Samuel Johnson never shied away from being the very public face of his sister Connie’s fight against cancer – and of the Love Your Sister campaign.
But now, following Connie’s passing on September 8, Samuel Johnson says it’s time to push “pause” on his public persona and give himself time to grieve privately.
“I’m taking five days off, and I’m going to just go and breathe,” Sam, 39, tells TV WEEK following the private funeral in Canberra last week.
“I just want to lie in a paddock, look at the clouds, put my iPod on and listen to my Connie songs – just grieve in my own way,” he says. “I have to hold it together.”
Holding it together has been one of Sam’s hallmarks. He’s proved time and again that he bounces back from the brink better than most.
That said, in the wake of his sister’s death, Sam concedes he was inspired by Connie’s husband, Mike. He points to his brother-in-law’s eulogy as testament to his bravery.
“To me, the service was all about the strength of character Mike showed,” Sam reveals. “He stood up when it counted, looked his boys square in the eye and gave them permission to let go of all the pain.
“He also gave them permission to let go of the ‘darkness’ and the cancer they’d lived with for their whole lives – and promised them a new beginning.
“What a wonderful gift. It was extraordinary. I’m so proud of my brother.”
Connie’s young sons, Willoughby and Hamilton, have been through a journey well beyond their years.
Sam says they’re doing as well as can be expected, given the situation.
“I’ve no worries about the boys, medium to long-term,” Sam says. “They’re well- equipped, well-supported and will grow to be fine men.”
It’s no secret Sam is a man of boundless love and energy.
While he will now help Mike raise Connie’s kids, you might wonder whether Sam dreams of having his own children one day.
“I kind of am a dad,” he answers. “I have so many beautiful kids in my life, I struggle to show them the amount of love and affection I want to.
“I’ve always ended up with the stragglers, the orphans, with the kids whose dads have left. I don’t think they need to come from me to be my kids. I see myself as a father.”
It’s easy to forget that Sam, the man now determined to “kick cancer to the kerb” is an acclaimed actor too.
In fact, it was only a few months ago that he took home the TV WEEK Gold Logie Award for his work in the Channel Seven miniseries Molly.
It was another moment in a year of indelible highs and lows. So does he see himself returning to his first love, acting?
“It’s open-ended,” he says. “I said I’d reconsider once we raised 10 million bucks. We’re only on 7.5 million, [so] it’s not even something I can afford to think about now.”
And what if the dream role came along?
“After we’ve reached our goal and there’s a clear benefit for the charity, I’ll consider it,” he declares. “But at this stage, I’d say the chances of that are slim to none.”
It’s clear that, for the time being, Sam’s focus is on finding a way to survive his grief and get the job done.
“Yes, I am grieving, but the one thing Connie taught me is that this is bigger than my feelings,” he shares.
“This is the most crucial time for Love Your Sister – especially now that we don’t have Connie’s guidance.
“I’m determined not to screw it up. I have to get this perfect, whether Connie is dead or alive. Perfection is never good enough – she taught me that and I’ll keep striving for it.”