Trigger warning: This post deals with suicide. Some readers may find the article triggering.
As Samuel Johnson picked up his gong for most Popular Personality on Australian Television last weekend, most knew him as a multi-faceted Australian actor navigating the murky and sombre waters of terminal illness. His sister Connie, of course, is battling cancer doctors have told her she will not beat.
The brother and sister have become well-known faces for their fundraising. On Sunday, when accepting his second award for his portrayal of Molly Meldrum, Johnson spoke of Love Your Sister in what has come to be a familiar public declaration of support for the mum-of-two.
“On behalf of my beautiful sister Connie, I would like to urge any family watching affected by cancer or not to join us in our quest to keep our families safe from the terrors of cancer.
“I love you, Connie, I love you.”
But behind the bright lights of the small screen and the occasional trappings of fame, Samuel Johnson’s life has been marred by the kind of grief normally exclusive to the dramatic story lines he brings to life.
Suicide being the the tragic thread the binds so much of his loss together.
When Johnson was just one, and being raised – alongside his two sisters – by his parents in Daylesford, his mother suicided.
In an interview with Australian Story in 2008, Johnson’s sister Hilda said he spent much of his life looking for people who knew his mother.
"He found himself being drawn to people that were in his mother, well in our mother’s life, like the guy from the local pub. He got a job there a couple of nights a week," she told the program.
At age 15, he would be cast in a short film with a fellow actor of a similar age called Heather. Heather and Johnson, alongside a woman called Sarah Hallam, who Johnson would go on to date, became a kind-of-trio. They were "great friends", according to Hallam, and grew very close.
By the end of 2005, and when Johnson was 27, his close friend Heather had died by suicide.
The loss affected both himself and Hallam greatly. At the time, he had a girlfriend. Her name was Lainie Woodlands and the couple were living together.