'13 Reasons Why' star Ben Lawson talks about learning patience in Hollywood and meeting his inspiration Michael J Fox
In an exclusive interview with Meaww, Ben Lawson candidly talks about adversities, his own high school experience and the lessons Hollywood taught him.
Nearly a decade ago, a young Australian actor landed in Los Angeles to become a Hollywood star. Like any other aspirant, not wanting to quit, a then 27-year-old patiently waited for role job offers. As of today, that actor, Ben Lawson, who is now 38 years old, has successfully secured ample roles in major TV shows and films including 'Designated Survivor,' 'No Strings Attached,' 'Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23,' 'Doubt' and very recently in Netflix's '13 Reasons Why.'
In an exclusive interview with Meaww, Ben candidly talks about adversities, his own high school experience and the lessons Hollywood taught him. For someone who has donned an MI6 suit in 'Designated Survivor' and also rocked a trouser as Coach Rick in '13 Reasons Why,' Ben humbly talked about his initial years when he had to wait an entire year to see the pilot of his Hollywood debut in the ABC drama 'The Deep End.'
'The Deep End', the legal drama created by David Hemingson was short-lived, airing from January 21, 2010 until February 25, 2010. However, it was Ben's first ever step into Hollywood and besides the takeaway lessons, Ben could very much relate to the character. The plot followed the story of five first-year associate attorneys from diverse backgrounds as they joined one of the most prestigious law firms in Los Angeles.
"I had just arrived in the United States when I had to play the role of a young Australian lawyer," says Ben. "It was my very first job in Los Angeles and I was the young Australian actor in the deep end of Hollywood trying to make my way. At that time, I thought the show and my role was narrating my life," he adds.
His entry was not an overnight success and Ben had to wait for 12 months for the pilot episode and it is then the very first lesson he learned in Hollywood - patience. "It was my first and most enduring lesson as an actor," he says. "The Deep End taught me that nothing comes fast and easy. To have a career in Hollywood would mean to give patience a quick smile," he adds.
And, to ask Ben about his journey so far, is to be greeted with a hearty laugh.
"We sign up for a lot in the industry in general, you know, expect the unexpected," he sighs. "There are no roadmaps, there are blueprints," he adds before stating further that his journey has been a "typical one of anyone who comes over here and just doesn’t quit and stays at it."
"I’ve been very lucky to have got some great roles and spend little time wondering when the next job is going to come," says Ben. "Endurance has been my greatest asset," he believes.
Born and raised in Brisbane, Queensland, along with two younger brothers, Ben always knew he wanted to be an actor. In 2006, Ben began a starring role in the Australian soap opera Neighbours as Frazer Yeats. His role earned him a nomination for Most Popular New Male Talent at the 2007 Logie Awards and rest has been history.
It was Michael J Fox, the Canadian-American actor, who inspired Ben to pursue acting since he was a child. "I remember watching him and wanting to be him. I referred to him as that cool guy and I wanted to be "that cool guy," Ben gleefully states. And now years later when Ben has already hung out with him on set, he adds in excitement, "I got to shake his hand!"
Ben's ideal role remains to be the "old classic Cary Grant" and swears that if he ever gets to play him, his dream as an actor would be fulfilled. However, there's one thing Ben does not promise, yet; his upcoming role in '13 Reasons Why' season 3, now that the show has been renewed.
"I wish I could say it but I cannot," he says. "But I feel very grateful to be a part of such an important show," he adds. Ben plays Coach Rick, who is on the lookout for school bullies and jocks including the rapist, Bryce Walker. In Ben's own words about Coach Rick; he says that "Coach Rick is someone who is looking after his own interest."
"I think he is less concerned about students. He only cares about the school to the extent it benefits him. Well, I would say he is a pretty unsympathetic character."
Being a part of the massively successful and controversial shows that is helping teenagers, Lawson has an important message to teens who are struggling today. He, himself wasn't so much a fan of high school either.
"I am so done with it. I wouldn't do it again for all the money in the world," he laughs. No, it was not like he was not good in school or anything, it was just that while his school focused on sports and academics excellence, he was into drama and acting, so he thought he did not quite fit in.
But, he says he is "lucky to have grown up before the internet age." "I think it's very very difficult being a teenager in this age of the internet." Aware that high school is hard, he tells the teenagers that even if it seems that high school is an entire world, it is not and there are so many other good true experiences. "If you're troubled reach out to a counselor or a parent or a friend someone you trust."
"Young people are very reluctant to ask for help but it is very important to be strong. Reaching out is critical and if you are not coping, find someone you can talk to," he states.
Ben has come a long way, making a name for himself across continents, but there's a certain art to how he is doing it so gracefully. He shares: "A trap in Los Angeles is to be completely consumed by the industry."
He knows full-well that he isn't the only actor scaling to the top. "Everyone out here is either a singer or an actor or a writer or a dancer," he says. "But the reminder is, that is just your job. Oftentimes it feels like it’s your life, but it is not. You should have a life outside of that. I try my best that my life is rounded beyond just being an actor," he concludes.