TV Week

2011

John Wood, the beloved face of Aussie TV drama, rolls up in Ramsay Street this week

When you look back through Australian TV drama over the years, there’s a good chance you’ll find John Wood in the credits. But there was one show hadn’t ticked off… until now.

Adding yet another notch to his belt, the 65-year-old begins a six-month stint on Neighbours this week, making his debut as Dr Martin Chambers, Head of Surgery at Erinsborough Hospital.

“He’s just popped up out of nowhere,” John tells TVWEEK. “He’s obviously known Dr Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher) for a long time, but he’s never been seen before. Presumably been beavering away in the hospital and has finally come up for air.”

And what impact can we expect the surgeon to have? As Dr Rhys Lawson (Ben Barber) tries to weasel his way into Martin’s good books in order to become a surgeon, Karl feels like he’s being sidelined.

“Martin’s main reason for being in the series is to be a catalyst between Karl and Rhys, [to] give them something to argue about or to compete for,” he says.

But it sounds like Martin had better watch his back, too. “I suspect that Rhys is going to show Dr Chambers up by saving someone that Martin is losing on the operating table,” John predicts.

Neighbours is quite a departure for John, who admits to having only seen glimpses of the soap while “in the throes of cooking dinner”. But although he hasn’t been its biggest devotee over the years, he says his time on Neighbours has been like “coming home”.

“It’s been fantastic because I’ve run into a few directors and cameramen who I worked with on Blue Heelers,” he says. “I sawTom Oliver (Lou Carpenter) for the first time in God knows how many years, and I’ve been working with Benjie (McNair, who plays Malcolm Kennedy), who was in Blue Heelers as a younger actor. It’s been terrific.”

John’s Brilliant Career

As one of the Australia’s favourite small-screen stars, John has certainly stretched his acting chops over the years. He reflects on some of his memorable TV moments…

Offspring (2010)
“I was one of those characters – you come in and the first shock is you’re Deborah Mailman’s (who plays Cherie Butterfield) father. You think, ‘How does this happen?’ But you then realise she’s adopted. It was fun to meet up with Kat Stewart, who worked on Blue Heelers and I thought at the time was one of the most impressive actresses I’d ever worked with.

Underbelly (2OO9)
“Playing (NSW Chief Stipendiary Magistrate) Murray Farquhar, I was a little disappointed the storyline didn’t go further – my understanding of Farquhar was that he was in it up to his neck. But they concentrated on the criminals, like the George Freeman characters.”

Dancing With The Stars (2004)
“It was a tough job teaching me the steps – almost impossible. But Im really glad I was in the first season, because it was sort of ground-breaking. I got to dance alongside Pauline Hanson and Bec Hewitt – people who were much better known than the dancers. There was a good period where the dancers became better known than the celebrities.”

Gold Logie Win (2006)
“l was really relieved I won it that year – because I knew if it wasn’t that year, it would never be. There were so many people in the radio industry, in the press and just ordinary Australians that wanted me to win that year. So I was really pleased for their sake that I won.”

Blue Heelers (1994-2006)
“It was my favourite time in television. I used to really look forward to going to work on Monday, hearing how everyone had spent their weekend. Blue Heelers was a high-quality show for its time and budget. And I really enjoyed the acting challenge when they turned (Senior Sergeant) Tim Cyoydon into a nutcase at the end.”

Barrier Reef (I971)
“My first job was working on [short-lived series] Barrier Reef. It was 10 days in the Whitsunday Passage staying on Hayman Island, spending my days on a replica of the Endeavour I thought, ‘Gosh, if a career in television is going to be like this, what a great job.’ But it’s never been quite so good.”

Original content copyright TV Week.