This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2011-10-23 — sourcemeta


Spotlight on: Jeffrey Walker


Jeffrey Walker as “Brett Bates” in Ocean Girl (1997)


Promo photo from Thunderstone (1998)


Beverage:Lemon fizzy drink, Coke
Book:“The Outsider” & “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”
Music:Powderfinger (Aus.), U2, Crowded House
TV Show:The Simpsons
Movie:American Beauty, Pulp Fiction, Romeo & Juliet


Date of Birth:July 10, 1982
Zodiac sign:Cancer
Eye colour:Hazel
Hair colour:Brown
Height:5′ 10′′ (178cm)
Born in:Victoria, Australia

I recently had the opportunity to interview Jeffrey, and chat about his acting career. I’d like to thank Jeffrey for his time

Savant:Hi Jeffrey, first I’d like to thank you for taking the time to chat with me. As with most young performers they usually start off acting ’just for fun’. Then some of them come to a realization that acting is what they want to do as a career. In your case you were acting before you turned 10, and received an AFI (Australian Film Institute) award at 16. Although your love for acting was apparent at a young age, can you remember when you realized that acting was something you wanted to choose as a career choice? Also, did that choice affect any secondary career goals you may have had?
Jeffrey:I knew that I wanted to act from about three! I was always keen to perform in front of friends or my parents… I used to do a lot of impersonations, comical voices, memorise whole cartoons or films; I used to amuse myself a fair bit this way - as little kids usually do. It wasn’t until I was about 7 when I started working as an actor, that I began to think seriously about what I was doing. It changed from being a hobby to a profession I think when I was 10, and I was working on three or four different television series a year. As far as missing out on “stuff” because of my acting, apart from playing cricket for Australia and being the youngest golfer to turn pro, not much. I’ve have been stupidly fortunate thus far.
Savant:We all know that acting is a serious business, but there are times when things can just get crazy, especially working with other kids. Are there any particular moments, that you would you like to share, where you look back and think to yourself “…that was so funny!”?
Jeffrey:On “Thunderstone”, all the kids were very professional and fully prepared for all their scenes on any given day. However… the director and crew alike would fear the day when all of us would be in the same scene. We went from the most professional outfit around, to a bunch of madhouse escapees! One time when we were about to shoot a scene, the other kids “peer-pressured” me in to fitting as many lollies in my mouth at one time as I possibly could. (Very mature, I know) Anyway, I stood up to the challenge, stuffing 13 assorted lollies, some of which were quite big I’ll have you know, into my gob in one go. I wanted to join in with the other guys who were laughing at me, but my mouth was so full, I could barely chew, and there was no chance of me making a legible sound. That’s when the director shouted, “Alright, let’s have a rehearsal, and action!” I had the first line in the scene, all eyes were on me… need I continue?
Savant:Many young actors who have “grown up” while acting, often tell the story of ’a childhood lost’ in the midst of auditions, rehearsals, productions and the hectic schedule that goes with performing. Turning 19 this year, have you had a chance to look back on your childhood and reflect on how acting has played a ’role’ in your life?
Jeffrey:I often get asked this by kids my own age, I feel it’s almost because they can’t believe that it is all just “good fun” and “glamour”. They’re right about the glamour, to an extent. It’s very different making a television show or film in Australia than what it is in Hollywood. Having said that, I would be lying if I didn’t say that even on the most difficult, dialogue filled, freezing cold, 14 hour days… I still love every minute of it. There is nothing that defines who I am as a person more, than what I have experienced on a film set. The truth is, my childhood, which was predominately spent on set, could not have been more fun in any aspect. Fantastic people, get to travel the world and act in shows that have high production values, that win awards and are enjoyed by kids from more parts of the globe than I knew existed. But if you ask me what I would be like today, had I grown up having had a normal childhood, I couldn’t tell you.
Savant:From its birth with Konstantin S. Stanislavsky and subsequent transformation by Lee Strasberg, “method acting” is known as one of acting’s mainstays. Although no two acting techniques are identical, do you have a particular technique that forms the basis for your skills? Also, what do you do to help you prepare for a given role?
Jeffrey:One of the hardest things about series television is how much we jump out of order when we film. On any given day, we could do a scene from the first episode and the last episode back to back. This means that you have to constantly know what stage your character is at in the story. I have a pretty good memory and can recall pretty much any line of dialogue I’ve ever said, providing it is put in context. I rely heavily on knowing the story. This is as much of a technique as I use. Generally when you’re a kid playing a kid, method acting as such can’t really apply. On the other hand, if the kid you’re portraying is a science wiz or a delinquent or a guy who knows a lot about cars than it would help you to play this character if you learnt about those particular things. I’m inclined to do a little studying before we start rolling the cameras, but as the Coen Brothers say, “Research is for pussy’s” ;)
Savant:As we can expect, acting is far from an exact science. Although one can do their best, I’m sure one could always think “I wonder if I could do that better?” However, occasionally there are moments when you hit the ’sweet spot’. Those occasions when you finish a scene, the director yells “cut” and you get this overwhelming feeling that the scene was an absolute ’pearl’. They don’t happen often, but when they do, you never forget them. Do you have any memorable scenes that you remember in this way? Also, was there ever one scene that you remember that was really difficult for you to do?
