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Jesse Spencer article

Heart-throb status embarrasses Jesse

The Weekly News February 28th 1998

In the three years Jesse Spencer has been playing Neighbours' Billy Kennedy, the character has turned from awkward adolescent into teen pin-up. But suggest to Jesse himself that he's a heart-throb and he's overcome with embarrassment.

"I don't see myself that way at all," he said. "I've never though of myself as a big star or a teenage pin-up. I'm just me. It's probably Billy that people really like anyway, rather than me.

"It's certainly never been my ambition to have my face seen all over the place. But if you look on the positive side, that kind of image could actually be a help to your career.

"If people didn't bother to tune in and watch, then you wouldn't have a job in the first place."

It's reassuring to discover that soap stardom hasn't turned Jesse into a bighead. When the fan mail is sorted at the Neighbours production office, his is always the biggest stack. Yet he's managed to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground.

Girl in their dozens write to him, asking about hobbies, how he got started in acting, whether he'd like to go out on a date. Most of them include their phone numbers, but Jesse, 19, as never once rung any of them up.


"That would be playing with fire," he said. "A lot of girls come up to me when I'm out and about and I've had nice chats with them. But probably the ideal girl for me would be someone who'd never even heard of Billy Kennedy."

That girl might be hard to find. She'd also, according to Jesse, need to be fun, open-minded, intelligent and witty. But looks wouldn't matter.

"I've never been one to go for a particular type, like a blonde or a redhead or someone with brown eyes," he said. "It's the person inside that counts, not the way they do their hair or the clothes they wear."

Jesse's most embarrassing moment with a fan happened recently when he was swimming at his local pool after a day at the studio.

He recalled, "I'd just done 10 laps and I was taking a breather at the shallow end when this girl leant over and thrust a piece of paper and a pen into my dripping hand.

"I tried to write an autograph, but the paper became so soggy it fell to bits and the pen ran all over me.

"The guy standing next to me in the pool looked at me as though I was a total nutcase. I just felt like diving under the water and never coming up again!"

The occasional member of the public can be dangerous, too. "People come up to you in a pub or a club and want to bop you on the nose just because they've seen you on television," he said.

"It can get very ugly. It's really stupid that someone would want to beat you up because of your job."

For the last two years, Jesse's been juggling his work on Neighbours with his final-year school studies and it hasn't been easy.


"Lucily, I've just finished all my exams and can now look forward to a little less pressure," he said.

"1998 is my first year of freedom and I'm planning to make the best of it! But at the same time, when it hit me that I was going out into the big wide world, I suddenly got really scared.

"It was a sort of teenage crisis. School's like a security blanket and when you realise it's not going to be there any more, it's a bit of a shock."

He's already worked out how he's going to use all his new-found freedom. He said, "I'll go on working on Neighbours, of course, but I'm also going to take up photography, practise my music more and I might even get singing lessons again. Plus, I want to take up martial arts."

Jesse's one of those people who manages to pack into one day the same number of activities the rest of us need a week to accomplish.

A talented violinist, he's been playing since the age of 10. He also plays the guitar and the piano.

He was also a member of the Melbourne Boys Choir, which led to a concert tour of the US six years ago.

"It was a great tour except for one thing," Jesse said. "We'd been promised a visit to Disneyland, but instead we drove straight past the gates and into the next town.

"I was so disappointed I threatened to stage a protest strike!"

Jesse is off to the States soon, to meet casting agents and old friends like Eliza Szonert, who used to play Neighbours' Danni, and is now doing acting classes in Los Angeles.

Hopefully, it will be more fun than the trip he made to Europe last year.


"I loved France, although my school French was only moderately successful," said Jesse.

"We went into a creperie in St Malo and I thought I'd ordered pancakes with sugar and butter. But when the waiter looked puzzled, I realised I'd asked for pancakes with sugar and beer!

"Then, when I was in London, I bought chicken from a chip shop and got food poisoning. For most of the time there, I was being violently sick."

Jesse hopes to make another trip to the UK in the summer. In the meantime, he's hoping that without the pressure of school exams he might find more time for romance.

"I was seeing someone for a while recently, but what with work and school, I hardly ever saw her, so it just kind of fizzled out," he said. "Maybe I'll meet someone now I have a bit more time."