Career

800 Words star Erik Thomson's change of direction

With his schedule suddenly a whole lot clearer after the cancellation of 800 words, Erik is excited at the chance to sink his teeth into something new.

By Sophie Neville

After nearly 30 years in the business, TV star Erik Thomson has come to expect the unexpected. But even he was shocked when he found out his beloved show 800 Words was coming to an end.

"I'm disappointed because I loved making it. It's a great show with a big fan base. But there's no point feeling angry because things like this are the nature of the industry. It's a crazy business!"

And with his 2018 schedule suddenly a whole lot clearer without a fifth season to film, Aussie-based Erik – who spent the previous four winters on set in New Zealand playing leading man George Turner – decided to seize the moment, packing up his young family for the adventure of a lifetime.

The actor with his beloved *800 Words* TV family, Melina Vidler (who plays Shay) and Benson Anthony (Arlo).
The actor with his beloved 800 Words TV family, Melina Vidler (who plays Shay) and Benson Anthony (Arlo).

With his wife, former Neighbours star Caitlin McDougall, and their two kids, Eilish, 11, and Magnus, seven, Scottish-born, Kiwi-raised Erik spent six weeks in Scotland, England, Denmark and Sweden.

"Life is too short to put these things off," he tells. "Experiences are the kinds of things that stick with you and make you grow. Seeing the kids realise that they're 50% Scottish was great, watching them swim in the Cornwall sea, biking around Copenhagen … It was brilliant."

While Erik, who shot to fame on iconic Aussie show Packed to the Rafters, can't go very many places these days without being recognised, travelling in Europe brought much welcomed anonymity.

"It was fantastic – I was just a guy walking down the street!" he says, before quickly adding he's hugely grateful to his fans in NZ. "Everyone is always friendly and I don't mind stopping to chat."

Erik and wife Caitlin.
Erik and wife Caitlin.

And returning home to Adelaide without any major new roles lined up was also liberating for the doting dad.

"I've been doing the sort of stuff you really miss when you're away, like taking the kids to school and coaching my son's soccer team.

"I've managed to put away a little bit of money. There are always bills to pay, but I'm not panicking or worrying about work yet."

Erik – who has roles in yet-to-be released films Storm Boy and Awoken – recently flew to New York to take part in a week-long masterclass with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley. He might be 51, but there's still plenty of learning to be done, he says.

"It's quite exciting and a bit overwhelming, actually. It will be so inspirational – I want to continue getting knowledge and keep the fire burning. It's about getting back to the heart of why I do this."

After playing the "happy, family-type guy" for almost 15 years now, Erik hopes to sink his teeth into grittier roles. "I'd like to move into something a bit darker," he confides. "I want to do stuff that's going to challenge me."

With plenty of exciting opportunities in the offing, next year will also be a big one on the personal front, with Erik and Caitlin celebrating 20 years of marriage, as well as his wife's 50th birthday.

Erik, who plans to whisk Caitlin away on a romantic holiday to celebrate, is a realist when it comes to the secret of their long marriage.

"It's about getting through stuff together," he muses.

"Sometimes things can be difficult, but that's normal in a marriage. And the alternative isn't particularly good – bringing up kids in different houses and all that. It's better to make what you have work. No marriage is perfect and as soon as you accept that, and ride out the tough times, things go well again."

Erik admits he's been suffering from a bad case of "New Zealand withdrawals", so he's counting down the weeks till he comes back for a Kiwi Christmas.

He can't wait to catch up with his mum and sisters in Tauranga, Auckland and Omaha, as well as seeing his niece Genevieve Mora, a model who has set up Voices of Hope, an organisation to support people with mental health struggles.

"It's fantastic to see what she's doing. It's come from going through her own difficulties and I'm incredibly proud of her."

Meanwhile, Erik hopes fans will enjoy the final season of 800 Words, which begins on TVNZ 1 this week. "It's a brilliant final series and I think people are going to love it," he tells. "We made a great show and it has a good legacy."

read more from