Home And Away: Jake Ryan 'would rather play a baddie than a hopeless romantic'
Clubbing Summer Bay stalwart Alf Stewart over the head is not the best way to make friends in Summer Bay.
"It was a hell of an entrance," says actor Jake Ryan, who made his Home And Away debut as the mysterious Robbo by doing just that.
"I did have a little laugh when I read the script. I was like, 'I can't do that. There's no way'. You can't hurt Alf (Ray Meagher) and spend time in the Bay afterwards without everyone wanting to kill you.
"However, I probably couldn't have picked a better person to do the opening with because (Ray Meagher) is such a great guy and a lot of fun to work with.
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"We made it as light and jokey on the day as possible."
After his explosive entrance, the mysterious Robbo continues to make waves in the Bay – mainly for his heroics.
A diagnosis of post-traumatic amnesia does not stop him from saving Raffy (Olivia Keeble) from the sleazy attentions of MacKenzie (Luke Davis), coming to the rescue when Coco (Anna Cocquerel) nearly drowns during a surfing lesson, and intervening when Zannis (Caleb Alloway) tries to kidnap Ziggy (Sophie Dillman) and Brody (Jackson Heywood).
Then there is Robbo's mysterious connection with police officer Kat Chapman (Pia Miller). Just why does he have a photo of her hidden among his possessions?
Playing the bad guy – with a hidden heart of gold – is almost the norm for the 33 year old who is probably best known to Kiwis for his role as Harry Smith, the abusive husband of Wentworth's Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack).
"I'd much rather play a baddie than some soppy hopeless romantic," says Ryan. "That's me in real life. I'm the opposite to my tough characters.
"It's a good challenge to try to get people to see the other side of the character eventually and come around to him."
Robbo's amnesia means Ryan is almost as much in the dark about his character as viewers are.
"Even though we're filming six months ahead, when your character comes in with an open slate like that you've got a blank canvas to play with which is great because it just develops as you are developing with the character," he says.
"There are a lot of theories about who he is – (Is he a lost relative of Alf's? Has he got a past with Kat?) – and while some of them are quite funny, no one's come anywhere close.
"And that's if he has a connection. He may just have turned up on the beach. You don't know.
"I think the storyline is really well written and I think a lot of people will be surprised."
Meanwhile, Ryan is having the time of his life.
"I've had more fun with this role than I think I've had with any other character that I've ever played and the writers keep surprising me with twists and turns. He's a very complex dude, especially for someone in Summer Bay," he says.
"The action-packed side of Robbo is right up my alley and that's sort of what I'm loving most about him as well."
This comes as no surprise given Ryan once had hopes of representing Australia at the Olympics in martial arts. The actor studied taekwondo for 18 years, earning his black belt at just nine, making him the youngest person to do so at that time in Australia.
A member of the national team for eight years, a 10-times Australian champion and rated fourth best in the world three times, he was on track to compete at the Beijing Olympics when a knee injury forced him to withdraw, prompting him to turn his sights to acting.
Ryan, who does his own stunts wherever possible, says he works hard to stay in shape for the role.
"Part of the parcel of being on Home And Away is you know you're going to be walking around in board shorts eventually," he says.
"I trimmed down a lot when I got the role but you always feel like you could do more. I think I lost about 13kg from when I got the role to when I started filming but I've still got to maintain it.
"It's a challenge to me every day. It means I can't have my pizza all the time. But that's part of the industry and especially Home And Away. You know what you are getting yourself into when you sign on."
Home And Away, TVNZ 2, weekdays.
- TV Guide