Life’s good for this Aussie actor but there is still the question of finding balance, writes Shannon Molloy
I t’s the early 1990s and a young Rodger Corser has just taken to the stage in a simple pub in Melbourne’s northeastern suburbs. With a mop of hair, tight jeans and a smouldering smirk, the young frontman of energetic band Tender Prey belts out a rock ballad that has the modest crowd cheering. And so begins his road to stardom. More than two decades later, he’s regarded as one of the biggest stars on Australian television.
Corser, who currently leads Nine’s hit drama Doctor Doctor, didn’t plan on being an actor.
“I was interested in film and TV so I did a degree in media studies but I figured I’d end up behind the camera,” the 43-year-old recalls. “That was the plan. And music.” Then Corser beat 6000 other hopefuls in an open casting call for the lead role in the national tour of the musical Rent.
Its 1998 seasons in Sydney and Melbourne were hugely successful and propelled him on to the radar of small-screen producers: “I got an agent and started doing bits and pieces and the rest, as they say, is history.”
From soaps to police procedurals and critically acclaimed dramas, Corser has fronted a long list of hit series since his debut in 2000.
His latest role is as Hugh Knight, a brilliant but troubled heart surgeon from Sydney who finds himself living back in his rural home town after a spectacular fall from grace.
The hard-partying, womanising doctor with a serious God complex believes he’s invincible, which causes him no end of trouble.
“I was really interested in that attitude. These guys literally have people’s lives in their hands so it’s no wonder some wind up a bit like Hugh,’’ he says. “Not all of them. We’re not implying it’s everyone at all, let me be clear. Some doctors came after us on social media a little bit.
“But in those high-end medical fields you might see a young surgeon living over in Bondi in a flash apartment who hasn’t settled down and is kicking around, living the high life.
“When you do something extraordinary at a level not many others reach, like surgery, it’s easy to begin believing your own bullshit.’’
Corser says it can be similar for artists: “There’s bravado, for sure, but there’s also a lot of insecurity. It’s a double-edged sword.
“In my profession, you can have people who are very confident, and maybe rightly so, but there are many who constantly battle a lack of confidence and insecurity about whether they are doing a good job. You’re performing all the time, if you think about it. Whether it’s an audition, on camera, doing an interview like this, going on radio to promote a show, something like that, it’s a performance.
“It’s like hiding behind a false bravado and then it’s finished and it’s like, phew.” D octor Doctor brought some feelings of anxiety, Corser admits. It doesn’t matter how long he does this job, the nerves are ever-present. But, as he points out, the face of the show enjoys dizzying highs during success and the lion’s share of blame in the event of failure: “The pressure is on a bit more. You want it to go again. Obviously you do with any project, but when you’re the central character you don’t want people to think you can’t carry a show.”
Thankfully Corser and the rest of the cast don’t need to worry about that. A few weeks into this season, Nine confirmed it had commissioned a second instalment for 2017.
It took the pressure off and resulted in a rarity for an actor — knowing what he’s up to next year, with production due to start mid-year.
“I’ve been stopped on the street for this show more than any other I’ve done, and I’m not just saying that. It’s really resonated,” he says.
But such is the nature of Australian TV that Corser will probably fit in other projects that come up, for love and for money.
“More and more, it’s short-run shows. Back in the day, not long ago actually, seasons would have three, sometimes four times the number of episodes that they do now,’’ he says.
“Rush wasn’t that long ago and we were doing 22 episodes. One of those a year and you don’t need anything else. Six parts, you’ve got to find more work.”
On the plus side, shorter shows means more airtime to fill and Corser believes TV lately has more variety than ever. “There’s a lot of stuff around,” he says. “Just look at what I’ve done lately — procedurals that maybe skew a bit older, like
Doctor, Doctor star Rodger Corser (main), with wife R enae Berry (above) and with the Doctor, Doctor cast (below). Cover photo: Corser, wearing a Herringbone suit with Saba shir t and Brando shoes, relax es at the hip designer hotel, QT Sydney.