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The Crest of a Wave

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Crest of a wave

Summer Bay newcomer Paul O'Brien is doing his best to stay on board, writes Sarah Nicholson


The Courier Mail

HOME and Away newcomer Paul O'Brien says joining the cast of the iconic Australian series was like being abducted by aliens.

"It feels like I'm living in a different world now," the 27-year-old actor says.

"It was almost like I went to sleep one night and woke up the next day to find people suddenly wanted my autograph, and that's something I don't think I will ever get used to.

"I am just a guy who is trying to learn his lines and keep his house clean."

O'Brien joined the Home and Away cast in August but the actor only recently had his first "surreal" celebrity moment when he found himself exercising at his local gym while an episode of the show was playing on the big TVs.

"The people on the running machines were watching the TV, and then doing double-takes when they saw me, and I realised that I was on show," he says.

"All of a sudden I was very aware that I needed to buy a new trackie, to replace the Bonds singlet I was wearing with all the holes in it and to get rid of the girls' runners I bought three years ago."

While he has been working towards a career in the entertainment industry for a few years – dancing, singing and even trying stand-up comedy – his big break came when Home and Away was looking for an actor to play Constable Jack Holden.

"There's a lot of luck involved with getting any part," he says.

"Someone explained it to me really well once by saying that there are so many roles that you audition for and, while you might have done a much better job than the guy who eventually got the part, your foot just didn't fit the glass slipper.

"There was even more luck involved in me getting this part because I was coming into an onscreen family situation, and they had already cast my brother and father, so I not only had to have the talent but to look right to fit that family," he says.

Since arriving in Summer Bay, O'Brien's character Jack has already acquired a girlfriend, but has a "mysterious past" for scriptwriters to delve into.

The regular role has meant that the South African-born actor, who moved around a lot when he was growing up thanks to his father's international building business, could settle in one place for a while.

"I spent 13 years living on the Gold Coast and that was the longest time I have spent in one place," O'Brien says. "I'm living in Sydney now, which is another of life's adventures, and I know it sounds corny but Summer Bay feels like home at the moment.

"I am really enjoying what I am doing but it's not all glamour, which is the image I think a lot of people have of this life, especially when I have early morning starts, and it's frosty and cold, and people will be spraying water on me because I need to look like I have just come out of the surf.

"I think having a job like this is all about making the most of an opportunity and I am learning so much about the craft."

O'Brien says that not only did he have to get used to the demanding Home and Away filming schedule – with long days on set required to record 2½ hours of drama every week – he was also always trying to improve his performances. Taking tips from other members of the cast and crew helped him with this.

"One of the greatest things about Home and Away is that it moulds you because there are all these specialists around to give advice on where other people have failed and to help you watch out for the traps," O'Brien says.

"I also watch my tapes where I learn about things like facial expressions, licking my lips, frowning and blinking too much, voice projection, working angles, lighting and eye levels.

"I have already learnt that acting is a real art form, and I would put it up there with what musicians and artists do, but we are using our whole body as well as our voice."

Home and Away, Seven, weeknights 7pm

Jess XX

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