Interview: Gus Worland of ABC’s Man Up talks about what it should mean to be a real man & best mate Hugh Jackman

Australian television and radio personality Gus Worland is perhaps best known for his series of reality television programs for Foxtel (An Aussie Goes Barmy, An Aussie Goes Bolly and An Aussie Goes Calypso). In 2009, he took up the role of co-host of Triple M’s breakfast show in Sydney.

Within two years, The Grill Team doubled their ratings for this time slot and Gus was awarded Best On-Air Newcomer at the 2010 Australian Commercial Radio Awards. Gus is a 46-year-old sporting tragic. He has been married for 14 years to Vicki and has three kids. Women want him to meet their mothers and blokes want to be him… Gus, however, just wants to give them all a hug.

On the back of his new ABC series Man Up, we discuss everything from the perceptions of society and on what it means to be a man and how it really should be. How we need to change our schooling system to incorporate the subject matter of male suicide. We also have a good yarn about one of his best mates Hugh Jackman. Read on”

Thank you so much for your time today Gus.

Thank you for your support David. To have as many people as we can have a discussion about the subject matter and the show is great. Getting the conversation started is really the key.

Not a problem at all. It really is an honour to speak with someone that is so passionate about the prevention of male suicide. Just as a bit of an introduction to yourself Gus, you are the host of Triple M’s The Grill Team radio show which airs 6am-9am Monday to Friday. You have been on that show now for almost seven  years? That’s seven years of extremely early starts!

Yes! Seven years on June 17th! Yep, I walk around like I am jetlagged pretty much all the time now.

An Aussie Goes Barmy, An Aussie Goes Bolly and An Aussie Goes Calypso and even Marathon Man were all of your previous documentaries, which one sticks out the most and what was the hardest for you?

I think there is no doubt in the world that An Aussie Goes Bolly was the most challenging. Working in a country like India is absolutely beautiful and extraordinary but also extremely taxing on a crew and for a host like me who is very sort of flamboyant and wants to just get out into it all. How the people of India and the culture is such a massive change from people with money to people without money. Seeing a lot of unfortunate people is really hard on the crew and we all got ground down a bit by it all.

It brought out the best in all of us and the crew believed it was one of the best shoots they had ever done. The executive producer had to continually think outside the box because of things like permits and minor details we had set up just didn’t work over there and we had to pay cash bribes to make a lot of things happen. All your senses are working at absolute maximum level. But you saw the show come out and it won awards and it was sold overseas. We won best sports program for satellite TV. It was only two years into my change of career and it was a huge highlight, so that show stood out the most.

I heard you have a lifelong friend in Hugh Jackman?

Gus Worland (front row,last on right) and Hugh Jackman (Front row, second from left) playing together in the Bannockburn Rovers Under 7's
Gus Worland (front row,last on right) and Hugh Jackman (Front row, second from left) playing together in the Bannockburn Rovers Under 7’s

Yeah Jacko and I went to Pymble Primary School together, kindergarten all the way through school and I was with him last week in New York. It was his birthday yesterday and we were chatting yesterday about the week we had. I am very lucky he is just a terrific bloke and he hasn’t changed a bit in all his success.

He is one of my all-time idols and I even named my 9-year-old son Logan after his character from the X-Men. The word envy doesn’t come up much for me, but it will here.

That must mean you like the new Wolverine movie that has been named simply ‘Logan’? Do you know why it has been named just Logan and not Wolverine which would bring in the big dollars? Have you seen the poster? Whose hand do you think he is holding?

I have no idea but your making me excited and you’re going to tell me? Come on?

Nah, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Best not to give too much away. They fought very hard for the name of the movie so it’s good.

He seems like such an amazing human being and probably an amazing friend. He is the very stereotype of a new age man we all need to take something from. Being a blokey bloke and being able to still show so many emotions and not worry about what others think. The perfect candidate for this subject matter on Man Up.

Gus Worland and Hugh Jackman
Gus Worland and Hugh Jackman

It is a very, very good comment I agree with you. Hugh hasn’t always been that and he has made the most of absolutely everything and he has had some luck along the way. He has worked bloody hard to get where he is, but yes he is very open to showing emotion and being a gentleman and showing chivalry and all that stuff which is what a gentleman and a man does and should do. He is still very much in love with the woman he fell in love with after all these years and he is a great family man. He ticks lots of boxes and having someone like him support the show and to think the show was worthwhile.

He watched the show in one sitting when I gave it to him to view months ago. Said it was the most important thing I had done and that it was going to change lives. It was huge for me. We have both decided early on that we are not going to sugar coat each-others careers. If it was one person that was going to tell me the truth it was going to be him. I tell him the truth when other people on some shows are blowing smoke up his you know what, I am the one that can tell him at least how I feel about it. Tell him how it really is.

Like telling him how Swordfish was shit? That kind of thing?

HA! Yeah, I went on the set for Swordfish. It was the year 2000 in New York and I was around when they were wrapping the film up and got to meet John Travolta and the crew. It was really cool.

