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11am (1998) : Paul Bishop with Anne Fulwood

Anne: ... the Mt Thomas police station tonight, stay tuned, but maybe I should call it an old edition.  Because Ben Stewart is actually returning to Australia's favourite cop shop, and he's to be a regular part of the Blue Heelers team.  We will talk to the actor in question in just a moment, but first, here's a look at his grand entrance on tonight's episode of Blue Heelers.
( Cut to clip from 'Nine Lives' )

Nick: Oh, coming.
Maggie: New rosters?  What about the long weekend?  Don't tell me that I've lost the long weekend.
Nick: The new circumstances —
Maggie: Oh, what new circumstances?

The locker room door opens and Ben appears, in uniform.

Ben: Oh, g'day Peej.  Hey Maggie.

Maggie is a bit shocked to see him.

Maggie: Oh Ben.  What what, what are you doing here?
Nick: Oh, he's the new circumstances.
Dash: Hi Ben!
Maggie: What, Detective Sergeant Stewart?
Ben: No no, Senior Constable Stewart.  I got demoted for taking Sergeant Romano apart.

( Cut back to studio )
Anne: Oooohh.  Okay, joining us from our Melbourne studios, Paul Bishop, who plays Ben Stewart in Blue Heelers.  Good morning to you Paul.

Paul: (smiles)  How do you do, Anne.  Hello everyone.

Anne: Look at you, coming in there and er, chatting up Maggie already.

Paul: Well, you do what you gotta do, don't you.

Anne: (laughs)  Is this what er, Ben Stewart does?

Paul: Among other things, and er, there's a bit of policing thrown along the way too, which is a good thing.

Anne: (laughs)  Now this is terrific to see you back, because what have you been doing for the last little while?

Paul: Well umm — since I began the show?

Anne: Well no, you've er, you're just returning to Blue Heelers, but you've had a little break.

Paul: Yeah yeah, we had a few weeks off, and I actually did some ahh, some training, with the um, out of the Police Academy, and did a few weeks up — I travelled around a bit, went to Shepparton, met some of the detectives up there, plain-clothes police, and umm ... it's been fantastic actually.  And now I've been filming for quite a few weeks now.

Anne: And also, I had the pleasure of seeing you in a couple of Sydney Theatre Company productions as well. 

Paul: Yeah.

Anne: You enjoy the stage work as well?

Paul: Well, it, I, for the past twelve years as an actor, I've been able to eek an existence, which is a very fortunate thing, from theatre.  And I've been working in round about forty shows I think, in that time.  And I started working in Brisbane in about ... '86, and I've worked my way down the Eastern seaboard and ahh, through to Sydney, I've been living there for the last four years, and now I've got this job in Melbourne, and um, we're loving being down here.

Anne: And er — yes, do you like this er, police work?  Are you enjoying this drama?

Paul: Look, it's a great job.  Blue Heelers is a, is a very well-respected show, with great actors, and they're very much ensemble actors and ahh, I feel very very fortunate to be, to be there, and it's a great honour, really.  I feel very privileged.

Anne: I must say Paul, you're also working with old friends again, because I understand back in the late 80s you worked with John Wood.

Paul: Yes, I did.

Anne: And he gave you a few tips, or I assume he did, and he's been quite helpful to you has he?  Over the years?

Paul: Yeah, well we haven't kept in regular contact, of course, you just pass like ships in the night when you're working in this industry.  And er, it's been really fortunate, 'cause I was actually very pleased to have met John and he was very kind to me back then, and it was just nice to meet people whose careers had been up and moving and have them give you encouragement so you can move on, and er, it's great to be working together now.

Anne: Now you're going to have a bit of an effect on the Blue Heelers aren't you, you're going to have a bit of an effect on the police station there.

Paul: I'm, I'm —

Anne: PJ won't be very happy with you.

Paul: Well, he gets his nose put out of joint, because umm —

Anne: You're a very attractive man, Paul.

Paul: Oh well thank you.

Anne: Ben, or whatever you, Ben Stewart.

Paul: (grins)  I don't mind, you can flatter either of us, we're both happy with that compliment.  (Anne laughs)  Ta.

