Actor happy to join uplifting drama
THEY may be separated by more than two decades but Rupert Reid sees plenty of similarities between Heartbreak High, his breakthrough TV role, and his latest series The Heights.
The ABC's hit serial drama is back for a second season, continuing to follow the relationships, work lives and everyday challenges faced by families living in the Arcadia social housing tower and the gentrifying inner-city district that surrounds it.
Reid was a fan and loyal viewer of the Perth-filmed series long before he found himself walking the halls of Arcadia Heights.
"From the very first moments of watching it - before I even contemplated the possibility of being on it - the show just grabbed me," he says. "I felt I was in very good hands as an audience member. It was really uplifting to watch a show tell stories and reflect the community in the way it does. The last time I was on a show like that was Heartbreak High, which was definitely ahead of its time.
"The difference with T he Heights is it tells stories within the urban environment and explores mixed family dynamics."
The slice-of-life drama features one of the most diverse casts and crews in Australian television, boasting gender parity as well as being a training ground for many first-time actors, writers and directors.
"To be standing on a set and be in a scene with three fantastic actors and to be the only middle-aged white guy in that scene surrounded by a set of equal diversity and breadth of experience shouldn't be a rarity in Australia but it is unfortunately," Reid says.
"What if felt like on set was everybody was excited to be there and everyone felt like they were involved in a unique thing.
"The Heights just proves there's no impediment to who does that. It's about the quality of the work. They didn't let any traditional barriers stop anyone from being involved."
Reid joins the cast in season two as Pav, taking over from Marcus Graham who was forced to step down from the role because of a scheduling conflict.
"Taking over a role from another actor is probably harder for the audience than the actor," he says. "It demonstrates the love of the show that people are passionately reacting to the change.
"For me it was very easy. Like any role, you're always stepping into somebody else's idea of a show.
"I've known Marcus for many years and he was incredibly supportive. My aim was to tell the story as best I could, and thankfully the writing and team were so good that it made my job easy."
The new season picks up after the season one finale bombshell that Pav is the father of Shannon's baby Patch. Overhearing their conversation, his stepson Mich (Calen Tassone) reacts angrily to the news.
"The great thing is we haven't delved too much into what's gone on before. It's about what Pav chooses to do now as a result of this becoming public knowledge, and him having to grapple with the reality is a great dilemma," Reid says. "Pav was in a good space in season one, apart from his work slowing down. At the beginning of season two he's confronted with where he's really at and what he needs to do to regain the trust of his family and his community.
"Mich is pav's adopted son and this moment of seeing that Patch may have been intentionally abandoned by Pav brings up a huge amount of pain for Mich and The Heights explores that in a really delicate and sophisticated way."
And what does Pav's increasingly messy family life mean for his new love interest, nurse Claudia (Roz Hammond)?
"The thing about Pav and Claudia is they had such a great chemistry with each other and kept getting these roadblocks to them being together," he says. "Now we get to see them trying to move on from each other, trying to ignore and resist each other, but maybe they can figure it out."
Season two of The Heights premieres tonight at 8 on ABC-TV.