Just to make things clear, I really loved Swordfish. Moving onto the series Man Up, in the first episode you go and talk to mates in construction member and former labourer John Brady. He tells you that they lost 30 members to work site accidents last year, but an astounding 190 members to suicide. That’s just in that company alone? Or the construction industry?

mates-in-constuction

I believe that was in the construction industry, but that figure by itself is just way too many. In overall Australia we add it up to around 2100 people. It is a national disgrace. Imagine if it was 8 people dying on the roads every single day, which is what happens with suicide, can you imagine the money the government would throw into that, into fixing those numbers and fatalities?

That’s my passion now, to go to Canberra and make them watch the show and ask them to put something in place. You will notice in episode two of Man Up we meet Tom Harkin, who is absolute legend. Tom Harkin needs to be given funds to run his company and to train lots of people up to help do what he does.

I absolutely loved Tom Harkin and the way he educates these issues about what people perceive a man to be. I would love to find out how this kind of material can be distributed through our high schools as well the same way in which the 2011 documentary Bully was. To have this shown to everyone in a way that educated our young adults before they step out into the real world would make a huge difference in my opinion.

Tom Harkin - We need more of him.
Tom Harkin – We need more of him.

Exactly! Why the hell do we need to learn so much about algebra and not how it is to be a healthy man, it’s just ridiculous. There is so much stuff that is in the curriculum, but the stuff that we need to talk about, the thing that’s killing us the most isn’t really discussed. It’s just lunacy. I am hoping that Man Up becomes a part of the system as well.

We also have a lot of Tom Harkins out there doing what he does. There are already plenty that are visiting schools and talking about the issues. Visiting five schools a week, every week of the school year. They are talking to Year 8, 9 and 10 students and teaching that it’s OK to be vulnerable and that is very brave to speak up and talk to others about their problems and issues and not what is perceived to be a man at the moment, such as being soft and a sissy or some other horrible names.

You travelled to Coalface, one of 41 Lifeline centres in the country and we saw that around 2000 calls a day to lifeline was a very confronting thing to see on screen. It really changed my already bleak outlook on the whole situation. This Lifeline thing is run by volunteers? There is no paid government job or service for this kind of helpline, which kind of infuriates me. It is a non-profit organisation. I guess if it’s not making any money, the government want nothing to do with it?

Absolutely, I just started my course for it at the moment and it is actually $650 that you, yourself have to pay to do the course and to help others. To me, that’s no problem at all, but how many people out there that are willing and capable to help, how many really awesome people are Lifeline missing out on but they just cannot afford the $650 to complete the course. They just can’t afford to give out that kind of money if they can’t get it back and they want to help.

So we need to have a pot of money there that Lifeline can say, we can have this many people trained up for no charge and let’s get some really good calibre people in here. I want to be at Coalface if I can, I have to learn those skills but a lot of people just can’t and it’s a terrible set up.

You visited Carlton Hill cattle station. That is one hard working looking bunch of people. Even the women there seem to have the same male orientated outlook of being “tough sons of bitches”… hardening up as they say? It really did get under my skin after seeing a few episodes of Man Up and it came across to me as ignorance. Is that a fair statement? Being ignorant to people needing help or that look down and calling them whingers?

Over the course of filming Man Up, which has been just over a year I have learned to soften my stance on anyone’s opinion. I don’t get too riled up because everyone has to fit into the situation they find themselves. When I think something sounds ignorant or it sounds completely wrong, I still respect the fact they are coming from a different place from where I am coming from. I am more educated now than I was a year ago.

I didn’t feel the same and I saw them outside of the cameras rolling and just seeing how they’ve had to adapt to the lifestyle they chose to be in. So that is definitely not how I saw it. If you came out to the cattle station for the three days I had to be there, you would see the type of world it is and the situation in which these women have to live around these pretty stoic blokes makes you understand it a whole lot more. I wouldn’t do what they are doing for a living and I was very happy to fly back home afterwards but I am so happy with what I had learned from them no doubt.

Just like you’re probably not going to be visiting naked male yoga again anytime soon?

You can absolutely 100% guarantee that, that is the case.

When all is calm and you can just go home and sink into your couch and relax with the family what do you love to watch? Favourite movies and TV shows?

As a family we all love to sit and watch Modern Family that show is awesome. But I love Ray Donovan, House of Cards and any sort of CSI type of stuff. Anything that takes me away from the real life for a few hours is fine by me.

I am also a massive movie buff. I go to the movies by myself sometimes and watch a film because I finish at 9 in the morning I can jump across the road from Triple M and go to the local Hoyts. I meet up with my wife at lunchtime and we go for a walk. We will take the dogs for a walk and I try to be as healthy as possible. I love just being at home as well. I am happy as a pig in shit when I’m at home kicking around and jumping on the kid’s beds and asking how their days have been. I get to bed pretty early too. I have to stick to my routine or I’m stuffed.

Man up airs Tuesday nights 8:30pm on ABC or you can catch up on ABC iView.