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Neighbours

EXCLUSIVE: Jackson Gallagher spills on his Neighbours debut, a Home And Away return and his best role yet - fatherhood

"It’s a part of my life, a really wild and enriching part, that I have a lot of love for.''

By Helen Vnuk
For Jackson Gallagher, living in locked-down Melbourne has had its challenges. But the actor has found a positive side to the many months spent at home – spending time with his son, doing things like craft and painting.
"Usually I spend a lot of time travelling for work," he says. "It's been really lovely, actually, just to do a lot of dad time."
Jackson, who most recently starred in Playing For Keeps, is about to return to our screens for a guest role in Neighbours. His character, Nathan "Packo" Packard, has a history with the Canning family.
"He was a wayward youth," Jackson explains. "Kyle Canning (Chris Milligan) and Packo ran in similar circles when they were teenagers."
Kyle asks Packo to come to Erinsborough to help heal the family trauma involving Levi (Richie Morris). Packo does. But then he runs into Bea (Bonnie Anderson).
"Sparks fly," Jackson explains. "And there ensues the love triangle, because Bea and Levi are on again, off again."
Look out Erinsborough, Jackson, or should we say Nathan, is in town. (Image: Channel Ten)
But COVID restrictions on set made it tricky to film romantic scenes.
"It's challenging to come in and play a love interest but have no physical touch between the characters," Jackson says.
"How can you create a sense of attraction and intimacy with this person without touching them? It comes down to long intense gazing, really."
With Bonnie, there was an added complication. The actress, who was secretly wowing audiences as Bushranger on The Masked Singer, had to spend two weeks self-isolating when there was a COVID outbreak among the show's crew.
"That made it interesting," Jackson adds. "During that period, our scenes became FaceTime scenes through the phone."
He says the adjustments that Neighbours has made so it can keep filming in Melbourne are "really impressive".
"That show just keeps going. Not even a pandemic can stop it."
Jackson stole our hearts in Playing For Keeps alongside Olympia Valance. (Image: Bauer Syndication)
Jackson's first TV role was in The Saddle Club, but the role he's probably best known for is Josh Barrett in Home And Away. He has nothing but good memories of the show, and has remained close with many of the cast, four years after leaving.
"My friendship with Philippa Northeast [who played his love interest Evie] came out of Home And Away and she's still one of my closest friends today."
Although Josh ended up being sentenced to jail for murder, Jackson is open to the idea of returning to Summer Bay one day.
"I like to work," he says. "If it lined up at the right time and it made sense, why not?"
Jackson was already in his twenties when he started playing the teenage Josh.
"I think it would be quite challenging as a 17 or 18-year-old to get thrust into that world," he says.
"When I think back on that time I am very grateful that I was a little bit older, I'd been at university, had lived overseas, I had a really supportive partner at the time and family around me to keep a good grasp of reality."
Jackson was beloved as teen heartthrob Josh in Home And Away. (Channel Seven)
Still, when he became a dad, Jackson found there weren't many other fathers in his social circle.
"When I was going through that early years I was like, 'Oh, okay, where do I find the fathers' groups, the other men who are going through this, to chat about it, apart from my own father?'"
"I had a yearning for other fathers, young fathers, in my life."
Jackson loves being a dad. (Instagram)
Being a photographer as well as an actor, Jackson started taking photos of other fathers with their children. Recently he's shot actors Charlie Clausen and Tom Wren.
"It's a really a beautiful experience to share with other men, to photograph dads with their kids and then talk about their experience of fatherhood. I feel very lucky that I've been doing that."
Jackson, now 30, says parenthood has changed him, "in a great way".
"It's a part of my life, a really wild and enriching part, that I have a lot of love for."
WATCH: Home And Away stars Jake Speer, Scott Lee, Jackson Gallagher and Tai Hara play "would you rather"?

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