Luke Arnold had expected to spend this year "on the other side of the planet", until COVID-19 changed his plans. Then Home And Away came knocking, along with a personal invitation from Sam Frost.
Luke had met the actress "briefly, in passing" a few years ago.
"She seemed like just an amazing person," the 36-year-old tells TV WEEK.
Sam, who plays Jasmine Delaney, heard Luke was being talked about for a role on the show.
So she got in touch.
"She reached out to give me her blessing and recommend that I come join her for a bit of Summer Bay fun," he remembers. "So that was a really nice way to have someone reach out to me about a potential gig."
On Home And Away, Luke plays nurse Lewis Hayes, an old friend of Jasmine's.
At uni, they were good mates who "went from flirty to probably hooking up once or twice". When they bump into each other again, they both feel a connection.
"Jasmine's a lot like Sam – a warm, lovely, beautiful person – and I think Lewis feels that really quickly," Luke explains.
The actor has appeared in plenty of TV shows over the years, including four seasons of US pirate drama Black Sails.
To Australian viewers, he's probably best known for playing Michael Hutchence in the 2014 miniseries INXS: Never Tear Us Apart, the role that earned him a TV WEEK Logie Award.
He admits he found playing a rock star "addictive".
"I did go back to Black Sails and had some of my fellow pirates comment that I was walking, with a lot more swagger than I left season one with," he says with a laugh. "And occasionally, I was flicking my hair in a way that wasn't particularly in line with the time period and the character I was playing!
"But then I did a whole bunch of CrossFit with some angry South African personal trainers and that bashed most of that out of me."
After Black Sails, Luke went on to play Freedom, the uninhibited lover of Heather Graham's character Honey in the 2018 movie Half Magic.
"I joke that my a*se has been on camera as much as my face," he says. "I do tend to get my gear off in a lot of projects."
When Luke signed on for Home And Away, he decided to get back in shape. As it turns out, he might not have needed to.
"I went and got some protein powder again [and] hit the gym… but I think I maybe over-prepared for the role," he says. "Lewis is a nurse and dresses like he wants to be a guitarist in an indie band, so he's definitely not a River Boy. And he doesn't pick up a surfboard – well, he hasn't yet."
In between acting roles, Luke spends a lot of his time alone in a room, writing. His second fantasy novel, Dead Man In A Ditch, has just been published.
As for being labelled "sexy", as Luke frequently is, he finds that "pretty funny". Apart from the time he spends writing novels, he also puts a lot of his money into making short films.
"I put a lot of stuff out into the world," he says.
"I really think about it and put care into it. But none of that gets as much attention as when I undo a few buttons and a photographer takes a picture!"
But Luke knows he's lucky to be able to be both an actor and a writer.
"Being an actor is harder work than people realise," he says. "But it's also the greatest job in the world. Being able to bounce between the two is a dream."