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Nicholas Bishop: 'I'm not the guy from The Mentalist'

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'I'm not the guy from The Mentalist' says Australian actor Nicholas Bishop

Joanne Hawkins

The Sunday Telegraph

August 05, 2012 12:00AM

AUSSIE actor Nicholas Bishop is following a well-trodden path to find fame in Hollywood.

Nicholas Bishop is laughing - which is a good thing, given I've just broached the subject of his not-so-subtle resemblance to another Aussie actor who's doing rather well in the US.

"There are worse people I could be compared to than Simon Baker," he says with a smile. "I've had it for years. It doesn't help matters that my character on Home and Away was called Peter Baker. I guess I can see the similarities."

In fact, such is the resemblance, the English-born star is often confused with his slightly more famous doppelganger.

"I've had arguments with people in the street because they refuse to believe I'm not the guy from The Mentalist!" he explains. "It can be slightly frustrating, because some people vehemently refuse to believe I'm not him; they just think I'm being a pretentious actor who doesn't want to be bothered.

"I could pull out my driver's licence and they'd still think I was making it up," he continues, warming to the theme. "Funnily enough, I know Simon. We're not best buddies, but we're represented by the same agent and have bumped into each other a few times in LA."

Luckily, since Bishop landed his own TV gig in the US - as former police officer turned investigator Peter Dunlop in the medical drama Body of Proof - those embarrassing mix-ups are becoming less frequent. "It's exciting for me to [finally] have my own identity," he says.

The role has seen the 38-year-old join the ever-growing band of Australian actors enjoying success Stateside, including fellow H&A alumni Chris Hemsworth and Ryan Kwanten.

And Bishop is more than aware of his good fortune. "There are positive things that change, such as your bank balance," he says. "And I'm working with people - such as [Body of Proof co-star] Dana Delany - who I grew up watching on TV and in films."

But then Bishop is no flash in the pan himself. After graduating from NIDA in 1996 (he went on to become a respected screen acting tutor and taught there for more than 10 years), he patiently followed the well-trodden industry path with parts in local police and hospital dramas, including Blue Heelers, All Saints and White Collar Blue. There were film roles, too, such as 2002's well-received Walking on Water.

But it was his three-year stint on H&A that turned him into a household name - in Australia, at any rate - and Bishop is forever grateful for his time in Summer Bay.

"I have very fond memories," he says. "I still keep in touch with Tim Campbell and Chris Hemsworth, which is testament to it being a good place to work. People can be snobby about soap operas; drama school friends would be a bit sniffy about it and I'd say, 'Well, I'm doing what my job description says, which is to act. Where are you working?'"

It was perhaps only a matter of time before the actor set his sights overseas. But with a family to support (Bishop and his wife, Claire, have daughter Ava, 6, and son Harrison, 3), Hollywood was going to have to find him, rather than the other way around.

"I wasn't going to sleep on a mate's sofa while I waited for my big break," he says.

"I have a family, so that wasn't an option for me. I was cast in an American show called Past Life, which wasn't received as well as we hoped, but it was enough to put me on the map. And from that came Body of Proof.

"It wasn't a hard decision to move to LA," he continues. "My wife understood what a huge opportunity it was for me, and our kids were young enough for us to just pack our suitcases and go."

He pauses before adding, "I was never going to leave my family back in Australia while I commuted to the US for work - from my experience, that can only be destructive."

Bishop says his family settled well into their new life, although he, in particular, is used to moving around. The self-confessed "army brat" says that after leaving England, he was "bounced around all over the place" because of his dad's job. "We went from England to Canberra, then to Singapore and Townsville, then to Washington DC, and then back to Australia," he recalls.

"Luckily, I've always been one of those people who makes new friends easily, which has also stood me in good stead for the business I'm in now."

Another move may be on the cards since his tenure on Body of Proof recently came to an end - something which may lead to a welcomed change of scene.

"Los Angeles is home for now, but you can never tell where the next thing will be. Everything you hear about Hollywood is true and you have to be able to see through all the bullsh*t. I just take it for what it is.

"We've built a great lifestyle there and have some great friends, both in and outside the industry. But if I'm honest, I'd prefer to live in New York. Or London. My wife and I have talked about it and we'd love to do that."

Ultimately, having fallen in love with the idea of performing as a 10-year-old, when he saw a show by famous dance troupe the Rockettes at New York's Radio City Music Hall ("I was mesmerised by what was happening onstage and the effect they had on the audience"), Bishop knows how fortunate he is to be doing what he loves.

"There have been times when I've been broke or unhappy because I've questioned my talent or not felt worthy," he admits. "But that usually happened when I was dealing with something else in my life, such as an emotional or relationship problem. Fortunately, I've been able to snap out of it pretty quickly."

And he won't try to stop his children if they decide to follow in his footsteps, either. "It would be hypocritical of me to do that seeing as I've dragged them halfway across the world in order for me to do it," he says with a laugh. "There are pros and cons to this business, so I'd try to tell them what

to expect. That said, this job has given me so many wonderful opportunities. I know I'm one of the lucky ones."

Body of Proof airs Mondays at 8.30pm on the Seven Network.


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