When Ben Mingay awoke at 4 o’clock one morning, he checked his emails and saw he’d been sent the scripts for an ABC TV comedy drama.
The 1989-set series created by UK-based Australian comedian Sarah Kendall is set in Newcastle, which struck a chord with the Novocastrian-born actor/performer.
He started reading, laughing so loud and so often he woke up his wife, and didn’t stop until he had read all five episodes of Frayed he’d been sent.
Ben was asked to audition for the role of Jim, the brother of Kendall’s Sammy, a fabulously wealthy London housewife. Sammy is forced to forced to return to her Newcastle hometown with her two kids after her husband died while having sex with a prostitute.
He nailed the part after doing chemistry reads with Kendall, with whom he had an instant rapport (“we were riffing like we were actually brother and sister”) and with Doris Younane, who plays Bev, Jim’s partner.
Jim is a driving instructor who still lives with his mother (Kerry Armstrong) and has an animal magnetism with the manipulative Bev.
“I just had to play the role as I grew up in that sort of world in Newcastle,” he tells IF from Perth, where he is in rehearsals for the West Australian Opera production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, in which he plays the title role.
“It’s hilarious; I had never read writing like that. Sarah is such a huge talent. And it was an absolute blessing to have the producers (Merman Television’s Clelia Mountford and Nicole O’Donohue) on the set every day.”
Shaun Wilson and Jen Leacey directed the six-part series which is the first co-production between the ABC and the UK’s Sky.
Ben Mingay in ‘Frayed’ (Photo credit: Lisa Tomasetti).
It was Mingay’s first TV gig since he played Alan Bond in the 2017 CJZ/Nine Network miniseries House of Bond, with Rachael Taylor as Diana Bliss, Adrienne Pickering as Eileen Bond and Sam Neill as Roland “Tiny” Rowland. Fearing it would take a while to shake off the Bond persona, he grew a beard.
A graduate of the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music who made his stage debut in HAIR The Musical in 2003, he enjoys alternating between musical theatre and plays and recurring roles in the TV series Wonderland, Home and Away and Packed to the Rafters.
In 2004 he moved to New York to star in Dirty Dancing but his Broadway career came to a screeching halt when his visa was revoked after the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike.
He came back to Newcastle for a year, working in construction, and then sent an audition tape to Randy Newman for the lead role in Newman’s musical Harps and Angels. He was offered the gig but could not get a visa.
“My dad told me to get back on the horse of performing and not to lose sight of my dream,” he recalls. “That put a rocket up me.”
His stage credits include Oklahoma, Swing on This, An Officer and a Gentleman, Jersey Boys, The Phantom of the Opera and Rolling Thunder Vietnam.
After Sweeney Todd wraps in late July he will head to Melbourne to see his wife, actress Kirby Burgess, who will be appearing in Bring it On – The Musical. Beyond that, he is optimistic that Frayed will be renewed and he is circling another project which would happen in November.