East pushes Tom in a new direction
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.