My first job was...

I worked as an usher and Front of House at the Mercury from 1985 until it closed in 1992. Eftpos didn't exist in those days, so every money transaction at the confectionery shop had to be calculated in your head. I was terrible. It took me ages to get my head around; "Two icecreams plus a coffee equals this much, and they've given me this much, therefore I owe them ... ?" I managed to work out my own system in the end.

It taught me … Working at the Mercury was the best education I ever had as an actor. At the time, it was the biggest theatre in the country. Not only did I see every production there for seven years, 3-4 times a week. I also got to hang out with actors every night after the show and hear their stories. I spent hours just listening and absorbing the environment. I was very lucky to have grown up in that scene. There's a TV series in there somewhere.

My big break came … In 1987 TVNZ were casting a new kidult series called Strangers by Margaret Mahy. I auditioned for Ludo, the fire-eating, tap dancing, juggling, freak. I got it. My old mate Martin Henderson was in it too. He was 12, and he had a really high voice. (Sorry Marty). I was blown away to be working on a TV show at 16.


The last job I quit was … I stumbled out of the school system, after Strangers, an unemployed actor. I got a job as a "shampoo assistant" in a salon in Newmarket. Don't ask me why. I hated it. The hair stylists were bitches and treated me like - well, like a snotty 16-year-old shampoo assistant. One day I refused to go back. Luckily there were no cellphones in 1987. If they were trying to find me, I was definitely unavailable. Or maybe they were relieved that I had disappeared, never to return.

The most famous person I've ever met is … I've been very lucky. I've worked with and become friends with lots of great actors. That's just where my career has steered me. Working with Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving (my favourite actor) was a total trip. Working with a very young Ryan Gosling and my buddy Dean O'Gorman for a year was one of the most fun experiences ever. Nicholas Cage is kooky but totally fascinating. Geena Davis was an absolute angel and used to tell me about the survival instincts of bees. I ate very weird overpriced sushi with Jacki Weaver in Canberra earlier this year. And Ben Mendelsohn and I used to analyse music and watch rugby league together in Melbourne in 2008.

They were … Most have been cool. No really bad experiences. Ironically, one or two un-famous people have been the exception, but very rare.

The best time I've had on set/stage was … The Rocky Horror Show for ATC in 2002 was by far the best theatre ride. I played Frank 'n' Furter. We had a blast. Great music, great character and terrific cast. That was the last time I was on stage. Young Hercules/Xena was a great education for me. The characters I played were so "BIG" I had to learn how to trust myself as an actor. I learnt a lot about my craft. I did a year on Shortland St in 2015. That was excellent fun.

But the worst was … There's never been a worst. It's all been great. Doing a show in a freezing cold theatre for no money is never fun. But, those relationships you form people in that time are awesome. Actors are fun, free and compassionate and the majority are talented. It's very inspiring.

My dream role would be … As I say, I've been very blessed. To keep on as I am, working on interesting projects and being inspired by talented people is all I could ever ask for. I love to teach younger actors too. I love what I do and respect and encourage all who should want to try it.

Joel Tobeck performs in Silo Theatre's production of Mr Burns: A Post-Electric Play, which runs until this Saturday.