Interview: John Wood: How I Clawed My Way to the Middle • Glam Adelaide

Interview: John Wood: How I Clawed My Way to the Middle

We chat with one of Australia’s best-loved actors and icon of the Australian entertainment industry, John Wood, about his new memoir.


Iconic Australian actor John Wood caught up with Glam Adelaide about the upcoming release of his autobiography, How I Clawed My Way to the Middle.

John Wood has been part of the Australia theatre and television landscape for over 50 years. He has chronicled his life’s journey in his new memoir, so we were curious about his motivation for writing the book now, and how long it took. John was very forthcoming:

“It was actually my agent who put the idea of me writing my memoir and approached Penguin about publishing it. They were keen on the idea, they paid me an advance and so I was committed to doing it,” Wood said. “I was actually not sure why anyone would want to read about my life, it’s really no different to anyone else’s my age – we’d all lived through the same sorts of experiences. I had the usual upbringing and my career path has never lead to me to fame or riches.

“It took me a year to write it – I didn’t spend the whole year working on it though. I did go away and do other things and come back to it. It’s not even a particularly lengthy book – and I can only hope people enjoy what they read.”

Whilst John’s statement, about riches and fame, might be true, he is an icon of the Australian entertainment landscape which begs a question about the title:

“I stole it from [Australian actor] Ron Challinor – and he still hasn’t written his autobiography, yet. I wonder if he will.” If he does, one has to wonder if it will be called, John Wood Stole My Title!

We then delved into the core element of the title – which obviously harks back to John’s previous statement – and asked him what ‘the middle’ meant to him.

“I see myself as having been lucky to have had the life I’ve lived,” he explains. “I didn’t ever see myself going overseas and doing the Hollywood circuit. Even though I looked up to actors like Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracey, I couldn’t see myself living the lifestyle that comes with Hollywood.”

He also talked about the nature of the business and the Hollywood dream, as it is today:

“You know, I hear about all these Australian actors who go over to America for the pilot season – and audition for everything, in the hope of someone picking them for a part. Acting is a fickle, soul destroying business, when it comes to auditions and rejections. I cannot imagine going to hundreds of auditions and receiving hundreds of rejections and still carrying on.”

I follow this statement with a question about John’s two most well-known television roles – playing Rafferty in Rafferty’s Rules and for 12 years, Tom Croydon in Blue Heelers.

“Well, to tell you truth, to this day, I still don’t know what made them choose me for the part of Rafferty. It was a role that every male Australian actor, my age, would have killed for, and they chose me. I had a wonderful time on that show – the writing was exceptional and it was a great show to be a part of.

“Blue Heelers was another opportunity that came along and it was like a family unit. I really did enjoy my time as Tom. They are probably the two roles I am most remembered for.

“The saddest part of my career for me, is that my parents never got to see it. I still miss them, every day.”

Since Blue Heelers ended John has spent a lot of time back in the theatre, from his touring production of A Stretch of the Imagination, which was performed at the Holden Street Theatres, as part of the Adelaide Fringe; to a Regional tour of a two-hander titled Carpe Diem – dealing with male mental health and suicide.

I asked John about Carpe Diem, as it had toured to Port Pirie, recently:

“I’ve stopped doing it as I found it to be incredibly draining. It was taking a huge toll on me. I remember the Port Pirie performance, though, and the gentleman who opened up after the show. That sort of moment is very powerful. Now, of course, with COVID, the arts are in lockdown but I should be back in Adelaide, next year, in Senior Moments.”

So, in the meantime, what is he doing with himself now?

“I am happy to say I have been thrice-blessed with three grandchildren and, at the moment, I am spending my time reading to them. I have the joy and pleasure of introducing them to Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Which is just wonderful.”

Interviewed by Glen Christie

How I Clawed My Way to the Middle by John Wood, published 4 August 2020 by Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. RRP: $34.99 (trade paperback) $32.99 (audiobook read by the author), and $15.99 eBook.

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