THE WIDE BLUE YONDER
Sean Keenan’s move from kiddie TV star to Puberty Blues pin-up
DON’T think it’s just the teenage girls swooning over actor Sean Keenan.
His allure to the high school market is obvious: the surfy blond locks, the piercing blue eyes and an effortlessly cool life Instagrammed almost daily to his 76,000 (and counting) followers.
Puberty Blues author Kathy Lette recently confessed her obsession with the 21-year-old to the Twittersphere, gushing: “Is it wrong to be swimming through a pool of my own drool every time Gary comes on screen?” in reference to his character Gary Hennessy.
Having co-created the original novel and screenplay which inspired the Channel 10 series in which Keenan plays Hennessy, a good guy trying to keep himself on the straight and narrow, Lette answered her own question of propriety with a follow-up quip: “Paging Dr Freud to reception.”
Adding to his likeability, the Busselton-raised Keenan is coy about the female attention he has attracted since scoring his first dramatic adult role.
“I think they’re in love with the character more than they’re in love with me,” he says. “But if they can see that good guy in him and some of that crosses over to me, well, that’s not a bad thing.”
Puberty Blues (the movie) played a part in his transition from boy to man, his mother screening the iconic comingof-age film to Keenan and his twin sister Lily.
After getting his first big acting break as the lead on children’s TV drama Lockie
Leonard and then a stint on ABC3’s Dance Academy, Keenan felt ready to take on more adult roles when the chance to audition for Ten’s
Puberty Blues series arose. “With the first season, I’d just taken a year off working to finish year 12 and (I did it) as a kind of separation from the kids TV while I was still going through puberty myself,” he says.
“I turned 18 and was able to drink, then I moved across to Sydney, all before I got the part. I had a bit of time living by myself and I thought that was probably one of the biggest steps in preparing for the part because I was becoming an adult … so I had plenty I could draw on.”
Keenan was immediately challenged by the role of Hennessy, who in the first season struggled with standing up to his domineering father Ferris (Rodger Corser) while desperate to protect his cowed mother Yvonne (Susan Prior).
There’s been romance too, exploring the joys of first love with Debbie Vickers (Ashleigh Cummings), while also terrifying parents in the audience with his drug experimentation.
Working alongside more experienced actors such as Claudia Karvan, Dan Wylie and Corser, Keenan says he’s matured enough to use his place opposite them as an acting master class.
“When I was younger, I’d go to work and get wrapped up in the excitement and I didn’t take as much time to maybe look and draw from the more experienced actors around me,” he says.
“The cast now, (which) I’m lucky enough to work with, is just amazing. I really made sure I paid attention and you take so much away.”
After walking out on his family in season one, Gary’s father returned this year claiming to be a changed man. But the truth – and the father/son estrangement – bubbles powerfully below the surface.
Keenan says Corser kept him at arm’s length last year but they’ve worked more closely on their on-screen dynamic.
“I don’t know if he meant to do it or not, but I felt like he didn’t quite let me in … it helped in a way that he’s quite intimidating and I felt that in real life,” Keenan says.
“But this season we got to a point where we had the freedom to explore and do more and we both did. It gives you goosebumps, you feel like (their relationship) is going to implode at any moment.”
Picture: Bob Barker