You may recognise Ben Nicholas from his days playing Scott “Stingray” Timmins in Neighbours 10-odd years ago. Ben just recently finished the mock-reality web-series Footballer Wants A Wife. I spoke to Ben about this exciting new project, reality television and the death of Stingray.
You’re currently working on Footballer Wants A Wife. Where did the idea come from?
Well, after a really bad trip to LA in search of work, I decided to take matters into my own hands and write my own show. Naturally, I wrote myself as the lead [laughs].
What can we expect from the series?
You can expect a show that packs a punch – imagine a reality show on steroids! Reality shows go pretty far in pushing the envelope these days, so there isn’t any point in making a tame “spoof reality show” – so ours takes some risks and tells some fairly outrageous yet relatable stories of love. I was watching the edits just yesterday, and there are even some heart-strings pulled by the final episode.
How did this little story go from in your mind to a full blown production? What was the process like and how did you get it off the ground?
After a good friend (who actually appears in the show) told me, ‘It’s easier to show someone something than it is to tell them”, I decided to adapt my pilot episode into a short teaser trailer in which I sourced some small funding for and produced. This allowed me to hone the concept further and produce a little teaser of the concept to take to producers and networks. After months of cold calling and following leads I managed to get in touch with an old Neighbours alumni in Jonathan Dutton and teamed up with his production company. I worked with his team at Crankyfish and continued to develop the show and we were successful in applying for the Screen Australia Multi-Platform Funding. There were lots of hurdles – but that’s the nuts and bolts.
How does making a web series compare to making a regular television program or movie, if at all?
This was my first foray in to the world of creating my own content and if there is anything I have learnt from this one – don’t try and do everything yourself! Delegate.
What was the reasons for making it a web-series?
We felt its best home was online – a place that it could find a passionate and active audience. The team was quite young and for some of us it was the first time doing anything quite like this, so we didn’t want to put too many unnecessary pressures on the production. In the end the show blew up though and we may as well have been making Hollywood blockbuster for the kind of things we managed to achieve.
As well as writing the show, you play Steven Papakonstantinou. How would you describe your character?
Steven is a loveable idiot. He says outrageous things at inappropriate times. For some reason all the characters I write for myself are cocky idiots that make you cringe. Which is weird because the “real me” is just a regular guy with a thick head of hair, an above average IQ and I have never let the fact that I was once nominated for a Logie against Chris Hemsworth stop me from keeping my two feet firmly planted on the ground. You see what I did there?
Steven also has a very unique hair style. What was the idea behind his do?
Basically, I just wanted Steven to be a really unique character and I got inspired by some of the more individual footballers in the public eye. So basically I helped my characters individuality by copying the things other people were already doing. But seriously the young woman who did my hair for the show is a wiz. Her name is Bec and you can find her on 215 Commercial Rd, South Yarra VIC 3141.
The show also stars a bevy of beautiful and talented Australian actresses. Has this just been a dream role for you?
Well the one thing which was amazing was that I got to write a show that had so many incredible female characters in it, so I was then able to employ so many incredible Australian actresses. Many of the girls that were in the show were friends of mine as well, so it was awesome to be able to have them along for the journey.
I must ask, would you ever go on a reality dating show yourself?
My girlfriend might have a thing to say about that!
Are you a fan of reality television or is it all about taking the piss?
I have to admit, I get sucked into things like House Rules and My Kitchen Rules. Me and my girl will sit at home and get inspired by these ones. But in general, anything that is taking away from networks making drama and comedies can’t be a good thing for Australian actors. Which is why you see so any of us over in LA.
I saw a promo shot of you, alongside Warwick Capper, wearing what looked like a nappy/diaper. What’s that all about?
Warwick was in the show and he was a hoot. If this show was being made for real, Warwick would have been someone the producers approached to be a part of it, so it felt natural for us to do the same. His episode is a blast!
The web-series is set to premiere in September this year. Where will viewers be able to watch it?
It’s been over a decade since you first appeared on Neighbours. What’s been happening between then and now, for those who aren’t aware?
Well I grew up singing, dancing and acting so I spent my childhood doing musical theatre. I was lucky enough to work on the West End in London in High School Musical and when I returned to Australia a few years back, I did the Aussie tour of Mamma Mia. Since then I have been busy dedicating myself to unemployment so that I could eventually get pushed in to writing my own show.
Stingray’s death on Neighbours, to this day, continues to be one of the most hated story-lines in the show’s 30-year history. Do you like the way your character left the show?
The other day I was told that Stingrays death was the voted least memorable of all deaths in Neighbours history. My question is – who voted then?
How would you have liked Stingray to leave the show if you were to rewrite it?
In a blaze of glory. I don’t know? I always said maybe he took part in a giant game of hide and seek and found himself stuck in a giant freezer and is frozen into a popsicle. Then in 25 years time when the power goes out and the fridge melts, my actual real life son could come back and play Stingray again as if no time had passed.
Thanks Ben for chatting. Best of luck with everything. Where can people go to find out more about you and the series?
Follow us and share us on social media. The show was an incredible cast and is going to be an incredible series but we need the support of guys like you reading this so that we can share it and reach the masses, so if you find yourself watching the show and having a chuckle, make sure to show your friends.
Here’s a sneak peek: