Melvey phones home
A reality treasure-hunt show with mobiles has lured a soap star away from LA, writes Colin Vickery
JUSTIN Melvey is back in Australia and it looks like it could be for good. The 39-year-old has returned to host reality show The Phone after seven years in Los Angeles — and now he wants to stay.
The former Home and Away hunk and Logie Award winner set off to the US in 2001 when he landed the role of Dr Colin Murphy in Days of Our Lives. He has lived there since, taking out US citizenship and enjoying a stint on another daytime soap, General Hospital.
He returned for Dancing with the Stars and Celebrity Survivor but always went back to the US. A phone call from Foxtel changed that.
‘‘I was in Los Angeles when I auditioned for the show and I didn’t know much about it except that it was going to be fast and have energy — sort of The Amazing Race meets The Bourne Identity,’’ Melvey says.
‘‘I dived at the chance to come back to Australia. My mum has been a bit crook so I thought it was a great opportunity to come home and get back on Australian TV screens.
‘‘I’ve said that (I want to stay in Australia) to the heads of the networks. I’m looking forward to relocating back home.’’
The Phone plucks two people from their daily lives for a cat-andmouse game where one will have the chance to win $25,000. Each episode starts with two mobile phones ringing at opposite ends of a major Australian city. Melvey gives the people who answer five seconds to decide whether they want to play the game, which starts immediately and involves them following a series of clues to find a briefcase of cash over the next 12 hours.
The Dutch format has been picked up around the world including the US where Justin Timberlake signed to produce a version for MTV.
Melvey describes his fictional character as a sort of puppet master.
‘‘It challenges them physically and mentally,’’ he says. ‘‘They will do anything (for the prize money)— they will break into theatres, into apartments, climb tall buildings — and I get to lead them on this trail.’’
Melvey says he has reassessed his priorities in recent years. The former ski champion has always had a strong work ethic but has learned that contentment doesn’t come from constantly chasing success.
‘‘When I was in my 20s I had the whole Hollywood dream — to be as big as Mel Gibson or Russell Crowe — as a definition of success and I’ve released that drive in me now,’’ he says. ‘‘The success I’ve had is that I’ve bought a great place in the Hollywood hills, I’ve bought a place in Colorado, I’ve paid off my mortgages and I’ve had a couple of TV shows.
‘‘I feel that I can release that pressure off me to be so Hollywood- driven. It will always be there but now I’m steering my opportunities more for way of life.
‘‘Hollywood’s really hard. It’s not the work — I don’t have a problem going to the studios at 5am and working 15-hour days. The city’s hard — there’s always a catastrophe . . . riots, earthquakes, fires and all that traffic.
‘‘Actors seem to be a little bit neurotic and oversensitive to everything. As an athlete, that doesn’t really play into the situation. I’m good at letting things go knowing that I’ve come to a state in my career where you’re only as good as your last job.
‘‘I’ve taken my acting very seriously but I haven’t taken myself very seriously.’’
ex-Home and Away star Justin Melvey is back to host a cat-and-mouse game show involving mobile phones.