Interview: Lincoln Lewis on auditioning, career aspirations and surviving Hollywood

Whether it was his tenure as sensible teen Geoff Campbell for 567 episodes on long-running Australian soap series Home and Away, his turn in the acclaimed Tomorrow When the War Began, or his recurring role as the love interest to one of the country’s most notorious underworld figures in Underbelly: Razor, the fourth season of the Underbelly anthology series, Lincoln Lewis is fast becoming a staple of homegrown entertainment.

As the star gears up to greet his fans at this year’s Supanova convention, Peter Gray spoke with him about his own experiences in his career thus far, the audition tips he’s picked up along the way, and where he hopes to branch out within the industry he’s carving into his own.

With you attending both Brisbane and Adelaide for Supanova, I wanted to ask is there a certain project of yours that you get the most recognition from?

For the most part it’s definitely Home and Away and Tomorrow When the War BeganTomorrow… was such a well loved book series and did really well as a film, and then Home and Away being what it is.  They’re the two main ones.  I do get some people talking about Underbelly, and a few people that have enjoyed Spin Out.  A bit of everything, but the main ones would be Tomorrow… and Home and Away.

Looking at your career you can see that you haven’t pigeonholed yourself into one genre.  Is there any type of genre that you’d like to make your own? Or are you happy to stay versatile and continue as you have been?

I love that question.  Definitely staying versatile, because it keeps you on your toes.  Keeps you guessing. I love experimenting with different things, (but) there’s been a couple of roles that have been quite similar (and) you don’t want to get stuck in the same style of role.  In terms of actual projects? The fun thing about Tomorrow When the War Began was it had that action, but it had a storyline that allowed us to grow up and interact with each other.  There was so much character development that went around the action, so it wasn’t lacking.  Same thing with Underbelly as well, where it was centred around the action.  The dialogue in that was so great.

We all have our favourite movies (too).  I love the Marvel franchise, and I love Stargate, so that type of visual action and the aesthetics of that…but I enjoy the drama element too.  Look, if I had my choice of my dream role, it would be Jack West, Jr. from the Seventh Ancient Wonders franchise, a book series by Matthew Reilly.  There’s adventure, a lot of history involved, but this beautiful storyline going through it.  It has a bit of everything, so it would be a way for me to subscribe to not just doing action.  If I could bring that to life, that would be a dream.  I think I just gave you a very long answer (laughs).

Would optioning those books and producing such a series yourself be an aspiration of yours? Or just producing in general?

Absolutely, yeah.  I’ve got a couple of mates who transitioned into (producing) early on in their career, and one of them was Isabelle Fuhrman, who I first met when we did After Earth together.  She’s brilliant! You know, Orphan and Hunger Games.  She’s created such a career for herself, and even when we were doing After Earth, and she was, like, 15 or 16 years old, she was already writing two scripts that she was looking at selling to different studios, talking about potentially getting into directing and producing, as well as acting.  That was so cool.  And it was the first time I’ve really had someone talk to me about that (too).

Whenever I’m working with people on a project in Australia, I’m starting to watch what they’re doing and ask a lot of questions because that’s definitely an avenue I want to explore.  Who know if I have the eye to direct, but hopefully that could come somewhere down the track, but the producing side (of thing) would be great.

As large as the industry is, it seems like the Australian cluster is quite small.  When you were overseas and auditioning, did you find that you were crossing paths with other Australian actors? You hear that everyone really does just find their way to one another in Hollywood.

Everyone’s got their American mates and everything like that, but you absolutely have your little Aussie groups that are like “Hey, we’re having a little catch-up, come along.” And suddenly there’s twenty of us and you’ve either worked with them or it’s a friend of a friend.  Everyone just sort of comes together.  It’s really great over there because it’s such a supportive network, and because everyone’s trying to crack it, and they’re away from home and from everyone they know, everyone is super supportive of each other.  And that helps a lot when you’re in another country.

