All Saints: articles

Dr Love's cure-all

A HIGH school drop-out who spent his teenage years surfing the east coast, Martin Lynes never seemed the man most likely to succeed.

Fast forward 20 years, and Lynes has confounded all expectations, starring in Australia's most popular medical drama, All Saints.

He has been with the show since it debuted in 1998, and despite being a graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Lynes isn't precious about his craft.

"I've been doing this show for six years now and a lot of actors have hung shit on me for doing it—they see it as being too commercial, and tell me that I've gone soft," he says.

"But I'm a working actor, and that's all I ever wanted."

To Lynes, acting is a job like any other, but he admits there are some perks to working on a top-rating TV show.

"I guess the biggest difference is that you have people fussing around you all day," Lynes says.

"If it's raining on a shoot, someone will hold an umbrella over you, if you feel like a coffee, someone will make you one.

"Everybody has a very specific job on set.

"There are three people in wardrobe whose job it is to make sure you have clean clothes, so there will be someone there picking lint off your suit.

"I used to feel really guilty about it, but these days I realise that they are being paid to do these things.

"And I love being the centre of attention, I was the class clown, I loved telling stories—it's really why I became an actor in the first place."

Before bluffing his way into a NIDA audition, Lynes was tending bar and working the stand-up comedy circuit in Perth.

"I'd been travelling around with some mates, just surfing and drinking and when I came back to Perth I saw an ad in the street press about a comedy workshop," he says.

"I remember picking up the phone and dialling the number, and that's the day it all started."

Lynes was soon picking up paid gigs, earning $15 a night.

And while the money wasn't great, he says doing a great show produced "a high like no other".

"I don't think I was ever that good—in fact I remember bombing one night, and just sitting in my car, crying for an hour," Lynes says.

"But when you have 600 people in the palm of your hand, laughing hard, you're the king of the world."

After deciding he'd rather move an audience to tears than have them rolling in the aisles, Lynes threw himself into acting and was accepted at NIDA after auditioning on the spur of the moment.

He spent the next five years in a "beautiful, idealistic, creative bubble" honing his craft, but didn't lose his sense of fun. "I still like to make people laugh; I'm the one moonwalking off set, telling a joke," he says.

"Someone once said that to act is to play the fool everyday, and that's what acting is about for me—playing.

"The flipside of that is that you put yourself up for ridicule every day; it's all about being on the edge.

"People are always watching you and making judgments: he's put on weight, he's not such a good actor, he stuffed that line."

Comments like this betray a certain insecurity, which he says comes with the territory. "As an actor, your career is totally up in the air," he says.

"There is no security—if the show doesn't rate it'll be axed and if I don't entertain, I'll be dumped.

"This industry can turn on you—'his hair's falling out, he's getting fat, he's only known as (his All Saints character) Luke Forlano'.

"But you don't start acting if you're not happy to live this kind of life."

Of course, apart from a few lean years after graduation, Lynes has been in the rare position of having ongoing full-time employment.

And after playing the same character for six years, Lynes says he still finds joy in what he does but says the pressure can be wearing with several long-time cast members leaving in recent months.

"At least two of the people who left had just had enough of doing the same show," he says.

"I guess that's one of the joys of being an actor—to inhabit other characters and be someone else, and after a couple of years playing the same person you can get a bit frustrated."

And while many struggling actors would kill for a long-running TV role, Lynes says the highlight of his career so far has been a low-budget play in a 90-seat theatre.

"The critics panned it, but every night there were people sitting there in tears, and watching people who were that moved by my performance sent chills up my spine," he says.

He admits it was a rude shock ending up on shows like Pacific Drive and Big Sky after five years of classical theatre training.

"When you're at NIDA every decision that's made is about making the best possible art," he says.

"It is a shock when you leave, and some people walk out with this idealistic vision of the future and then get broken by commercialism.

"But I was a little different.

"I'm fascinated by the machine behind TV, and I really enjoy the speed and immediacy of it.

"You find the actors who do implode or burn out are people who've stopped finding the joy in it."

For Lynes, part of the joy of doing All Saints is the chance to film on location in a hospital two days a week, although he admits that it "has its moments".

"I've just learnt to keep my head down and try not to get in anyone's way," he says.

"It can get a bit close to the line sometimes.

"The other day we were shooting in one of the operating theatres and they were operating on someone next door.

"I glanced up and I could see all of the scrubs nurses looking over, and I just thought to myself—'I wonder whose mother is on the operating table?'

"I was worried we were breaking their concentration!"

Lynes reckons All Saints is the number-one show with Australian women, something he attributes to the strong female characters, a team of women writers… and maybe even the fellas.

And to keep the female fans happy, you have to look the part—something which Lynes is quite open about.

"I'm on a diet now," he says with a laugh.

"I just watched an episode and I spotted a couple of shots of myself with a double chin, so you take a couple of skinny pills, hire a personal trainer and hit the gym.

"That's the way it is, and while I'm the first to admit that it's harder for the girls, males in this industry do feel the pressure to look good.

"Of course, you can take it too far—there are definitely male bimbos.

"We get around 20 guest stars a week and a lot of them are stupid.

"They're so obsessed with their outward beauty that they haven't thought to develop their craft."

And Lynes says he's aware he's not a typical pin-up guy.

"I think I've got an old-fashioned look—grandmas love me, but I just don't seem to do it for 16-year-old girls."

Lynes is happily married to former Brisbane TV personality Marie Patane, from Home Hill, south of Townsville. The couple recently had their first child and live a quiet life on the NSW central coast.

Lynes says it was a typically Aussie courtship, starting with the couple's first date at the local watering hole.

"We were set up by Jez (Jeremy) Cumpston who was on All Saints for a couple of years," he says.

"He met Marie on the way down to the Logies after they both missed their plane.

"They ended up swapping numbers, and after I bemoaned the lack of eligible ladies in Sydney, Jeremy offered to set me up with Marie.

"She came down the pub and the rest is history."

So what's next for Lynes?

"When I leave All Saints, people will inevitably assume that I've dropped off the face of the earth," he says.

"But my dream is to spend six months here and six months in Europe—an endless summer."

All Saints, Channel 7, Tuesday 8.30pm

By Louise Crossen
October 02, 2003
The Courier Mail