Ben Steel played Jude Lawson in Home and Away from 2000 to 2002. We interview him on his time spent in the show.
Interview conducted by Stephen in February 2002 for homeandaway.org – the site merged with BTTB in 2004.
What was your first role on television?
I did a television show on the ABC back in the early 90s – ‘Phoenix’- a cop show and that was my first ever role on television. I played a bad drug dealer and in the next town I was robbing a bank- oh sorry, robbing a chemist. Then I did a guest role on ‘Breakers’, which was set on Bondi Beach. I was with Ada- who plays Leah- I was her ex-boyfriend and then I started out on Home and Away.
Do you enjoy playing Jude?
Yes, Jude is quite interactive. He comes from a hard background. His mam raised him and his little brother to a certain point but was very heavily religious. So he reached the point he couldn’t handle any more and shortly his brother joined him. So he comes from quite a hard background. But he has managed to hold onto some kind of neighbourly abilities where he can portray a nice guy.
From my own back-story in my head the writers did not write it for me and I came up with the actor having a strong male role model because the dad was not around. So I thought this guy is going to have a mentor that he could look back to. So I created a little character in my own head called Morris and he owned a pub around the corner where I used to live and he was kind of like missing a father figure and that was a character that I just made up in my head to make Jude a more likeable guy, em because you’ve got to be pretty likeable to take on your little brother and raise him from like 16 when he moved in with Jude to 19. You’ve got to be pretty likeable to put your life on hold for your little brother. So I like that about Jude. He has a bit of a temper sometimes and has quite noble and true and quite a genuine character and a nice guy. And there is a sensitive side to him as well that comes out in his relationships so yeah, I do like playing Jude just for his complexities.
Do you miss Kylie?
Yes, Kylie and I have a really beautiful relationship, but also naturally we just seemed to click, just gelled even from the beginning. Even in the beginning of the story when Jude and Shauna were not really getting on, like she didn’t want a party with Jude. There is stuff there that you could probably say there is chemistry that has kid of developed between the Shauna and Jude characters and it is still strong to this day and some people even say that it is not as strong as chemistry that Charlotte and Jude have. But I don’t really want to comment on that because I think I’m not in a position to but a lot of people have said that the chemistry that Jude has with Shauna is a lot better than the chemistry with Charlotte. So I don’t know what that means, I don’t know whether Charlotte and Jude break up.
But I do miss Kylie. I’ve been emailing her since when she went over to the UK for Christmas. So I’ve been in contact with her since she left.
What are the hours like?
The hours of work totally depends on what your character is doing. Like if your character has a really good storyline like between Kylie and I, when Jude and Shauna broke up, I had a really heavy workload. I would have been there 5 days a week- very early starts and working quite late into the night, however when a character who is not involved in a story, maybe tagged – like I’m tagged (Jude) in a side story with Noah. Then I might have a day off here and there. But it totally depends on what your character is doing and how their work is scheduled. But work 5 days a week, sometimes 6 days. Every now and again you work on a Saturday like you do a Saturday rehearsal to catch up or you shoot on a Saturday like we’re shooting this Saturday. I’m not involved but the rest of the guys are. So it totally depends on what is going on in the stories.
Is there a lot of work?
It is a lot of work – also because I do a lot of stuff outside of Home and Away – like running my website – that takes probably takes about 20 hours a week – just answering emails and coming up with concepts for stories and writing articles and working with the website people in it. That takes about 20 hours a week. I also go to acting classes at least twice a week and that’s 3 hours a night. So that’s 6 hours a week. So it kind of just adds up, plus you’ve also got a lot of publicity shoots after work and charity things which are good to do. So the week is not just half an hour’s work is what the audience sees at the end of the day. We’re there all day shooting and there is other stuff on top of that. Then you get to go to openings of plays, like premieres of plays and movies and stuff which is cool which you don’t have to go to. But it’s kind of cool to go to see the films and go to the parties.
How similar or different are you to Jude?
Well obviously physically looks wide. I’m pretty similar to Jude and the only difference is that he has got dark hair and I’ve got blonde hair. That’s the only difference physically we kind of have. Character wise, I surf and Jude surfs. Jude rides a motorbike, I don’t. Jude has got a little brother, I don’t. I’ve got two older sisters. Both my parents live together; Jude’s parents are separated. Jude lives in an apartment, I live in an apartment. Mine’s probably a bit classier than Jude’s (laughs) and a little tidier.
Jude has a girlfriend; I don’t have one at the moment.
It is Valentines Day!
So I’m a bit lonely today. So that’s probably the similarities and differences as far as characteristics and stuff. He is quite a responsible guy. He is being forced into responsibility. I left home when I was 18 to pursue acting and work in Sydney. I’m from Melbourne. So I guess we’ve got a similarity there as far as we are quite independent people and have been. However Jude has the responsibility of looking after his brother and looking after Seb – his foster child, whereas I don’t have that responsibility. Basically I can do what ever I want to, I can come home late, eat junk food, I can do that where Jude has to be more responsible.
Do you have any embarrassing moments?
Not really huge ones that stand out. Every now and again you forget your lines and it is a little bit embarrassing but you stop take and just do it again, so it is not too bad. Nothing really stands out that has been embarrassing.
If you leave Home and Away, what would you like to do?