Anne: Now how long do you think you'd be — do you want to keep going with this?  Or do you like the variety, you know, the TV and then the stage and then other stuff.  What would you like?

Paul: Oh look, I'd be a mug if I said I didn't enjoy the regularity of a job like this, particularly because umm, ahh two days ago, my wife gave birth to our first child, and umm, and so I —

Anne: How long ago? Two days ago?

Paul: Two days ago.  

Anne: Is that right?

Paul: She had a natural childbirth, and ahh, our baby's at home with her now.  And everything's fine.  

Anne: How won — what, what, what sort of baby?  Boy or —

Paul: (smiles)  It's a, it's a human species baby.

Anne: (laughs)  Oh, good.

Paul: It's a, it's a young girl.  Izalea.  And ahh, welcome to the world, Izalea.

Anne: How gorgeous!

Paul: Thank you, my darling wife, I love you.

Anne: Oh, I'm so, oh I'm getting a bit teary here.

Paul: Oh no, don't do that, don't do that, it's fine, everything's good.  It's all, it's all above board and it's all, we're very very happy.

Anne: This is what, part of your plan as well in life?  To be a Dad?

Paul: Look, umm, to be, to have the honour and the privilege of, to be working in a job like this at a time like this, I feel very honoured.  And to be working with great people and to have these sorts of things happening in my life, it just feels like everything's going very very well.

Anne: Actually it's quite good, because actors sometimes do struggle a bit for work, sometimes comes and goes.  But not for you I think.

Paul: I think there's a statistic that, that rates unemployment at around ninety-five percent.  And ahh, I count my lucky stars everyday.

Anne: Gee whiz.

Paul: And umm, yeah.  I'm very fortunate.

Anne: Is your wife an actress too?

Paul: No, she's not.  She's just...

Anne: She's a sensible girl probably, just keeping the...

Paul: (laughs)  Yeah.

Anne: Now what about Izalea? Where did you get that name from?  That's a rather gorgeous name.

Paul: It's a derivative of her gran — of my wife's grandmother's name.  She has a beautiful soul as well.

Anne: Oh, how wonderful — oh I'm getting all emotional.

Paul: Anyway.

Anne: Now yes, back to er, Queensland where you grew up.

Paul: Yeah.

Anne: Nice and warm, now you're in Melbourne.

Paul: Yeah.

Anne: Comparisons there?

Paul: Ahh, comparisons are vast, vastly different, I must admit I love Queensland, I've had a great time there.  And to be in Melbourne, in a new city, and living here and being set up as we are, is a, it's really wonderful.  And the weather I love.  It's great.

Anne: Yeah, actually, did you umm —

Paul: Change of season...

Anne: ... you were happy with Melbourne with the tour.

Paul: Yeah.

Anne: Did you er, always want to be an actor, or did you come from that sort of family who was —

Paul: No, no, a friend — well, there are actually quite a few ahh, there are a few other actors in the genetic pool.  Umm, however my, my beginnings began, a friend of mine put up my name down on the audition list for a school musical, and I reluctantly went along, and umm, and there began a love and a fascination — with people.  And it's that which has sort of underpinned my whole career, really.  Just a, a deep kind of, a desire to understand how people work and what they do to each other, and acting's been just a fantastic way to explore, and I've been very lucky to have been able to make a career out of it this far.

Anne: Oh, sure, and also studying people, then trying to sort of, compromise...

Paul: Yeah.

Anne: ... must be a bit of fun.

Paul: Yeah.  It's a, a very rewarding job, especially when you're in a situation like this, and — it's great.

Anne: Well look, we're really pleased for you Paul.  We're thrilled to have you back...

Paul: Thank you very much.

Anne: ... on Blue Heelers on the Seven network, and er, I must say congratulations, on er, the bits that I've seen, it's been a terrific career, you're a really good actor, I must say.

Paul: Thank you.  I hope you enjoy the rest of the bit.

Anne: (laughs)  Indeed.  Paul, and enjoy fatherhood.  I think that's absolutely wonderful.

Paul: I love it.

Anne: Paul Bishop, thanks for joining us here, he's playing Ben Stewart on Blue Heelers, it's on tonight.

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