Samuel Johnson (actor)

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This article is about Samuel Johnson (actor). For Samuel Johnson the Victorian actor, see Samuel Johnson (comedian).
Samuel Johnson
Born Samuel Johnson
Australian actor

Daylesford, Victoria, Australia
Years active 1995 – 2016

Samuel Joseph Johnson OAM (born 1978) is a retired Australian actor, radio presenter, voiceover artist and philanthropist. He is best known for his roles as Evan Wylde in the television series The Secret Life of Us for which he won the AFI award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Telefeature in 2001, Leon Broznic in Rush, Toby Kirby in After the Deluge and as Molly Meldrum in the miniseries Molly for which he won the AACTA Award for Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama.

He has also received considerable media coverage for his attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the most distance travelled on a unicycle which he achieved and broke the world record for the longest unicycle journey, which he undertook to raise funds for breast cancer research and raise breast cancer awareness following his sister's diagnosis with the disease.

Starting out[edit]

Samuel Johnson and his sister Connie visiting the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in December 2013 as part of his unicycle world record attempt

Johnson was born in Daylesford, Victoria and educated at Wesley College, Melbourne. At the age of 14, he performed in his first school play, cast in a role as the mad scientist in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. On opening night he was spotted by Rhonda Schepisi, former wife of director Fred Schepisi. Taking the reins, she helped Johnson acquire an Equity Card and find auditions.

"So I figuratively got a phone call on the first night I'd ever been in a play. She marched me to the union and demanded that they give me a card, then she drove me to an agent and demanded they take me on. It was somewhat fortuitous and I happened to get the first 20 or so jobs I went for. This career was certainly not designed by me."[1]


Johnson's first foray into television started with small roles in various shows including the role of Prince Jobah in the The New Adventures of Ocean Girl; as Sally Fletcher's first boyfriend, Gus Bishop, in Home and Away; and in other bit parts including Blue Heelers, Halifax f.p., Stingers and Something in the Air.

His break, however, came in 2001 when he was chosen for the role of the scruffy, womanising writer Evan Wylde in Channel 10's drama series The Secret Life of Us. Evan was a main character, also narrating the majority of the show (apart from instances narrated by Deborah Mailman's character Kelly Lewis). This made Johnson a household name and earned him an AFI Award in 2001 for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Television Drama Series.

The Secret Life of Us enjoyed consistent success up until the third series, when many major characters left, resulting in a drop in ratings. Johnson's character Evan (one of the last three original major characters alongside Kelly Lewis and Simon Trader) left early in the fourth series in 2004 and the show was axed soon afterwards.

In 2003, during the height of Johnson's Secret Life career, he received rave reviews for his performance in the mini-series After the Deluge. It follows the story of the Kirby family; their father Cliff is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease, and relives his disturbing memories of the war and his first love, as a part of his experiences of the present. His three estranged sons Alex (David Wenham), Marty (Hugo Weaving) and Toby (Johnson) are thrown together to care for their father whilst struggling with their own lives and relationships and attempting to come to terms with their fathers mental state.

Apart from Johnson's appearances on many Australian shows to promote his work, he has also featured on Thank God You're Here and The Panel as well as the ABC documentary The Sum of Sam; documenting his personal struggles and work with Open Family Australia, a youth outreach program co-founded by South Melbourne parish priest Fr Bob Maguire.

Johnson appeared in the police drama Rush in Melbourne, a drama revolving around Melbourne's Tactical Response team (based on Critical Incident Response-style teams). He played the role of communications specialist Leon Broznic; alongside Callan Mulvey and Catherine McClements who played Evan's girlfriend Carmen in The Secret Life of Us.[2]

In 2010 he made a cameo appearance as an old friend of Sarah's in the final episode of Wilfred. In 2016, Johnson starred as Molly Meldrum in the miniseries Molly.


Johnson's first film role was in the 1995 film Angel Baby where he played Check-Out Cashier. Angel Baby was the tale of two people suffering from schizophrenia who meet at therapy and fall in love. The film was a huge success, sweeping the board at the 1995 AFI Awards.

Johnson is also well known for his role in the 2002 Mick Molloy film Crackerjack. Playing Molloy's slacker pothead flatmate Dave Jackson, the film enjoyed relative success winning a host of awards including Outstanding Comic Screenplay and Outstanding Film Comedy at the Australian Comedy Awards in 2003.

After leaving The Secret Life of Us in 2004, Johnson went on to star in the dark, black comedy The Illustrated Family Doctor as Gary Kelp, a man condensing The Illustrated Family Doctor medical guide. Unfulfilled in every way, Gary starts to develop the physical symptoms of the ills he is transcribing and his life begins to really fall apart. The film divided viewers and critics, with the film resulting in a love-it-or-hate-it divide and was nominated for a handful of awards including Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2005 AFI Awards.

Voiceovers and commercials[edit]

Johnson is also well known for his many commercial appearances and voiceovers.

He featured in ads for Pedders, and most famously, lingerie brand Lovable in 2002/2003 where he played the hapless male (with Australian model Lisa Cazzulino) spouting lines such as "it's just wrapping paper" and "I don't understand bras... but I like looking at them".

One of the ads featured the girlfriend (Cazzulino) walking into the kitchen in her bra and knickers where Johnson was drinking milk from the carton. Looking down at her herself admiringly, she said "Nice bra". The scene then cut to Johnson and his thought-bubble voiceover of "Great tits". The ad was controversial due to the un-PC language and was criticized by some viewers, resulting in the ad moved to only being aired post-watershed.

He was also featured prominently on billboards and in window displays for the department stores around Australia such as Myer and David Jones.

He has done voice over work for TAFE NSW, Southern Cross Austereo, Listerine, Hungry Jack's and advertising of many Channel 10 programmes, although deliberately stopped recording them due to the over-exposure he felt was negative on his career and life.

