wrote a hit song, Suburban Boy, together.

However, the pair didn't part on good terms but, as they say, time heals old wounds, and Dave decides to give Steve a call.

"I must not be a bad bloke," the down-to-earth McLachlan says. "It's something like 22 years down the track since I started on Neighbours and I am thrilled people are still ringing up and saying 'Hey, do you want to do this'. It has all come as a bit of a surprise because I had planned to just come back for the film - and all this work has come about. I was filming for new ABC drama The Cut, so it's been busy."

Because of his absence from TV screens, McLachlan sees his City Homicide and Packed to the Rafters appearances as a way to remind local producers and casting agents of his acting skills.

He played Warren Elkins in 2001's My Husband My Killer, Stuart Diver in 2002's Heroes' Mountain and Michael Chamberlain in 2004's Through My Eyes. Besides that, he is also busy writing the score for Jarratt's film, another project he wasn't expecting.

"While I was filming the movie I was on the phone to a producer friend about composing something for them and when I got off the producers of the movie were like 'Please excuse us but do you do stuff other than Mona?'," McLachlan says with a laugh.

"I don't really talk about my composing stuff because you know what it's like in Australia, you are constantly fighting the 'wanker' tag when you are seen to be doing a lot.

"It's going to be hugely challenging but it makes sense because I spent everyday with the actors, so I know the story."

McLachlan will wrap things up in Australia shortly to return overseas for more work opportunities but should be back home next year for some more local projects.

"I love being back home and working in Australia, who knows what will come up in the future," he says.

Packed To The Rafters: 8.30pm, Tuesday, Channel 7

By Erin McWhirter
October 15, 2008
The Advertiser