Tom Hobbs : Kent St Bar & Cafe, Fitzroy : Melbourne, Australia
“I want to sink my teeth into the fleshiest piece of meat that I can, and to show everyone that I can hold a show; hold a film….a television series. I want to be the lead character and that’s hard. And I’ve said no to work to be able to get that. If you work hard enough you will get the opportunity; it’s about being in the right frame of mind and at the best you possibly can be when those opportunities come”.
Tom’s first professional gig out of drama school was off the back of a very basic audition video he supplied via his laptop; a video that he would make while performing with a group of other drama school graduates in their self-written show as Wild Duck Theatre to audiences in the single figures at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Six weeks later, he received an unexpected and greatly appreciated birthday gift.
“I got a call to say, “What would you like for your birthday? Would you like some Roman sandals and a toga?”. And I said, “I’ll take that””.
This meant he had been offered the role as Seppias in the extremely popular American network television series “Spartacus”; being filmed (of all places) in his home town of Auckland. And in terms of viewership, it couldn’t have been further removed from the Fringe festival turnout with previous episodes of Spartacus attracting audiences of over 1.6 million.
It seems like the ultimate kick-start to any professional journey, let alone one in an industry renowned for its challenges and harsh realities, but Tom’s view is a healthy one and his career to date has been as a result of both intelligent choices and undeniable talent. He is a born entertainer with that rare ability to genuinely engage with people without the horrible veneer that so many in “the business” wear like an ill-fitting suit; to invest in a conversation and a situation with legitimate interest and to take time to understand and be present in what’s being said; and who is saying it. Any time spent with Tom feels like an engaging, hilarious, friendly, authentic hug and it’s easy to see how that translates to his work; why overseas and local producers alike would be drawn to, and want to work with, the twenty-nine year old.
With all that in mind it’s strange to consider the brief time when it seemed acting wasn’t for him; despite coming from a successful family of actors, actresses, directors and writers. Even straight out of high school it seemed his path was set when he got the enviable opportunity of working as a production runner on the set of Peter Jackson’s blockbuster, “King Kong”.
“Acting (at that level) is really REALLY hard because you do 30 takes of one thing or you might just stand and they’ll film you for a day. This was an incredibly high-budgeted film – it was the absolute top-end”.
But it’s difficult to say if weathering the emotional toll of watching his family ride the reality-roller-coaster of the performance industry or simply the impetuousness of youth that steered him away from acting, but it felt clear that off the back of this experience he wanted to do something else with his life. So looking for new challenges, and on the advice of his Mum, he made the decision to go and explore the world; however the plan to leave acting behind him was short-lived.
“She had printed out the NIDA, WAAPA, and VCA auditions sheets…she said “you should read those on the plane”; and I was like, “I’m not into that Mum”. She said, ”Just read them, for God’s sake; if there’s anything you do just read those on the plane””. I went to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia – all on a shoestring budget – and then we went to Greece, but by the time I got there I really wanted to audition for drama school”.
On returning to Australia that’s exactly what he did. After isolating and burying himself in audition material he found the best fit at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) in Melbourne and enthusiastically threw himself into the course. And from a personal perspective this timing couldn’t have been better for Tom, as he was definitely spending a concerning amount of energy prioritising his social life.
“Curiosity kills the cat and I was a cat looking for all sort of new things. But I think coupled with my parents split, I just wanted to be happy all the time. I just wanted to be up and partying. We were all little bit worried about me. I was quietly worried about me. So I wanted to be in an institution that was creatively enormous and also ruthless in terms of discipline. I was surrounded by a lot of people who had a huge background with understanding what Stanislavki’s acting method was compared to Peter Brooks…I couldn’t even spell Stanislavski! So, when they were talking about it I was just happy to be involved in any of it. And we did colours for a week, you know, being “red” for a week…and we did animals for a week…all these things that people really scoffed at. I just lapped it up”.
Tom’s professional drive is clear and impressive; as his is broader understanding and acknowledgment of what it takes to network with right people, get noticed and (most importantly) develop working relationships.
“I’d come from a business place where I knew that if you’re going into a room full of people smiling at you, you don’t just let them smile at you. You approach them, and you chat, and you sell ice to the eskimos”.
Tom’s ambition to be acting in leading man roles on the silver screen simply seems to be a matter of timing and faith. The support structure of his family, friends, and girlfriend (Australian theatre star Amy Lehpamer) may be just what he needs to allow himself to lean in a little further and achieve exactly what he wants. The trajectory he has created for himself appears to be well calculated and hard fought, and he has an impressive and varied list of projects dotting his CV with TV projects like Spartacus and the wildly popular Winners and Losers; to feature films like Unbroken (where he worked alongside Angelina Jolie) and the impending movie release of critically acclaimed novel, Holding The Man. And it’s very difficult to believe that he won’t achieve exactly what he desires; regardless of the work and sacrifice involved.
“Holding The Man” will be released in cinemas on August 27th, 2015