Taking it to heart
A family-reunion show makes adopted Jack Thompson cry, write Ross Brundrett and Erin McWhirter
JACK Thompson knew Find My Family was going to be a hit the moment he started crying. The 68-year-old actor, who was adopted as a child, found it hard to control his emotions as he watched the first episode of the reality series.
Channel 7 had sent Thompson a rough cut of the program, voiced by someone else, in the hope he would come on board as host and narrator. He watched the show with Lee, his partner of more than 30 years, and it struck a deep chord.
‘‘I started blubbering and Lee said, ‘How will you get through 13 of these?’ ’’ Thompson (above) says.
‘‘There’s something about the show that strips away all the veneer and gets to the heart. When a father and child or a mother or a brother and sister reconnect, it doesn’t matter that they know the cameras are rolling. They lose their selfconsciousness and what you see is emotion at its rawest.
‘‘You would have to have a heart of stone to witness these stories and not be moved. It says a lot about our need to be loved and to connect.’’
A year later, Thompson was proved right. Find My Family is a hit, averaging a whopping 1.8 million viewers in its first series.
Like Thompson, Australian viewers have connected with the show, which reunites families separated as a result of adoption.
Thompson says a big reason for the program’s appeal is the emotions on display are real, not manipulated or manufactured. That sets it apart, he says, from other reality shows.
‘‘A couple of teenagers came up to me and told me it’s their favourite show,’’ Thompson says to illustrate the cross-generational appeal.
‘‘One said he watches with his mother and she always tears up. I said to him, ‘What about you?’ and this macho kid said, ‘Aw, sometimes’.
‘‘I think this show is very reassuring in today’s society, to know we are still moved by these very human things. It’s good, and this show has a real purpose in that.
‘‘I think it says something about society. When my son Billy did his HSC (year-12) exams, 60 per cent of the class were from single-parent families. There’s certainly no shortage of material out there.’’
Thompson was born Thomas Hadley Pain in Manly in 1940 and was four years old when his mother died. His father, a merchant seaman, was unable to care for him and his brother David, and he was later adopted by John and Pat Thompson.
Film reviewer Peter Thompson is his adopted brother.
‘‘Being adopted was no mystery to me. I lived with the Thompsons from the age of eight,’’ Jack Thompson says.
‘‘Back in those days, if there was an adoption happening, the Child Welfare Department put you on a two-year trial period, then have a look at how it was going.
‘‘I remember the day they came — a man and a woman. Peter and I were there and I think we got our hair done or something. I remember pretty distinctly them turning up and we were sitting on the floor playing with a toy train set.
‘‘They had a look around the house, had a chat to my adoptive parents and had no doubt I was a happy boy in a happy home. I think for people for whom it’s a mystery, it’s different.’’
Does Thompson believe there is still a taboo about speaking about adoption?
‘‘In the 1940s or ’50s, if you were adopted, then you must be a bastard,’’ he says.
‘‘There is no longer that stigma.’’