Jeffrey:Call me a visionary, but there was one scene in The Wayne Manifesto that was a dream sequence where I had to play a dictator. It went only for about 30 seconds, but when I read it, I knew it would be ripper (Aussie slang for good). We filmed the scene a couple of weeks later. When the director called “Cut”, the crew gave me a round of applause and I felt as though I had nailed it. Incidentally, I won an AFI award for my performance in that series and the clip they screened as I was being presented with the award, was that very sequence. There have been a few difficult ones, but usually by the time we’re ready to roll, I’ve got a fair idea of what I’m doing.
Savant:Many actors will attest that they refuse to watch their own performances. Do you watch your own performances? If you do, are you “your own worst critic” as the saying goes? If not, do you find that it makes you more sensitive to criticism?
Jeffrey:I don’t usually watch the shows on tele. The cast get sent through tapes of the episodes which I watch with my younger brother, to see if he approves. I have a pretty subjective view on my performance from scene to scene. I don’t say it out loud, but I know when I’ve done a good job or a bad job. Some of the stuff I watch from when I was younger is very average, but you get away with that when you’re little.
Savant:In the entertainment industry, there is no denying the global ’lure’ of Hollywood, California to someone in the business. Would you consider a move to Hollywood if the opportunites presented themselves, or are you content to build your career at home in Australia?
Jeffrey:I love Australia. More specifically, I wouldn’t live anywhere apart from Melbourne! I would certainly work interstate or overseas which I have on a regular bases in the past. I’m not driven to go to Hollywood but if Lucas or Spielberg put the big call through, I dare say I would be over there before they’re off the phone. Though a lot of those directors are coming to Australia at the moment because of how strong the U.S. dollar is against ours. Maybe the plan is to move Hollywood to Sydney’s north shore. Who knows?
Savant:I’ve read that you have recently begun working as an intern producer at JMS productions. As such, it’s obvious that you have an interest in working ’both sides’ of the camera. When did you first find yourself wanting to explore beyond acting? Also, there is no disputing that Jonathan M. Shiff is a great talent and an excellent producer. How has your experience as an intern been so far?
Jeffrey:Working on this side of the business is great. JMS is the biggest individual producer of children’s drama in the world. It’s a good thing to have someone of his calibre take you under his wing and teach you the tricks of the trade. I would eventually like to direct, as I feel I would miss being on set too much if I was a producer. But before I can do that, I have to understand how and why the wheel turns. I made a short film in ’98 that pretty much sealed the deal for me that I would have to give directing a go. It had a really good cast and the crew from “Ocean Girl” and “Thunderstone” helped me make it. Not a bad team to have behind your first dig at directing. I would hopefully like to make my own feature films in the not to distant future.
Savant:Although most are familiar with your television and/or movie acting work, have you done any theater or live performance acting at all?
Jeffrey:No. I find that what “I” love most about acting, is the way art meets science in the medium of film of television. I became interested in the behind the scenes side of the biz because I knew that there was a lot more to this industry than just acting. Stage is a very self indulgent thing for an actor to engage in. I don’t think I have the right frame of mind for it.
Savant:Looking over your filmography, 4 of the 6 TV series you have appeared in have had a ’science-fiction’ component, and/or are set in the future. Do you have a preference for any particular genre when acting, or are you willing to take whatever comes your way?
Jeffrey:I usually read each story on its merits. The only job that I would say no to before I’ve even read anything is “on-going series television”. Daytime soapies, you know the ones… it ain’t my thing. I like series that are contained. We did four series of “Ocean Girl” with a different story-agenda to each. Thunderstone was the same. As far as sci-fi goes, the main reason I’m drawn to doing these kinds of shows is that they’re exciting and crammed with adventure. If I’m offered a part in a television show that doesn’t have an “edge” to it, I will most likely hold out for another Ocean Girl to come along.
Savant:In the series “Ocean Girl” they dealt with many environmental issues that are often overlooked in “adult” TV series, let alone dealt with in a youth TV series. Has the attention to environmental issues given you a greater appreciation for the environment?
Jeffrey:It’s certainly made me more aware. It’s pretty hard to film in Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef and not want become more involved in its preservation. Jonathan Shiff is very intent on making kids understand how important the co-existence between animals, the environment and humans is. That’s why all his baddies want to destroy it and the hero kids have to save the world. Lucky we always win, really.
Savant:In watching Ocean Girl, we see a young “Brett Bates” grow from a young boy to a young man on screen. Overall you spent four years working on the series, which is a pretty good run. Were you at all surprised at the longevity of the series? Also, do you think the series could have been extended to a fifth season, or do you think that would have been stretching it?
Jeffrey:Um… I’m pretty happy where it ended. Would I like to still be making it now, on the sandy beaches of Far North Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef? Absolutely. Ocean Girl, with 4 series, was more than any one show that I had done before. I don’t know, I think people still liked it when the last season finished on air, which is better that everyone being sick of it. I was glad for it to go four season’s, but no, I wouldn’t have predicted it.