He currently does a voiceover for Vodafone, also appearing in their advertisements.

"Everyone got sick of me and weren't shy of telling me. Including friends and family. So I thought, well, I'll give them a rest. Ex-girlfriends in particular weren't happy hearing me around the place all the time. One of them was known to throw her radio out the window."[1]


In 2005/06 Johnson started working at major Melbourne FM station Nova 100, presenting the 9am – 12pm slot. He was popular in the role but resigned mid-2006, several months after his girlfriend Lainie Woodlands died.


In July 2007, he returned to acting, playing a young Weary Dunlop in the play "Weary: The Story of Sir Edward Dunlop". Weary follows the ageing veteran after retirement, when he returns to the diaries of his time in a World War II POW camp. The action switches between the young Weary and his older, wiser self.[1]

Johnson's other stage credits include:

  • Love Letters – Andrew Makepeace Ladd III
  • Hotel Sorrento – The Son
  • The Present – Danny Rule
  • The Snake Pit – Harry
  • Mad Woman’s Fountain – Harry
  • Life During War Time – Howard
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again – Dreyfus

Personal life[edit]

Born in 1978, Samuel was born and raised in Daylesford, Victoria. He has two sisters, Constance and Hilde and both were raised by their father. When Samuel was a toddler, his mother died by suicide.[1] At age 11, his sister Constance was diagnosed with cancer, from which she recovered after chemotherapy sessions.[3]

Prior to his discovery, his family were going through some financial difficulty. His father had enough money to pay for one of them to go to a private school for a term. "He chose me despite the fact that my sister had a better academic record. And by the end of the first term, I was earning enough to pay for the school fees that we couldn't afford. I was very lucky. I got an opportunity and I made the most of it." With the money he earned through his acting, they were able to pay off the school fees and eventually started their own family business, a chain of second-hand bookstores around Melbourne.

On 5 February 2006, his girlfriend Lainie Woodlands took her own life.[4] Sam and Lainie's mother Kim then endured a bitter legal tug-of-war for 2 months with her estranged father in order to lay her to rest close to her chosen home and those she loved. She was eventually laid to rest by Sam, Kim, Lainie's siblings and many close friends.[5][6] Johnson took an extended career break to recover from the trauma and returned to Daylesford.

In late 2007, he began a relationship with Sarah Hallam, a casting director. They have known each other since they were 15. He stated, "I am really enjoying my new life. It is very different from the other one ... out in the 'burbs with my girl and her little boy, who is five."[5] They live in the outer suburbs of Melbourne with Sarah's young son, while running workshops for aspiring actors.

In September 2007, he was involved in a bar brawl at Star City Casino in Sydney. While attending a wedding with his girlfriend Hallam, he was involved in an altercation with another guest, Ben Benson. Johnson had repeatedly punched him before stomping on his head as he lay prone on the floor.[7] The court was told that at the time of the offence Johnson was receiving treatment for depression following the suicide of his long-term partner Lainie Woodlands. Upon leaving the court, Johnson was completely remorseful for his actions, stating, "I am very sorry it all happened, I was a bit of a nincompoop and I'm glad that it's all over. I'm looking forward to moving on". He was given a 12-month good behaviour bond, with Johnson to continue with his counselling, and no conviction was reported.

In May 2008, Johnson gave his first interview since the death of Woodlands to ABC Television's Australian Story – The Sum of Sam. He talked about the turmoil of the last three years – and his life changing involvement with Open Family Australia, a charity that works with vulnerable young people.[8]


In 2003 Johnson rode from Sydney to Melbourne on a unicycle to raise money for children's cancer charity Canteen.[9]

In 2013, he began riding 15,000 km on a unicycle in a year-long attempt to break the Guinness World Record and raise $1 million for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research to find a cure for breast cancer.[10] His stated mission is to remind every Australian woman about the need to be 'breast aware', in an effort to promote early detection and improve survival rates, via his charitable foundation, Love Your Sister.[11]

On 14 February 2014 Johnson returned to the starting point of his journey, Melbourne's Federation Square, having travelled 15,955 km by unicycle, broken the world record for the longest unicycle journey and raised $1,477,630.[12] In 2016, Johnson was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to cancer research support organisations, and to the performing arts.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d Bailey, John (29 July 2007). "Play it again, Sam". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. 
  2. ^ Enker, Debi (28 August 2008). "Feel the rush". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax. 
  3. ^ "The Sum Of Sam – Transcript". ABC. 26 May 2008. 
  4. ^ "Suicide shock". The Daily Telegraph. 10 February 2006.  |archive-url= is malformed: timestamp (help)
  5. ^ a b Bryne, Fiona (30 September 2007). "Samuel Johnson in bar brawl". The Sydney Telegraph. News Limited. 
  6. ^ McGuire, Jess (30 May 2007). "S amuel Johnson Is Making A Comeback". Defamer. Allure Media. 
  7. ^ "Actor Samuel Johnson escapes conviction". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. 18 December 2007. 
  8. ^ "Australian Story :: The Sum Of Sam". ABC. 26 May 2008. 
  9. ^ Nguyen, Kenneth (8 January 2004). "One wheel, and a whole lot of magic". The Age. Melbourne. 
  10. ^ "Herald Sun :: Actor Samuel Johnson to unicycle 15,000km to raise $1 million for breast cancer research". News Ltd. 11 January 2013. 
  11. ^ "". 2012–2013. 
  12. ^ Sadler, Denham (14 February 2014). "Samuel Johnson raises $1.5m for breast cancer research in unicycle ride". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  13. ^ Fraser, Mark. "Australia Day 2016 Honours Lists - S1 - Order of Australia" (PDF). Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 

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