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Neighbors star Matt Wilson on playing a gay ex-stripper, getting hit on by guys and dealing with homophobes

Written by gaytourism

Photos: Courtesy of Channel 5

Handsome Neighbors actor Matt Wilson was forced to apologize last year after he referred to Aaron, the gay man he plays on the long-running soap, as ‘specifically designed […] to act straight and act normal.’

After making the comments on The Wright Stuff, the 29-year-old star admitted: ‘My choice of words wasn’t right and apologies if it comes across as offensive.’

Almost one year on, as Matt gears up for Aaron’s double engagement with on-screen boyfriend David (played by Takaya Honda), screened tonight, it seems he knows his way around his character a lot better.

When we ask him to describe Aaron for newcomers to Neighbors, he doesn’t even focus on Aaron’s sexuality, but his personality.

‘He’s a peacekeeper’

‘Aaron’s an extrovert, a showman,’ he tells us with an affectionate laugh, in a sunny Aussie lilt.

‘He’s also a peacekeeper,’ he adds. ‘In any altercation he’s the one to step in and make it better for everyone. He’s happiest when everybody else is happy.’

Here, we speak with Matt about Australian marriage equality, people who confuse him for Aaron and the viewers who think he should be written out of the show…

For our readers who haven’t seen Neighbors, tell us about Aaron…

Aaron came onto the show as a male stripper. He hurt his ankle once and quit that. It might have something to do with the G-rating on the TV show!

Were you nervous about that being his job when you first started?

No, I took it head first. I kind of enjoyed it! I tried my best to dance, but I’m not very good at that.

Is he politically-minded?

He’s not really an activist. I think he enjoys the movement and what it stands for. But when you compare him to Paige on the show, who’s protested and been to rallies, Aaron hasn’t really done that. But he stands for [LGBTI rights], and what a time to in Australia as well!

Had you ever played a gay character before?

I had once in a little short film for a mate of mine. But it wasn’t anywhere near as big as this.

With the introduction of marriage equality in Australia, do you hope to see a storyline along those lines in the future?

Aaron and David have a proposal scene coming up. David previously proposed to Aaron – we filmed this last year. It aired the day before same-sex marriage became legal in Australia. The government, by fluke, decided that was the day it would happen, and it was the day after we went to air. That was really special. It was so relevant and everyone got behind it. Everyone got a glimpse into what was happening.

Now we have this other proposal coming up. Fingers crossed we get another wedding out of it! What I’m hoping for is we have the first same-sex marriage on Australian TV since it became legal. It would be very special.

Is your gay fanbase visible to you? I’m picturing you getting mobbed at Mardi Gras…

Yeah, you get the odd squeeze here and there when you go out at night… One of my mates, every other Saturday, tries to get me to go to one of the gay clubs here [in Melbourne]. I’ve been a couple of times, but you just can’t hang out with your friends when you go there! It’s full on! But it’s a positive sign that the character is well-portrayed.

Do fans ever confuse you for your character?

All the time. I’ve been asked out for drinks about 100 times. I’m actually straight! Ryan Moloney, who plays Toadie, one of his friends at the weekend – and he doesn’t really watch the show – he thought my character was straight and I was gay. He was like ‘That guy, has he come out yet?!’ And Ryan was like ‘No…’ His friend was like: ‘That guy right there, he’s gay!’ It’s the character!

On the flip side, have you ever encountered homophobia from members of the public for playing a gay character?

Yes, you do. A lot of it comes via social media. But in the same way, I have that many loyal followers out there that as soon as somebody brings something up like that, they get shot down, by everybody. I don’t know if it’s the right way to do it or not.

What do they say? Is it nonsense?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. People just say: ‘I wish you were written out of the show’ or ‘there are too many gay scenes, too many kissing scenes…’ You’re like: ‘Get real!’ It’s actually quite embarrassing for them. They’re coming out on a public platform saying these things and every single time they get shut down big.

Obviously there’s a huge amount of Neighbors alumni who have gone on to star in blockbuster films. Have you met any of them?

I met Ben Mendelson once, who just [appeared] in the Stephen Spielberg movie Ready Player One. He’s one of my favorite actors. Travis Burns, who played my younger brother and lives in LA at the moment, met up with Margot Robbie the other day, which would’ve been pretty exciting!

Neighbours airs Monday-Friday 1.45pm and 5.30pm in the UK on Channel 5

Now that Australia has same-sex marriage, will this soap have a gay wedding?


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