By LUCY ORMONDE
So it’s been a big week for Offspring fans.
BIG week. There have been a lot of ugly, messy tears, a few sickies from work, a little bit of wearing black out of respect.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent around seven days counting down for the next episode. I know it’s just a TV show, but I need to know that Nina’s going to be OK. I want to believe that Billie’s going to be back to normal. And I hope that the Proudmans will rally together.
Anyway, I just spent the past 15 minutes and 57 seconds speaking to
Patrick Matt Le Nevez from Offspring (excuse me for a second while I pick myself up off the floor) asking him what’s it’s been like to be the man that everyone’s talking about this week.
MM: Have you been surprised by the reaction to last week’s show?
It’s been a funny surprise. I didn’t expect it to be this big but in saying that, I’m also kind of honoured that people are grieving for Patrick. I thought it was such a beautiful episode last week. I watched it with fresh eyes and thought Asher (Keddie) and Kate (Jenkinson) were just phenomenal. We had our biggest audience of the year and it’s a real testament to those two actors – they were brilliant.
MM: Have you been out and about this week? Have you been approached by any fans?
(Jokes) I’ve been walking around with a box of Kleenex just in case.
I was working up until the weekend on another film on the Gold Coast and I just got back to Melbourne in the middle of this ‘Patrick Storm.’ It’s been a little bit overwhelming – but in saying that it’s also been really nice to see that Patrick and the show have touched a chord with people.
MM: I went on Facebook this morning and told Mamamia readers that I was interviewing you today. The one thing they really wanted to know was ‘whyyyyy??’ So, in terms of why you’re leaving Offspring – was that a decision you made or did you find out Patrick was dying when you read the script?
It was a mutual decision. We announced last year that we were doing another two seasons. I’ve never done a television series before so it was a long commitment for me to be away.
I live in LA at the moment and Offspring brought me back. I’ve been trying to chase up some opportunities in LA for a little while now so to do another two (seasons) was a little bit tricky. So they started talking to producers about the future of the show and they came up with the finale of killing off Patrick. At first I was a little sad and a little shocked for the character because he is so close to me.
It really is a family. I feel so close to all the crew and all the cast on Offspring. It’s been a wonderful experience. But, in saying that, the show is going from its fourth season into its fifth and we can’t just keep giving the same story lines because people will switch away.
So if you start to think in those terms, it makes complete sense.
It’s great for me and my future and my career and on top of that I think it’s really shaken the show up. We now get to see Nina (Asher Keddie’s character) go off in a whole new direction and see a whole new storyline for her.
It’s hard to keep a show fresh. It’s hard with a romantic comedy to keep the show moving forward and I think nothing could have been more positive for the show and for me, than this.
MM: Did you get a say in how Patrick was written out of the series?
No. We have such wonderful writers on the show and I leave that up to them. I’d probably have Patrick dying some terrible Hollywood death in some big sequence.
They decided to write it this way and it was such a beautiful way to do it – the near miss of the car accident, the bump to the head and then to have the aneurism happen and to watch the grief play out of such wonderful actors like Asher and Kate – I think that’s why people have resonated so much with the show.
You look at the performances for the last 15 minutes of last week’s show and it was just harrowing. You’re watching them grieve as well as the audience were, it was all in real time. The directors and the producers really handled it beautifully and tonight’s episode is a really tender episode, which is still as sad, but it’s still with hope.
There’s a lot of hope in the final episode.
MM: What was the scene in the hospital like for you?
It was harrowing and it was weird. I tried to lie still for two or three hours and let the actors do what it is they have to do and I could just hear them. I could hear the way Kate was grieving and the way that Nina was grieving and it was just sad; it was horrific. It was quite a surreal experience to have to have actors cry over you like that. It was quite a strange, strange afternoon.
MM: So you didn’t move during that time?
I tried to stay still the entire time. I just lay there. It was a matter of respect for those two women to allow them to go through what it is that they felt like what they wanted to do. We’ve now lived with these characters for so long that when you have an opportunity to create a piece of drama like that, you want to do the best job you can. So for me to allow them to do what they want to do, I just wanted to be as respectful and still as possible.
