East pushes Tom in a new di­rec­tion

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page - KYLIE MILLER

KICK­ING back in a fold-up camp­ing chair on the ram­shackle By­ron Bay set of East of Ev­ery­thing, Tom Long looks quite at home in the work­boots and scruffy at­tire cho­sen for his char­ac­ter, Vance Watkins.

For the past cou­ple of hours, Long has been stand­ing on a lad­der, ham­mer in hand, pre­tend­ing to re­pair the roof of the fic­tional Far Out East re­sort, run by Vance and his brother, Art, played by Richard Roxburgh.

Ac­cord­ing to Long, the day’s labours on set are not far re­moved from his off-cam­era life, which of­ten in­cludes build­ing and ren­o­va­tion.

Af­ter his break­through role in 1998 as surf-mad court clerk An­gus Kabiri in the hit ABC se­ries SeaChange, Long ap­peared reg­u­larly in Aus­tralian films and TV pro­grams, among them The Dish, Two Hands, He­roes’ Moun­tain, Post­card Ban­dit and The Book of Rev­e­la­tion.

The past few years have been qui­eter, with the ac­tor in­creas­ingly re­treat­ing to the farm in Vic­to­ria’s Strath­bo­gie Ranges that he shares with his part­ner, ac­tor Rachael Maza, and their 10-year-old son Ari.

He fills his days ‘‘build­ing stuff’’; lay­ing bricks for a new shed and restor­ing an old hall.

He has planted fruit and nut trees, and keeps horses, sheep, dogs and chooks.

The cou­ple takes turns work­ing while the other han­dles day-to-day par­ent­ing, but Long’s re­solve to pull back from act­ing also has strength­ened with age.

‘‘As I get older I get more can­tan­ker­ous about us go­ing away,’’ he says. ‘‘You just don’t want to be trip­ping over ca­bles all the time. It’s like, ‘OK well what’s it like and is the story good?’ ’’

In this case, good scripts and the chance to work again with peo­ple he ad­mires, in­clud­ing writer Deb Cox and direc­tors Tony Tilse and Stu­art McDon­ald, have en­ticed him back.

When view­ers re­turn to Rain­bow Bay, they find the Watkins broth­ers strug­gling to keep their busi­ness afloat af­ter be­ing com­pelled by their moth­ers’ will to re­open her faded re­sort.

Cox says the sec­ond sea­son of East of Ev­ery­thing is pacier than the first, with self-con­tained sto­ries in each episode.

En­ticed back: Tom Long is a man on the land.

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