I remember when I first went over there and someone described it best as “Hollywood is like the Olympics for acting.”  I remember being in audition rooms, and Chace Crawford is sitting next to me! And then in walks the dude from Chronicles of Narnia, and I’m sitting there thinking “Holy crap, I just watched him two weeks ago!”  You’re auditioning for the same roles as these guys, so in order to get any type of role you’ve got to beat the best.  So you really do need that supportive network, and when you’re around Australians, everyone just wants to hang out and catch up.  It’s a connective network (too).

I’ve heard that a good trick for Australians when auditioning is to start the process immediately with an American accent and then drop it once the audition is done? If they know you’re Australian from the jump they’ll be scrutinising your American accent more.  Is that true?

100% exactly what it is.  As soon as I get out of customs I start talking with an American accent.  Going to the store, on the street…talking with the accent, because I would rather someone pick me up on it on the street or in a bar and ask where I’m from, or say that something wasn’t on point, because I get into an audition room.  There have been times when I am sitting in an audition room, and I remember the dude that plays Carlisle Cullen in the Twilight series (Peter Facinelli) sitting in there, and it was just him and I and we started talking, and I started talking straight with an American accent.  We were chatting for about 5 minutes, and then he asked my plans for the week and I said that I’m flying home to Australia in a few days, and he just kind of looked at me… He asked if I had just moved there, and I told him I’m from Australia and I dropped the accent.  He just started laughing, saying “You fucking Australians!” I’ve done it a few times in auditions.

Do you ever watch a film you’ve auditioned for and think “This guy?!” and that you could have done it better? Is it hard to separate yourself in just being an audience viewer watching a part you could have gotten?

It’s like anything where you have to rely solely on yourself, you have to have that self-belief.  You have to really try and pick yourself up.  Personally, if I ever watch something I watch whatever that person does, which is going to be unique to the choices they make and what the director (thought), and I may not have ever thought of that.  Of course, any role you don’t get is a kick in the guts, but whoever gets that role and brings it to life and does it justice, then I’m going to enjoy it as a fan.

I’ve watched so many roles that I’ve went for, where I was in the final group or down to the final two – I remember being one of the finals for an American Pie movie – and you watch it and (the actor) kills it! I couldn’t have done that.  I never watch something thinking “I could have had that role”, because I wouldn’t want someone to watch me thinking they could crush it over me.

On the topic of auditions, how are you finding that process in this post-COVID landscape where Zoom interactions are becoming more of the norm? Do you prefer it to in-person?

Both have points of merit.  Being in the room auditioning they get a good feel of who you are and your energy.  It can be really good to bring that right to their face.  I remember when I got a pilot in the States, and the casting director didn’t want to see me because he’d never seen me.  At the time it was one of the biggest pilots of the season.  They spent something like $7 million on one episode.  He just didn’t have the time for me, (but) my management in the States fought so hard for me to get in that room.

Finally, he said he’d see me but he wasn’t going to put it on camera.  I went in there, had a quick chat, and we got along really well.  We did the first scene, and I think halfway through I just dropped a line (but) he liked what I was doing and asked me to go again.  We went again and he says he has no notes.  So we went on to the second thing, which was super intense, requiring me to slam (the character) into the wall and really rip into him.  I said my line and just started walking towards the door of the casting room, and he says something and I just charged back.  Slammed my hands on the desk and just leaned over and I stared him dead in the eyes.  I let it sit for about 10 seconds.  He was just so angry he didn’t get it on tape (laughs).

That’s the energy you can bring.  But when you’re doing it on Zoom, you can be in your own space and get ready (easier).  I’ll have my acting coach or a friend helping me, and if I screw up it’s easier to go again.  You just go through it again and again.  But really, the main thing about this industry is you have to be able to adapt.  Whether it’s a director saying change the way you’re performing, or the way you’re doing auditions, you have to adapt.  That’s why self-tapes can be great, because you can film 100 shit auditions, but you just need that one and you’re good to go.

Lincoln Lewis will be appearing as a guest at this year’s Supanova Comic Con & Gaming convention in both Brisbane (November 5th and 6th, 2022) and Adelaide (November 12th and 13th, 2022).  For more information on each event, head to the official Supanova website.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.