Just one week after the death of his sister Connie in September last year, actor Samuel Johnson said sharing her story had been both a blessing and a curse.
“Going public was not popular – most of all with me,” he said of the decision to launch charity Love Your Sister and raise funds for breast cancer. “Connie met a lot of resistance.”
But eventually, “bit by bit, every family member started to realise this was bigger than us,” he said.
Now, as an Australian of the Year nominee, an award that will be announced tomorrow, Johnson has shared that the bittersweet reality of sharing Connie’s story felt particularly difficult in the days after her death.
While immediately after Connie’s death, he appeared positive, enthusiastic and proud, he admitted in an interview with Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30, “it felt really uncomfortable”.
Listen to Mia Freedman’s interview with Samuel Johnson. Post continues after audio.
“Monetising her death was the trickiest part,” he said.
“I always struggled to monetise her illness, let alone her passing. At that point you don’t really want to shake the tin, but it was very important that we do that.
“She wanted to use her experience to help raise as much coin as possible for our country’s best scientists.”
Johnson said it was hard to transition into “fundraising mode” at a time when the rest of his family were grieving. Even during Connie’s wake, Johnson was giving interviews.
He said the distraction of fundraising “diluted her passing” for him, but at the same time, Connie’s cancer diagnosis in 2010, when she was just 33, meant he had been “grieving for years”.
“She’s still got her fingerprints all over nearly everything that I do professionally,” he said.
“So it’s a weird one in the sense that I don’t feel like she’s gone yet. I suppose I’m not grieving typically … I feel like kind of half of her still anyway.”
While 7.30‘s Leigh Sales described Johnson as “amazing”, he doesn’t see himself that way, despite having won Victoria’s Australian of the Year, and being in the running for the national title among seven other recipients.
He just wants Love Your Sister to raise $10 million, and has vowed to put his acting career on hold until he achieves that goal.
A goal his sister Connie, no doubt, would be boundlessly proud of.