The Secret Life of Us: articles

Secret other life

JOEL Edgerton is planning a break-up. But in the meantime The Secret Life of Us star is savouring one of the best jobs he has ever had.

He loves his character and he respects his co-stars. He is impressed with the show's content and the way it targets a previously neglected segment of the Australian audience.

And yet he still plans to break from his Secret Life.

"It's like I'm in love but I just can't be with them," he moans.

You see, Edgerton filmed Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones before signing on to the Network Ten series last year.

The film will make its worldwide debut on May 16 and Edgerton is obligated to hype the film in America.

It's a commitment Edgerton and the show's writers have known about for some time, so the departure of his character, Will McGill, should seem natural.

"All I'll say is that things get a little bit 'thingy' with Miranda (Abi Tucker) and Ritchie, and Will just needs to get out. He has to go," he says.

But Edgerton does not rule out a return to the show and jokes that his character may simply disappear into Queensland for a while in the tradition of Neighbours refugees.

"He could just say, 'I'm going to hang out with Kylie Minogue in Queensland'. I know Kylie's busy with her American success but I sort of reckon I might be able to convince her to come back and do an appearance on The Secret Life of Us," he quips.

"Will could come in and tell everyone, 'I want you to meet my new friend Charlene', and Kylie could come in with big hair and frosted lipstick. I could spend the Christmas in Ramsay St with the family."

Fantasies aside, Edgerton has been with The Secret Life of Us since it first screened mid-2001, which he considers a considerable length of time.

Initially, he did not want to commit to a television series.

"TV wasn't something that I was aiming for but I'm glad I did it," he says. "There's a certain degree of selling of your soul if you want to be an actor—your profile helps a lot and television has more viewers than anything."

Edgerton holds great distaste for the Australian soapie tradition, in particular, and says he has been very wary of joining its ranks.

He argues that the likes of Neighbours and Home and Away can lock an actor away for five years or more and spit them out with only "pantomimes and bollocks" in their future.

With this scenario in mind, signing a six-month contract for Secret Life gave Edgerton "shivers," he says.

It has paid off, though. He now describes his role in the critically acclaimed series as "one of the best jobs I have ever done".

But playing William "Will" McGill has not always been easy.

The rough and ready scaffolder, who Edgerton describes as the show's most unglamorous character, lost his girlfriend in a car crash last year.

This year Will briefly lost his mind, wracked with guilt over her death, and now seems to have mislaid his best friend, Ritchie (Spencer McLaren), who is jealous over Will's fledgling romance with his former love Miranda.

Plotlines such as these have often left Edgerton "coming home with a headache," but he claims to enjoy the ride, regardless.

But one could wonder if his Secret role is really such a stretch. Speaking to Edgerton, it seems like he has a fair bit in common with his character.

Both speak in a very blokey, matter-of-fact manner. Edgerton's speech is peppered with "reckons" and occasional coarse language.

He also shares Will's interest in building, although he doesn't have the same proficiency.

"My tradesman skills go as far as building a fence or a retaining wall with my father, digging a trench or something," he says. "His name's Mike and we call it 'Mike Nearly and Sons' because we nearly make them right. They're always wrong.

"I'm not licensed to carry a hammer. Just fictionally."

Edgerton has been publicly exaggerating his skills with a hammer ever since The Secret Life of Us first aired in July last year.

He says it all started when he and a group of actors "lent their services" to a two-hour pilot based on an idea and "the people involved with producing and making the show".

Little has changed since that first series, which Edgerton sees as a positive.

"I don't think it needs extra shinying up or Gucci suits or anything like that," he laughs. "The only real change is that it's on air now and the turnaround is faster."

While the show was filmed months before it was aired in 2001, episodes now screen only one month after they are filmed.

The change may seem relatively minor, but it regularly affects the lives of the cast.

"Everyone's personal life is filled with a recognition of it now," Edgerton says. "There's so many people who get 'into' the show. People know who you are and I didn't have to deal with that before. Before it was like, 'I saw you in a play, it was really good' and now it's daily with people whispering behind your back."

He says it feels like members of the cast have adopted second names. Edgerton now responds to the name Will as "second nature".

The recognition is part of the reason he no longer feels comfortable staying with The Secret Life of Us. He is beginning to worry about becoming typecast.

"There is a real stigma attached to actors when they play a character for too long," he says. "What excites me is variety and I don't really want to stay in one place for too long. I need to feel a bit nomadic, work-wise. I have to mix up a lot of different work, with films and plays and different characters."

So Edgerton will shrug off Will McGill for the time being, and start promoting Lars Owen, his Star Wars persona.

He also plans to plug a film called The Hard Word, in which he stars with Guy Pearce, and a new television show called Dossa and Joe, made in Australia and scheduled to screen in the UK.

But viewers should not be surprised if the busy boy returns to his Secret Life one day. He may even have a Jason Donovan-style haircut and a frizzy-haired bride in tow.

The Secret Life of Us, Ten, Monday, 8.30pm; Star Wars: Episode II opens May 16

Jennifer Dudley
April 18, 2002
The Courier Mail