Melvey phones home

A re­al­ity trea­sure-hunt show with mo­biles has lured a soap star away from LA, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

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.’’

Tele­phone line:

ex-Home and Away star Justin Melvey is back to host a cat-and-mouse game show in­volv­ing mo­bile phones.

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