My latest interview with Jason was an opportunity to discuss his career, past and present, and some of the darker moments in his life.
When I last met Jason Donovan I admitted there had been a week in August 1988 when he caused me daily problems…
During a family holiday in Norwich, my daughter, Caroline – like millions of others – was a Neighbours fanatic and we had to get back to the hotel by 5.35 every evening, just so she could catch up on Scott and Charlene. There we were – stuck in rush-hour traffic – and all I could hear from the back seat was, ‘Jason’s on in five minutes’. I did quietly curse him. He loved my story and Caroline, who is now in the theatre business, eventually got to meet him for herself.
In 1980, at the age of 11, when you appeared in the Australian TV series Skyways was that a hint of your intended future direction?
I was an only child and both of my parents worked hard and were in the entertainment business, so it was never foreign to me. From an early age, I wanted to become an actor. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by a lot of actors in my life who were rather negative about the profession, so I was always prepared for unemployment before employment. I was lucky to get that break in Skyways and then, a few years later, get an audition for Neighbours.
Was Scott Robinson the perfect role for you?
I went in there with a fresh approach and tried to be myself, which is why I think the character worked so well. It was an extension of Jason Donovan really – just a teenage boy growing up in Melbourne. It was an amazing experience and I don’t think anyone could have envisaged the success Neighbours achieved. I’m still reminded of it to this day and it’s something I’m really proud of. I was just out of school and it was such a great opportunity. It was a place where all my friends wanted to be. I was just living the dream and doing what I wanted, which was acting. It wasn’t like going to work.
Did the show’s sudden success in Britain surprise you? Suddenly the roles of Scott and Charlene became nationwide talking points.
We took advantage of that huge success and why wouldn’t you? With around 25 million watching the show it meant one in three people were seeing us. For me, it led to other opportunities and that’s how the music came along. I was just lucky to be a part of Australian and television history.
Did you expect to become a pop star with four number one hits and, at one time, both the number one single and album? Was it always a special dream?
I’d always loved pop music and once Kylie had had some spin-off success it certainly spurred me on. I wasn’t a strong singer like she was but I was certainly seduced by the independence you can have as a pop singer. I liked the idea of travelling and could see it happening for her. Actors in television tend to be a part of a team. As a musician, you create your own story and character. The opportunity was there and I had the luck to meet Stock, Aitken and Waterman, who were the most successful pop producers of the time. I can still travel with those songs and make a living out of it. They’ve helped to pay my children’s school fees.
Then came the chance to play Joseph, wear a loin cloth and enter the world of musical theatre. It surprised some. Were you ready for it?
Yes and no. A lot of pop singers, with due respect, are not always well disciplined. I had come from the world of television and was used to doing 12-hour days with lots of responsibility. I was acting and singing successfully at that time, so it seemed logical. My manager looked on this as a great opportunity and Andrew Lloyd Webber was keen.
I – and many others – admire how you have overcome some darker moments in your life. Was it tough? Now that I’ve emerged from that darker side of my life, I’m now a much more mature person and happier than I’ve ever been. I enjoy my family life so much. You learn from your mistakes. I needed to create a new image and a new picture. Shows like I’m A Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing also helped me to do this.
What does the future hold for your career?
I would like to do more straight drama. I have enjoyed playing parts in The King’s Speech and Million Dollar Quartet. I am always working towards this.