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INTERVIEW: Samuel Johnson gets his ego on for Molly | @Channel7 #Molly

InterviewsKevin Perry

Samuel Johnson as Ian 'Molly'Meldrum
image - supplied/Seven Network

From the moment Samuel Johnson learned there was an Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum movie in production he knew it was a role he was destined to play.

“I rang them up and said, ‘Have you found your actor yet?’ They responded, ‘No,’ and I said ‘put my hat in the ring!”

While normally a shy performer, Johnson whom is best known for roles in Secret Life of Us, Rush, Underbelly and Crackerjack went to work lobbying producers at Mushroom and Seven for a chance to play the music legend.

“I've got 23 years of acting experience and I really do look like him. I didn't want my lack of confidence to be the reason why it didn't happen, so I started to get my ego on and backed myself in.”
“By the time I got on set, it had been 2 years of campaigning. You know these are the kind of roles you just go all the way for. I just didn't want any other actor to play this role.”

As a performer Johnson has often attracted media criticism for his laid-back approach, and unwillingness to play the fame game.

“I’ve never taken this acting caper too seriously, I'm quite happy to admit I don't care that much about it in context. I mean, in context, we aren't saving lives are we? In context, its just television isn't it? People kind of take it the wrong way. It's not that I'm dismissive of the industry at all. I just know that it's not everything, sometimes people think I'm biting the hand that feeds me but really it's just a refusal to be a yes man.”
“It's a great job, I love acting, don't get me wrong, but I'm more passionate about medical research or the asylum seeker issue to be honest. I've been brought up without a TV. I don't watch it. Every now and then I get a gig on it, but I'm not going to run around pretending that it means the world.”

But Johnson admits this mental approach of appearing not to care is also about protecting himself from his own fears of failure.

“I think if you choose not to care, then you can't get hurt. There's so much rejection. You might get 1 job out of 100 that you go for and you're never really secure. For 23 years now, I've been freelancing and just trying to get work. I'm just lucky that I'm a white male, because if I looked like I do as a woman, I wouldn't get anything, would I?”

Well aware that this role would attract enormous criticism if not done properly, Johnson dedicated himself to months of preparation.

“It was a kind of multi-pronged approach. You've got to do a lot of prep, there was a lot of work speaking to all of Molly's friends and family, I spent a lot of time with Molly and then incorporating all of your acting techniques ... working on the physicality and vocal and all of that other stuff.”
“Molly’s been a family friend for many years, I've had a lot to do with him, so I've had a bit of an edge”

image - supplied/Seven Network

Johnson hopes this program will expose a whole new audience to the music and energy of the Countdown era.

“Basically Countdown was like a church. It was exciting as church and once a week every Sunday, everybody went to church. TV was pretty new back then. It was really conservative but Countdown was well ahead of its time.”
We really didn't have music on TV back then, if there wasn’t a clip for a song that Molly liked, he’d just steel a camera from the ABC and go and make one.”

Last week saw Meldrum injure his back after falling over while exiting a Taxi in Thailand. It was an event that again generated headlines, something that Meldrum was desperate to avoid in the lead up to the mini-series

“He doesn't handle it at all. He hates it,” explains Johnson, Meldrum travelled to Thailand to escape the current publicity the movie is creating. “He's not in the country right now. He's in another country because he can't handle it.”
“He doesn't really buy into the whole Molly Meldrum kind of myth and I could see why, because if he did, he'd never come back. He's actually quite a shy guy whom never really wanted to be on the telly. He just loved music. I'm not sure there are many kids that grow up thinking when I grown up, I'm going to be a national icon. It just kind of worked out that way for him.”
“He doesn't hobnob with Elton John, Madonna and KISS and all that kind of stuff, because he wants to hang around famous people. He nurtured those relationships, because it was his job and he loves music. When you love music as much as he does, you're going to end up mixing up with the best, the best can smell a bullshit artist from about a hundred meters and if you want to go up to someone like Freddie Mercury and fake it, then they're going to sniff you out and expose you.”
“Molly got what he deserves and he deserves what he got, because he just loves the music so much.”

With the Seven Publicity machine in full force, Johnson is currently one the most recognisable actors in Australia, but the star has no idea what role he will take on next.

“Who knows, mate. I'll see where the wind takes me. I suppose, you know if I do a good job, I might get some work and if I do a shit job I might not, so we'll see.”

Samuel Johnson with sister Connie
image source - Facebook

The past three years have seen Johnson take time out from performing to raise funds and awareness for Cancer research. Motived by his terminally ill sister Connie, Samuel Johnson rode a unicycle around much of Australia. His efforts have raised over 2 Million dollars, but Sam isn’t finished yet.

“I'm going to be doing a bit of unicycling in Antarctica next year, I never say never with that thing. I'm still working it out. I've got permission, so all I've got to work out now is the logistics.”

As a performer, Johnson has received many accolades throughout his career and no doubt will receive plenty more for his stunning performance in Molly, but none of it means anything to him compared with the love he has for his sister.

“She's still kicking. You know she's terminal, so at some stage she'll slide, but at the moment she's stable and home with her kids, which is all I can ask for and look, I'm still fighting really hard for a cure and if anyone wants to join our little community, we're under Love Your Sister on Facebook.”

The two part mini-series 'Molly' premieres Sunday February 7th at 8:30pm on Seven