MM: I heard a lot of people say they can’t watch Offspring anymore because it’s just too sad. What would you say to those people? Why should they keep watching Offspring?
Because the show is fantastic. The show really has elevated to what it is because of the passion of a lot of the people involved, especially Asher. And as well as Ash, we’ve also got Kat Stewart. And one of the great things about tonight’s episode is that we get the old Billie back.
The story predominately is about the Proudman family and these two women; these incredibly different, yet amazing women. Billie and Nina.
The beauty of this series is that when you look back on it it’s going to be about these two women.
I think people will watch. People watch shows for all different reasons but the main reason I’d watch is because it’s brilliant and there’s some wonderful actors involved. It’s not often you get a show with Asher Keddie, Kat Shewart, Lachie Hulme, Deb Mailman, Garry McDonald, John Waters. These actors, they’re career actors – they are brilliant people and I know I’ll be tuning in to watch all of next season as well.
MM: You started on Offspring in 2010. You leave in 2013 having co-created one of TV most loved and memorable on-screen couples. How has that role changed you?
It’s changed me in many ways. I’ve never done a series on television before. It’s hard to explain how much it’s changed me. I’ve met friends that now feel like family. Strangers approach me in the street to congratulate me on the show. I’m working here, I have a profile… I’m so fortunate.
It’s very hard as an actor to even have a career, and for me, Offspring has been such a wonderful experience – such a positive experience in my life.
I’m so thankful and grateful and I hope that I do get the opportunity to work more in this country.
It’s changed my work ethic, I’ve managed to work with one Australia’s finest actors (Asher Keddie) and that’s made me realise how hard you need to work in this country and in this job. There’s an efficiency you need when you’re working in television.
Also, I love Melbourne. Melbourne feels like home now. I think the city’s fantastic and what’s also fantastic is the fact that strangers come up and say hello or congratulate me on the show or ask me why I’m hurting Nina. It’s just nice to be involved in something. As an actor it’s hard to find an audience and to be involved in something that people love – it’s a very fortunate and humbling experience.
I love the fact that people feel so close to the Proudmans because it’s really dear to my heart.
When you found out that Patrick had lost his son Gus… how did you prepare for that? How did you get ready to play the role of a parent whose child was stillborn? How much responsibility/pressure did you feel to get it right? Did you speak to men who had lost babies?
I spoke to some doctors and some counsellors about that. Some people have been affected by stillbirth in my family and I spoke to them. I know that when we dealt with it at the time, there was a lot of care put in from the directors and producers.
There’s a lot of care put into this show. From the first time a writer strikes a keyboard to when the editors are cutting something together, up until the promotions team… there’s a lot of care put into certain topics.
What’s great about Offspring is that we have the high comedy and then we also have the straight drama that we couldn’t approach with more integrity. And hopefully we pull that off sometimes. I’m sure we don’t all the time but people in the street come up or someone on Twitter mentions that they felt connected to a story line – that’s an incredibly humbling thing to hear. That’s an honour as an actor to have someone connect like that. And they’re the reasons that make things worthwhile.
When a stranger approached me on Twitter to say he’s had a stillborn baby and he wanted to see Patrick meet his new child like he met his child, that was a beautiful thing. Because we are just making a television show, but it’s nice when people are able to feel close to it.
MM: Do you think you’d be friends with Patrick in real life?
Yeah, of course I would. It’s a lot to live up to though with all the romance, but I would for sure. He seems to be a good listener and that’s something I’m always trying to be better at.
Patrick, played by Matt Le Nevez
MM: Moving away from Patrick, what’s next for you and your career?
I finished a job on Friday called Parer’s War which is about Damien Parer who was a WWII cameraman who shot all the iconic footage from Kokoda. He lost his life at war.
I just played Damien in a film for the ABC and it was an honour, to be honest. He was such a well known man to a generation before us and now to be telling that story to our generation… He was impassioned with telling the real story of war and he was one of the first men to show what it was like on the front line.
I just finished that and now my brother’s boy – my nephew – turns two this weekend. So I was babysitting last night and have his birthday and then I head off to Los Angeles on Tuesday after his birthday so I’ll spend a bit of time over there and maybe even crack a job.
Will you be watching Offspring tonight? What are you expecting/hoping for?