On a recent trip to Ireland, Australian actor Dan Ewing takes some time out to ring in the New Year and chat with Motley’s Current Affairs and Sport Editor Dylan White.
A nightclub packed full of adoring females and some very envious boyfriends wondering what all the fuss is about. Home and Away bad boy, heartthrob, model, husband, soon-to-be father and maybe one day Irish resident (you can at least dream ladies), Dan Ewing, better known as Heath Braxton, was in town. A Heath wave had clearly taken over the country in the middle of winter.
Having managed to drag him out of a VIP area that included his wife Marni, and fellow cast members Nic Westaway (on-screen brother Kyle Braxton) and the stunning Rhiannon Fish (Home and Away’s April Scott), I managed to get a few minutes to chat with Dan on an emergency exit staircase. And then I was given the green eyed monster treatment by his Irish fans for taking the main attraction off set, for want of a better word.
Black jeans, skin tight shirt, and a whiskey and coke in hand; Dan’s ready, so let the recorder roll and the interview begin. So why did Dan decide to get involved in acting? “The reason why I got into acting was because my cousin did a TV commercial. I always did it in High School but I never thought of it as a career. He suggested I give it a go and I really enjoyed it”. Dan says it was a natural progress for there on in: “I managed to land a few commercials and a few speaking roles [and then I got the role] playing Heath Braxton on Home and Away”.
But this wasn’t Dan’s first time appearing in the hit soap opera. He initially starred in the series as Reuben Humphries during 2007, before returning in 2011 as part of a trio nicknamed the River Boys, a surfing group with dodgy reputations from the fictional coastal town Mangrove River. “I came back a second time because I guess there are only so many actors in Sydney. I’d been off it for a couple of years. When I played Reuben I hadn’t done any sort of formal training, drama school or anything like that. I went back to basics, got some training under my belt and its paid dividends so far”.
Many have suggested that the River Boys were inspired by the real life Bra Boys group, an Australian gang founded and based in Maroubra, an eastern suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, which gained notoriety through violent clashes with members of the public and police dating back to the 1990s. “Alot of people make that connection, but there are a number of surf brotherhoods up and down the Australian coast. People connected the Bra Boys and the River Boys because the Bra Boys are quite well known”. Dan says the Bra Boys are “really good fellas” and have been “really accommodating” with the River Boys coming on the show.
The Home and Away favourite also notes that he had to do some research in order to prepare for the role as Heath Braxton, a character famed for his short fuse, hot temper and ‘bad-ass’ tattoos. “My voice is a bit different to Heath Braxton. As Australians say, he’s a little bit bogan. So I visited a couple of local towns where Heath would be from and represent as a character. I researched the guys down there and it’s been great fun [playing Heath],” Dan tells Motley, in his more refined Aussie accent.
One storyline that certainly gripped viewers was the death of on-screen couple Heath and Bianca’s baby, Rocco, from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Dan says it was “really tough” playing that role and was intent on showing it respect and doing it justice. SIDS tears apart more than 3,000 Australian families every year. “When you’re playing someone who is sick or if you’re playing a character that has lost a child, that’s something you can’t mess with. Lisa [Gormley, who plays Bianca Scott] and I done a lot of research and spoke with parents to make sure we did a good job. All the feedback has been amazing and we’re very touched by the families who are writing in and making sure to let us know how much respect we did with the role. We really appreciate that”.
On the back of that tragic storyline, Dan became an ambassador for SIDS and Kids, a charity dedicated to saving the lives of babies and children during pregnancy, birth, infancy and childhood and supporting bereaved families. In addition, the 20 To Go initiative is an appeal that is in great support of the SIDS and Kids foundation, and is the brainchild of his wife Marni. “Marni has a great public relations mind and events mind. She thought there was something more that we could do, so she instigated the 20 To Go campaign and helping out with the kids”.
With such a large cast and a variety of storylines each and every week, the Summer Bay hit show has something for everyone. Dan says that there is always a good atmosphere on set and that everyone gets on “really good”. He added: “The only one regret we all have is that we can’t hang out more often. In a show where there is so many casts, you never get to work with everyone in the storylines. Therefore, it’s really good to get to work with new characters and just hanging out at Christmas parties and birthdays when we all get to catch up”.
Home and Away is viewed worldwide, but how is it perceived Down Under? Dan notes: “Home and Away is a massive show and one of the longest running shows in Australia. In Ireland it’s slightly bigger. You guys are mad for it and we love you guys for it”.
Dan says he really enjoys visiting Ireland, and credits Red Carpet Agency for giving him the opportunity to come and meet the huge Home and Away’s fan base over here. “They [Red Carpet Agency] contacted my manager. I don’t know how they do that; message a pigeon, twitter, Facebook, email or whatever happens these days”. However, Dan acknowledges that these sorts of appearances are not for everyone and says Steve Peacock (who plays on screen brother Darryl “Brax” Braxton) isn’t really into the nightclub scene. “Alot of actors are quiet people and it can be a bit full on but it’s great for me”.
But how does Marni deal with fans throwing themselves at her husband? The Home and Away star explains: “Marni is so great and has such a mind for this sort of thing. The fans are fantastic. Marni has a huge following on Instagram and twitter, and she does a lot of work with young women and helps them out with depression and things like that. She’s very receptive and if you like the way she is you won’t get any sort of fan backlash. She’s so lovely to them so there’s no reason to give her any slack”.
While on promotional tour in Ireland, Dan and Marni found out they are expecting their first child, months after the couple were left heartbroken when Marni suffered from a miscarriage. The basketball and fitness fanatics have recently made the move Stateside, after Dan announced that he was leaving Summer Bay when his contract expired in March 2014. Dan has signed to talent management company, Silver Lining Entertainment, but says he “cannot confirm or deny any exact dates” with regards future projects. “I’m a very ambitious person and I really want to do American film and television. Home and Away has been a really great experience and we really appreciate all the Irish fans”.
Irish fans can expect to see Dan play out his final scenes as Heath Braxton in the coming months. Dan is said to love his new home in L.A. and even had a basketball hoop set up in his backyard. It’s only a matter of time before we see him slam dunking some leading roles on the big screen.