Savant:In an interview with Marzena Godecki, following her four years working on Ocean Girl, she stated “I’m too old to be young anymore but not mature enough to take adult roles.” As one can expect no matter how much experience you have, if you can’t ’look’ the part, you won’t get the part. Although experience is certainly a factor, in your case with a smaller stature and a youthful appearance you have been able to continue doing “younger” roles for a longer period of time. While some people may not like having a smaller stature, have you found that it has given you an advantage in this regard? Also, have you considered whether you are still willing to do these “younger” parts, or have you started to look into more “adult” roles?
Jeffrey:I’m happy not worrying about it. Right now I’m helping Jonathan Shiff produce his new series which will start production in October. I will stick right through that and I’m sure if I ask often enough he will eventually let me direct an episode or two in his future productions. As you said, because acting can depend on a look so much, I’ve found that there is no point worrying about it. I have been fortunate enough to have been solidly working for almost 12 years, I’m not going to start asking questions. Talk to me when I’m unemployed and you may get a different response but at the moment, I’m sitting easy.
Savant:In your work on Thunderstone, you and the cast have the opportunity to work with many varieties of animals. In the first series you did one sequence with a Bengal tiger, and other sequences include the cast with Rhinos, Giraffes, Eland and many other animals. Was Thunderstone your first experience working with exotic animals on the set? Also, what kind of demands does working with animals put on those involved?
Jeffrey:The only bad thing to come out of working with all the animals listed above is that I became a little blase about your domesticated dog and cat. My kitty just didn’t stand up against a tiger or lion. I love the exotic animals and I love the excitement of filming with them – they could do anything (and often do). I hadn’t really worked with animals like I did on Thunderstone which made it an exciting and cool element.
Savant:In looking at Thunderstone, I noticed that some of the same directors who worked on the Ocean Girl series are directing in this series. Has your familiarity helped to make your acting job any easier?
Jeffrey:I’ve spent more time with those directors than I probably have with my parents. Colin and Mark are wonderful people and very skilled at their craft. I always felt comfortable with them. I think there is a fair bit of mutual respect. I’ve done about 75 episodes of television with Mark DeFriest alone and about 30 with Colin Budds.
Savant:Having just wrapped up filming the third series of Thunderstone, do you know if they are planning for a forth?
Jeffrey:The third series was the final. This was established very early on in the piece. Jonathan has a host of new children and adult drama that he is developing.
Savant:Speaking of your past on Ocean Girl and Thunderstone, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a ‘circle’ of actors/actresses that seem to work on many of the projects in Australia. When I was looking over the cast lists for many of the cast from the Ocean Girl series, I often found they had been in other shows with one another. Some quick examples: You working with Lauren Hewett and Kerry Armstrong on Halfway Across the Galaxy (I think David Hoflin made appearances on there too if I’m not mistaken); You & Joelene Crnogorac in Round The Twist; Sudi de Winter, Nicholas Bell & Joelene Crnogorac in RAW FM. Do you find that the acting community in Australia is so close knit that you will often meet people you have worked with before? Also, although I’m sure you enjoy working with everyone, is there a person or persons that you had the most enjoyment working with?
Jeffrey:You’re very much correct. The same faces show up all the time. It actually seems to be a hard industry to break into in Australia. A lot of producers use bankable talent to ensure that there show will do well. It’s the same all over the world - producers cast with the smallest risk possible. David Hoflin was one of the more fun actors I’ve ever worked with. There’s only so often you can work with Russel Crowe and Guy Pearce in one childhood :)
Savant:In looking over awards, you have the AFI award you won in 1997 for your work in The Wayne Manifesto, Ocean Girl received a BAFTA award in 1998, and Thunderstone received a BAFTA award in 1999. Do you consider yourself fortunate to have worked in such highly regarded series?
Jeffrey:Yeah, it’s great. I’ve had a pretty good run of shows. I would have to say, I probably get more recognised overseas than what I do in Australia. I went to the U.K. last year on holiday for the first time in 8 years, and found that Round the Twist and The Wayne Manifesto had been quite big over there and lots of kids approached me, in numbers far greater than here in Australia. I like all the shows I’ve worked on without exception, but I am very close to them by the time we finish up. It’s hard to hear someone criticise them.
Savant:As a popular actor, I’m sure you’ve received many fan letters and questions over the years. Is there any one particular question (or questions) that you find people ask you the most? If so, what is the answer you give them?
Jeffrey:The most common question I get asked from kids is, “How do I become an actor?” My response is the same each time. If you really do enjoy it, and you have a passion for it, then go for it! Don’t do it in half measures, join a theatre group, take it up in school, make a video with your mates, get an agent (they will be more than happy to have you on their books) and go get ’em. Cliched I know, but 100% true!
Savant:Well that wraps it up for me. Again I’d like to thank you Jeffrey for taking to time to chat. I’m sure I speak for many when I say we wish you well in your career, and look forward to your future endeavours.
Jeffrey:Thank you.