Lincoln Younes realised something early on while bunkered down in lockdown in Los Angeles last year. With most productions there shut down due to the pandemic, he couldn't work. But the actor could learn to enjoy simple pleasures.
"I cooked a lot," the 29-year-old tells TV WEEK. "Being Lebanese, I would cook ridiculous amounts of food, then I would go around LA, giving them to friends and it made me feel connected in a way. I couldn't see my friends, so I'd leave them food parcels outside their door and do my Lebanese family proud."
Even celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay found out about Lincoln's culinary skills, sending him an expletive-laden (of course) message of encouragement, which the former Home And Away star later attributed to the efforts of LA-based friend, Dancing With The Stars' Renee Bargh.
"There were some very surreal moments for me in isolation," Lincoln says with a laugh.
Not content with becoming a foodie (he also grew his own tomatoes), Lincoln put his DIY skills to the test by restoring a rusty bird-feeder he found in his backyard.
"I thought, 'I'd love to see some hummingbirds in my tiny little garden'," he recalls. "I cleaned it up and spent three months trying to lure hummingbirds. And then they became my friends."
Since August last year, Lincoln has been back home filming the role of hunky jackaroo Tom for season five of Nine Network drama, Doctor Doctor. So committed was he to the role that Lincoln got his motorcycle license, just so he could perfect his "own version of James Dean". Tom's a handy man, something Lincoln can relate to. Kind of.
"I'd like to say I'm a handy guy, but it is quite funny because I got back and did Doctor Doctor and then went back to see my family over Christmas, and there was a bit of life imitating art," he says. "My mum had just bought a new place out in the country and I was put to work doing very similar things I'd been doing on TV!
"It was a good bit of cross-promotion. I was like, 'Oh, I've just learnt this, this is great!' It was nice to get back on the land, and nature, and use my hands."
Lincoln adds that he admires how "present" his character Tom is. "That is something during the pandemic I've tried to work on," he stresses. "Just being in the moment and not worrying too much, because there is a lot of uncertainty and it's good to enjoy moments as they are happening."
"Tom is something of a nomad, and Lincoln can definitely relate to that. Growing up with his mum and younger brother, he moved around a lot. They shifted to big cities and regional cities like Bendigo, in Victoria, and smaller country towns not dissimilar to Doctor Doctor's fictional Whyhope. Moving forces changes, Lincoln acknowledges, and wherever you go, especially in places "as extreme as LA", you need to adapt.
Effortlessly engaging and chatty at our exclusive TV WEEK photo shoot, Lincoln's an easy guy to like. After getting his break on the Foxtel series, Tangle, Lincoln landed in Summer Bay in 2011, playing River Boy Casey Braxton in Home And Away.
Reflecting on his time in the Bay, Lincoln says the show was "like family for a time". "It was a chapter of my life that I will forever be grateful for," he says.
He's rarely been short of work since leaving H&A in 2014, filming roles in local series Hiding, Love Child, Dead Lucky before cracking a main role in the saucy US drama, Grand Hotel, executive-produced by former Desperate Housewives star, Eva Longoria-Baston.
While the show was cancelled after one season, Lincoln is upbeat about the experience of working on a US TV series.
Then there was the thrill of being cast in a main role the pilot for the reboot of the iconic '80s vampire flick, The Lost Boys. While that project is still up in the air, Lincoln is "hopeful" it will get the green light.
"I have so many friends who are incredibly talented, wonderfully kind, amazing people who aren't working," he says. "This industry is very difficult, but you just continually learn. And getting to shoot in places like Miami and in LA, you have to stay that kid who's living his dream.
"I think if you can stay excited in a world that is sometimes isn't, that's important. You can only be who you are." Almost Zen-like, he adds he wants to be the "calm in the chaos".
Lincoln is, for all his success, remarkably grounded. He has a mature perspective on life beyond his years. "I have a lot of wonderful people in my life who've instilled lot of life lessons," he says. "I can attribute it to that."
He owes much to his mum, he admits, who impressed on him the importance of loyalty and "kindness above all". "What I should say is, she taught me that it's better to be kind than right," he explains.
He refers to his mum as "one of the strongest people I know". "She raised us (Lincoln and his brother) in a way that I'm proud of who I am. She was a wonderful support system and still is to this day. It's probably not the easiest thing to hear you kid wants to be an actor.
"But she's a rock star and she's very happy I'm back in the country."
Romantically, Lincoln indicates he is happily riding solo. "I'm staying in my lane for now," he says. "I'm content being a good friend, being a good son, being a good worker. I'm more focused on improving myself and letting things come when they're meant to be."