WHAT’S UP DOC?
DOCTOR DOCTOR STAR RYAN JOHNSON YEARNS FOR A RETURN TO HIS GOLD COAST ROOTS
Its premiere attracted more than two million viewers and Doctor Doctor was recently announced to be coming back for a second season, along with its entire cast.
Among them will be Ryan Johnson, the former Currumbin nipper whose character Matt is the brother of the show’s protagonist Hugh, played by Roger Corser.
Born in Melbourne but a Gold Coast guy at heart, Johnson has been fully invested in the acting and performance game for as long as he can remember. He recently returned to where that dream took hold – Somerset College, for his 20-year high school reunion.
After the reunion’s formalities and exploring the school’s now “monolithic gym”, Ryan says things really started to get interesting.
“We rocked up to Jupiters’ Garden Kitchen and Bar, then they moved next door and I peeled off, but all the mums were just rockin’ out at like two in the morning. Hilarious!” he laughs. “They’re like: ‘Hubby’s got (the kids), this is my time!’ So that was fun.”
It’s a sense of fun and adventure that has always stayed with Ryan, now 37, when it comes to describing life and his history on the Gold Coast. For him, life as a youngster here was all about spending time with good mates in the summer sunshine.
“We lived in Currumbin Waters, and I had friends in Tugun and Currumbin and Palm Beach, and I had surfboard racks on my mountain bike. I had a friend who lived on 15th Ave and I’d go and spend every day of the summer holidays at his place. I’d ride my pushy over, surf all holidays,” he says.
The weekends were time for Ryan and his close-knit family to get involved in their local community and bond with like-minded outdoorsy types.
“If we weren’t doing nippers, we were in the surf or hanging out with other nipper families, camping with them. It was just constantly about active participation in things. And never ever being bored,” he says.
“It was such a far cry from inner-city Sydney life I see now, where everyone is so digitised. And helicopter parenting, which I’m kind of guilty of myself.”
The child in line of that watchful eye is Ryan’s twoyear-old daughter Alia. They, along with Ryan’s wife of 15 years, screenwriter Tamara Asmar, today live in Sydney to be close to work. The oceanswept calls of the Gold Coast have never quite shushed for the actor and family man though.
“We’ve been up to Queensland a couple of times recently and I see Alia splashing about in the pool at my dad’s house that I grew up in, and playing in the sand at Currumbin Beach, and she’s just so happy and relaxed, soakin’ up the vitamin D.”
Today Ryan finds validation in the fact he’s one of Australia’s most recognisable and likeable actors, not to mention the fact his marriage to wife Tamara puts the sad majority of Hollywood romances to shame.
“Tamara used to work at a publicity firm in my old agent’s building and I just thought I’d go in there and try to get her attention because she was gorgeous, still is,” Ryan remembers. “She was seeing a guy, so I just hung around until he left and struck when the moment was hot. And I’ve been punching above my weight ever since.”
Today the pair share their daughter Alia, as well as credits on Doctor Doctor; Ryan in the role of Matt and Tamara in the role of screenwriter.
Ryan jokes that having your better half pen scenes depicting the sexual chemistry between you and your on-screen wife can be rather amusing.
“In the episodes everyone else had written it’s like, Matt and Charlie finish having sex; Matt and Charlie make out … In Tamara’s episodes it’s more, Charlie nuzzles into Matt, where she’s always belonged; Matt holds Charlie’s hand for comfort … In season two she’ll probably write, Matt questions his sexuality and joins the ministry!” he laughs.
Ryan and Tamara are in good company on the Doctor Doctor set, with huge names in the Australian television industry being involved both in front of and behind the camera. Claudia Karvan is one of the series’ executive producers.
“Those were some pretty nerve-racking days, those first few on set, where she’s just sitting there watching you act and you’re thinking: ‘I’ve loved you for so long as an actor.’ I mean I had a crush on her in The Big Steal, and that was back in the ‘90s,” he says.
“It’s a pretty awesome calibre of people involved (in Doctor Doctor), and I’m just a tiny part of that.”
Filming for the show took place between the central NSW town of Mudgee, which served as the show’s fictional hamlet of Whyhope, and a picturesque area outside of Sydney called Camden. Getting the locations just right meant a lot of driving for the cast and crew, which was exhausting but worthwhile, according to Ryan.
“That’s the great thing about what I do. When you’re working it’s really intense but you get paid well, so you can afford then to have more time as a parent,” he says.
“Tamara’s working on several projects at the moment and Alia and I go and do our day together. We’ll go to the park after 15 outfit changes or we’ll go to the indoor park if it’s raining. Or we’ll water plants, or play with sand, or we’ll draw or we’ll talk, or dance … It’s a pretty awesome day.
“And it’s exhausting!” he laughs.
IT’S A PRETTY AWESOME CALIBRE OF PEOPLE INVOLVED (IN DOCTOR
DOCTOR), AND I’M JUST A TINY PART OF THAT
Actor Ryan Johnson who stars in the Channel 9 drama Doctor Doctor alongside co-stars (inset) Nicole Da Silva and (right) Rodger Corser.