It would be great if Jude was still alive, it one day, it was time for me to go and leave and his character had come to the end. It would be more dramatic if he died and there might be a few more tears shed because he won’t ever come back. It would be nice for him to be alive and for him to come back at some point. In Home and Away I reckon they need someone to be rich. It would be kind of cool if Jude won the Lotto or started investing in shares or something and became really wealthy and maybe had a house in Summer Bay and maybe if he decided to set up a law practice or something like that in the city and he moved off to do that. So every now and again if anyone needed any legal help he could come back to the Bay. That would be kind of cool. It would be good to come back and visit my friends and leave my options open.
What is the longest period of acting you have done?
Home and Away is the longest acting role I’ve ever had. I’ve been here over one and a half years; I’ve been here quite a while. Before that the longest I’ve done is probably 2 weeks on ‘Breakers’. I’ve been in plays, but I haven’t done a play in ages since I was a kid.
Who is actor/actress you would most like to work with?
Well Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Edward Norton. Brad Pitt I reckon is underrated. He puts so much into his work, like you see it on screen, it is brilliant. Because he is like a pretty boy everyone kind think of thinks that’s all he can do but I think now he is slowly getting more respected that he is a quite good and talented actor.
Female-wise I think Heather Graham is a bit of a hottie so I would love to actually meet her 1 day and maybe do a love scene! (laughs). Kate Blanchett, I think is an amazing Aussie actress. I worked with her on “Oscar Simler” when I was in Brighton. Nicole Kidman.
Would you like to work in another country?
I’m a bit of an Aussie boy and I’d love to stay in Australia as long as I can. But sometimes just because of the amount of work that gets done overseas, certain opportunities may arise in other countries whether that’s the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, USA, Canada who all have very expanded filming industries overseas. I’d like to have all those opportunities here but sometimes there are not so many opportunities in Australia. So basically I would go overseas to follow the work or projects. I haven’t been overseas at all yet to travel. Not for fun or anything, but I’m really excited it is time but if work can get me over seas that will be even better.
Would you come over to Ireland?
Yes I want to come over to Ireland; I do definitely want to go to Ireland.
There is a lot of movies coming out in Ireland. You never know.
You never know. I might see you there. Are you in Northern Ireland or the southern?
South is the Republic.
South is the Republic and how far behind in story lines are you over there?
I’m not sure, I think about five months.
What channel is it on?
‘RTE 1’ and ‘Network 2’. ‘RTE 1’ in the afternoon and ‘Network 2’ in the afternoon.
Cool, I might get you to write those down because I might look at going over there. I want to get to different countries, but if work can get me there, the better. I want to go to see everybody and meet everybody.
Would you like to take a break from work and go travelling?
I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt and studies a bit at high school. I did a play in drama in school. I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt, it is completely contrasting to what Australia is. It is so unique. I want to go by myself. I don’t know if that will happen. Maybe go to more commercial western country like USA, UK. I’ve been thinking of going to Thailand and it is so close and cheap. While Egypt is a bit unstable at the moment- terrorists and an unstable government. Thailand is so close to Australian and does not cost so much and we do not get a lot of time off on Home and Away. Relaxing on island, partying and going out to clubs and stuff. I’d probably go to islands rather than go to Bangkok. Other than that UK, USA, Ireland and we’ll have some Guinness!
How is your website doing?
It is going really well, we launched it last April. It started off with 2000 hits in the first week. I was happy with that but over the last 10 months we have being slowly building it and we’ve actually made it to more than 96,000 hits a week, which is huge. I’m very excited about that. There is a place where people can go. We have been praised that it is quite interactive. People can type in questions and I’ll get back to them in the questions and answers section. They can send me an email which I’ll get back to them eventually. I’ve got a bit of a backlog, but I try and get back to them as quick as I can. There is updated news which gets updated about once a week or when ever I get a chance to go in there. So they can actually get quite close to what is going on in my life and read what is happening in Home and Away or what I am doing on my holiday. So it takes me about twenty hours a week, which I don’t mind doing because the way I figure it, the fans out there are putting a lot of work into contacting me via letters/emails and they are interested to know what I’m up to so I think its only fair that I make a commitment back to try and keep them updated with as much information as I can. Obviously I cannot give away storylines and what is going to happen on Home and Away.
Very happy with it, has a few hitches, but working on it, trying to give a product that everyone is really interested in. It is based on teenagers at the moment but we are trying to broaden the audience into older people. Because I am older myself, quite a lot of my fans are 20s to 30s rather than teen based. They’re not necessarily as active on the Internet that age group, but there is still a demand for that. So we are looking at ways to open the audience a bit so it is not just based on teenagers. But it is nice being involved. I have meetings with the people that run the website quite often, in correspondence all the time, via email about new ideas that are coming up. Most of the content that goes onto the site- photo, interviews, competitions, and ideas come from me. Design and programming is done by the website people. I don’t know very much about computers, so I leave that up to them.
If you had three wishes, what would they be?
Only three. I guess the first would be for my family and my closest friends to have everything they could ever want. Be happy and healthy. They are the people that mean the most to me.
The second would be to change a lot of world inaccuracies and wrong doings, possible from the past or from what is happening at the moment. To make the work you know a more fair place and better off.
My 3rd wish would be probably be for my fans and to get them whatever they wanted and have all the happiness in the world and to have me working as long as possible (laughs). Bit of a selfish one. Maybe a huge party where there is no cost, so whoever wanted to come from Ireland, the UK, together we have like a big website party that would be pretty cool. Yes give something back to those guys, that would be the best one.