The stars of Neigh­bours’ first ever same-sex wed­ding speak on the im­por­tance of ac­cep­tance and rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

Gay Times Magazine - - CONTENTS: - Im­ages Chan­nel 5 Words Daniel Me­garry

As the iconic Aus­tralian soap Neigh­bours airs its first ever same-sex wed­ding, we speak to the stars them­selves, Takaya Honda and Matt Wil­son, about the im­por­tance of rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the ho­mo­pho­bia sur­round­ing the re­cent mar­riage equal­ity de­bate down un­der.

When fan favourite cou­ple David and Aaron tie the knot on iconic Aus­tralian soap Neigh­bours in Septem­ber, it’ll be his­toric for two rea­sons: Not only will it be the first same-sex mar­riage on the show, it’ll also be the first same-sex mar­riage on Aus­tralian prime­time TV since the coun­try voted in favour of equal­ity last year.

It’s an achieve­ment that ac­tors Takaya Honda and Matt Wil­son aren’t tak­ing lightly, as they tell Gay Times they’re “proud” to be pro­vid­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the com­mu­nity. We caught up with the ac­tors to dis­cuss the anti-gay rhetoric sur­round­ing the re­cent mar­riage equal­ity plebiscite, and why their on­screen wed­ding is so im­por­tant for LGBTQ peo­ple in Aus­tralia.

How does it feel for you both to be part of such a mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion?

Matt: It’s sur­real, and some­times it feels like I don’t de­serve it. There are so many ac­tors in Aus­tralia and for some rea­son I’ve been blessed, and I feel like it’s one of the most im­por­tant roles in the coun­try right now. We’ve had feed­back from guys say­ing that we’ve given them the courage to come out, or that watch­ing the show and re­lat­ing to these char­ac­ters has brought them to a happy place.

Takaya: I’m su­per proud to be a part of it be­cause it’s such a his­toric and sym­bolic mo­ment. There’s noth­ing else that I’d pre­fer to be a part of than some­thing like this. It’s so im­por­tant for a large por­tion of peo­ple who have been bat­tling for quite a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time for this equal­ity, so yeah, I’m su­per proud to be a part of it.

Do you think shows like Neigh­bours can be used to change peo­ple’s minds about LGBTQ peo­ple in a pos­i­tive way?

T: Ab­so­lutely, and I think it has done al­ready. I’m sure if you were to look at the de­mo­graph­ics through the years of the peo­ple who watch Neigh­bours, and what their opin­ions are not only of the gay com­mu­nity but of eth­nic mi­nori­ties and things like that, it has def­i­nitely evolved over time to a point where you’ll see a neg­a­tive com­ment on the Neigh­bours Face­book page, and there’ll be 50 replies in re­but­tal to that neg­a­tiv­ity, and they’ll be bring­ing pos­i­tiv­ity in­stead, and that’s an ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble thing to see.

M: The fact that Neigh­bours has been cel­e­brat­ing equal­ity for years, even be­fore I was part of the show, is in­cred­i­ble. It’s def­i­nitely been a work­ing case for years and years, and that’s all ku­dos to the pro­duc­tion and writ­ing team.

Takaya, you men­tioned how the show is also help­ing pro­vide rep­re­sen­ta­tion for eth­nic mi­nori­ties. Most of the time you see gay char­ac­ters on TV they’re white, so do you feel ex­tra proud that you get to be an eth­nic mi­nor­ity and a gay char­ac­ter on TV?

T: Ab­so­lutely, and dur­ing my first meet­ing with the pro­duc­ers at Neigh­bours when I got the role I thanked them for mak­ing a char­ac­ter who is of Ja­panese de­scent, but isn’t some­one who’s de­fined by that her­itage. All too of­ten I’ve had au­di­tions which have been an Aus­tralian char­ac­ter

of Ja­panese de­scent who’s been de­fined en­tirely by be­ing Ja­panese, and this was a role where I got to play a char­ac­ter where, ‘Hey, I have a back­ground, but that’s also not the most in­ter­est­ing thing about me, there’s a hell of a lot go­ing on here’. I’m not hav­ing to do some ac­cent, be­cause it’s come to a stage where peo­ple can ac­cept that a per­son can not look white, and they can have an Aus­tralian ac­cent on TV. That was an awe­some mo­ment for me, be­cause it’s not some­thing that I grew up watch­ing all too of­ten, and I love be­ing part of that rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

It seemed like there was quite an a…ressive anti-gay rhetoric dur­ing the same-sex mar­riage de­bate in Aus­tralia. Is this some­thing you no­ticed go­ing on around you?

T: It was hard not to no­tice, but it only made me more im­pas­sioned to work harder and con­tinue to bring truth to what I’m do­ing. If any­thing, the louder they yelled the neg­a­tiv­ity, the more I felt what we were do­ing – as a very small part of the move­ment – was af­fect­ing change enough to scare peo­ple into be­ing hor­ri­ble, to try to coun­ter­act it, so that to me was a sig­ni­fier that we were on the right track and that equal­ity was on its way, re­ally.

M: When­ever we saw the news, there weren’t many peo­ple who would ac­tu­ally show their face to do an in­ter­view about be­ing anti-gay, they were just quotes, so a big part of me found it hard to be­lieve that these peo­ple were ac­tu­ally out there. I thought it wasn’t real. The plebiscite re­sults showed that they were a mi­nor­ity, but even still I can’t be­lieve the num­bers weren’t higher than they were.

Has that anti-gay sen­ti­ment died down now? M: There are lob­by­ing groups that still ex­ist, and they still have a lot of money and a lot of power and they’re try­ing to build up their strength to re­verse the de­ci­sion or make it harder to marry – whether that’s in­side a church or re­li­gious es­tab­lish­ment, what­ever – they’re still out there, so I don’t think the coun­try can re­lax and say it’s all happy days from now on, but there is a sense of re­lief. I don’t per­son­ally know one sin­gle per­son who was op­posed to it, out of all of my fam­ily and all of my friends. That’s why I found it so hard to be­lieve that these peo­ple were out there.

Neigh­bours has a well-es­tab­lished his­tory of iconic wed­dings, like with Scott and Char­lene. Do you hope that Aaron and David’s wed­ding is go­ing to go down in his­tory in the same way? T: Well, I hope so! I wish it was for me to say, but I hope so. We’ve put in the work, and I think it’s a beau­ti­ful episode and I think peo­ple are go­ing to love it. I re­ally hope the au­di­ence responds well to it, and I hope this rep­re­sen­ta­tion con­tin­ues into the fu­ture.

M: Our ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Ja­son put out a memo, maybe it was just in pass­ing, but he said some­thing about the Scott and Char­lene wed­ding and how it’s now time for Aaron and David, and I just couldn’t be­lieve it, I was like, ‘Wow, there’s been so many wed­dings in be­tween and you’re pick­ing our one?’ It is a big mo­ment, so it does de­serve it. I can’t wait to see it when it goes to air.

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