Gyton Grantley, TV's House Husband

STEPHANIE HOLMES
Last updated 05:00 24/03/2013
House Husbands

Bad boy: Gyton Grantley as Carl Williams, with Kat Stewart as Roberta, in Underbelly.

House Husbands
Family man: Gyton Grantley, centre, as Kane, with Tim Campbell and Edwina Royce as partner Tom and daughter Stella.

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Before he hit our screens as gay dad Kane in TV One's House Husbands, Gyton Grantley was best known to Kiwi viewers as convicted murderer and drug trafficker Carl Williams in the first season of Underbelly.

It was a role that stuck in viewers' memories, thanks to the show's gritty mix of crime, violence, sex and drug use, and one which ultimately won Grantley the 2008 Logie award for most outstanding actor in a drama series.

Grantley, talking on the phone from Sydney's beachside suburb of Bondi, says people still want to talk to him about Williams.

"People often see me and know me as Carl. That'll probably happen for a long time. But that's OK." He's also not averse to poking fun at himself - he starred as himself in a 2009 Tropfest film called Being Carl Williams, in which he gets abducted by two criminals who mistake him for his Underbelly character.

"I'm still getting work as other characters and playing different parts, though," he says. "I'm an actor and that's what I want to do. Just keep exploring different facets of human life."

That opportunity well and truly presented itself with House Husbands, a comedy drama about four fathers taking on the lion's share of the parenting of their kids.

"It's not that unusual these days," Grantley says. "As the show started airing, I found a lot of men coming up to me who were real house husbands, going: ‘Mate! I'm a house husband and you're doing a great job.' "

The Aussie drama, which recently began filming its second season, quickly became a hit.

"What I found most interesting was some of my friends, who are real blokey men, were the biggest fans," Grantley says. "It was a big surprise that men were more into it than girls. It has all those wholesome family values, which is normally applied to a female demographic - and we got that audience - but the men were really into it.

"I think in the end there's this unspoken voice that men were screaming for. And something that all blokes can relate to."

Not just focusing on the men's relationship with their partners and children, the series has also become popular for its honest, realistic look at male friendship.

"They band together in the minority and they become great mates. They support each other and help each other through their new experiences of parenting."

Grantley says he and his castmates - Firass Dirani, Gary Sweet and Rhys Muldoon - quickly became good friends, too.

"Just like the characters, we are all very different. We're all very different people separately but, yeah, we all got along famously. We'd go to the AFL and we did have nights out together. We had man-dates outside of work. We all got along quite well."

Meeting new friends and building relationships from scratch is something Grantley has a lot of experience doing, thanks to the ever-changing life of an actor. He used to live in Bondi, is now based in Melbourne filming House Husbands, but also spent time based in Brisbane earlier this year starring in a musical theatre production of South Pacific. He says the "transient, nomadic" lifestyle is both the good and the bad side of his job.

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"I miss having a home. I miss having pictures on the wall and using my frying pan and knowing where the cutlery is and things like that. It's all an adventure, as well, and that's exciting. There're always plusses and minuses, life is yin and yang, so it all evens out."

The audience reaction to his character, Kane, says Grantley, has been really positive. In fact, the cast and crew were probably expecting much more of a reaction to seeing a gay couple on primetime TV bringing up a child but there hasn't been a huge fuss either way.

"I don't think it's a big shock to anybody any more that there are gay parents and they have a child and they love her and they bring her up beautifully," he says. "First and foremost, Kane loves his daughter, Stella [Edwina Royce] and he wants the best for her. All that comes down to is loving your child, giving them love, and I think that's the most important thing to being a parent, to love your child."

One of the things Grantley liked most about Kane and the way he had been written was that his sexuality wasn't overemphasised.

"It doesn't harp on the fact that he's a gay man. Him and Tom [Tim Campbell], his partner, are just two parents who love their daughter and want to do the best for her and bring her up the best way possible with all the love that's available."

Grantley says that's the focus he likes to take with all of his characters, whether that's a gay man or a hardened criminal. "It's not about the stigma that's attached to them or anything like that. It's just about them living their lives in society and what they want to do."

House Husbands, Sunday, 9.30pm, TV One.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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