/assets/images/headerlogos/TVWEEK-logo.svg
TV

EXCLUSIVE: Dr Chris Brown opens up on The Living Room casts' special bond and why he doubted the show would take off

''I wasn’t sure if we’d make it – it’s tough out there.''

Just over 10 years ago, The Living Room team got together for the first time. It was a sink-or-swim moment for the four strangers as they gathered at Network 10 in the hopes of making a lifestyle program together.
They were from very different backgrounds, but Amanda Keller, Dr Chris Brown, Miguel Maestre and Barry Du Bois felt an instant connection. Years on, Chris still remembers what he and Amanda thought of Spanish chef Miguel.
"We spent a large part of the next hour just looking at each other, going, 'Who is this force of nature with the Spanish accent?'" the vet tells TV WEEK.
Amanda Keller, Dr Chris Brown, Miguel Maestre and Barry Du Bois felt an instant connection. (Ten)
Amanda says she'd never met anyone like him before.
"It took me a while to get a handle on Miguel, considering he's now one of my closest friends," the 59-year-old recalls.
"Nothing is bunged on. That Energizer bunny Spaniard, that's exactly how he is. And in TV, you don't normally meet people like that."
Despite his outgoing nature, Miguel admits he was "very nervous" and wasn't sure his credentials matched the others'.
"I remember my wife Sascha saying, 'Just try not to stuff it up,'" Miguel recalls with a laugh. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to stand up in that situation. I couldn't find parking on the day, I thought I'd be late… But in the screen test, we just clicked."
As for Barry, he'd met Amanda before on his show The Renovators and knew they would be in each other's lives forever.
TLR's final episode for the year will see Miguel dropping around to Amanda's house to cook. (Ten)
"I fell in love with Amanda the day I met her and she's remained one of my closest friends," he says. "Chris and Miguel are like younger brothers to me and sometimes I feel like I'm a mentor figure to them. We're so different in so many regards, but it just works."
Amanda had a "great feeling" about the potential of The Living Room as soon as she knew he would be on it.
"I just thought, 'You know what? This feels good. This feels right.'"
Chris, however, wasn't as convinced the show would take off.
"The first year, I wasn't sure," the 43-year-old admits. "I felt we were doing a good show, but I wasn't sure if we'd make it – it's tough out there. And then, in the second year, it just clicked. I think people got us and what we're up to, and the show went from strength to strength."
Amanda had a "great feeling" about the potential of The Living Room as soon as she knew he would be on it. (Ten)
Since then, The Living Room has gone on to win the hearts of many, along with several TV WEEK Logie Awards. But it's their enduring friendship the foursome is most proud of.
"We're so entrenched in each other's lives," Miguel, 42, says. "At the core, we're still the same people we were 10 years ago. Things have changed in our lives – some of our children weren't even born. Gringo [Chris] and I have travelled together, Amanda and Barry have done inspiring things. The show has grown so much too, but our core and values are the same."
A lot of their friendship is on show every week on the box as they banter on the couch or travel the globe meeting folk. Chris jokes that travelling with Miguel is "like travelling with a child". He once paid another passenger $200 to borrow his iPad so Miguel wouldn't get too bored during the flight.
"He can't sit still," he says. "He starts singing to himself… he gets really restless and starts kicking his seat, so he needs to be occupied. I don't have kids yet, but I feel like I've had a hell of a rehearsal!" he says with a laugh.
However, Miguel points out that Chris also keeps him on his toes.
"Earlier this year, we arrived at a sauna after a gorgeous bike ride in Tasmania. Gringo tells me we're going in naked! I had no idea," Miguel says. "I said, "I can't do that. Gringo, I have children!' But it was hilarious and all real."
The co-hosts have also had their share of heartache over the years, none more so than when Barry revealed his cancer had returned as incurable multiple myeloma in 2018. He was first diagnosed with plasmacytoma, a cancer of the immune system, in 2010. Yet the design expert refuses to look at the negatives They are "hurdles" course, but Barry, 61, refuses to define himself as a man who's living with cancer.
"There's only one Barry and that's Barry who's living – and doing his best to live every day like there's no tomorrow," he explains.
"I give this advice to my children: whatever you want to see in the mirror, that's what you should project. I look for joy, support and love – and I try to project that onto others. I don't see adversity in my life. In my opinion, a bad day is just a day before a great day."
Chris wasn't convinced the show would take off. (Ten)
Amanda thinks Barry is simply "amazing" for his positive outlook on life.
"We always made jokes about his hair and ego, but to be honest, he really wants to see things better for everybody else," she says. "His family is everything to him, but he wants to leave a legacy beyond just that."
As much as Amanda has supported Barry, he has supported her too. During lockdown, when they couldn't catch up for their usual cuppa, they would text or call.
"When we found out I was sick the second time around, Amanda said to me, 'If it was anyone else, I'd be worried. But because it's you, I'm not,'" Barry recalls.
As Christmas approaches, family is on the minds of the TLR team. For Amanda, she's been feeling bad about her sons, Liam and Jack, having to spend so much time in lockdown due to COVID-19. She hopes they can travel to Queensland to see her dad and brother.
"Since that very first day, we've built an incredibly close connection that only gets stronger. We are family." (Ten)
"I can do without a social life – I don't need to be doing any of those things – but a 20-year-old and an 18-year-old really do need those things. I felt for Jack. All the 18th birthdays came and went," she says. "I haven't seen my dad, who's in his late 80s, for a year, so we're really looking forward to all being together."
Chris, meanwhile, is heading home to Newcastle, NSW.
"Mum, health-wise, isn't the best, so it will be nice to spend some time with her and Dad," he says.
For Barry and Miguel, it's all about the kids as their younger ones enjoy the festivities of the season. The chef is excited to bring together his entire family – including his parents who live in Spain and have been separated during the global pandemic.
"After three years, we've managed to bring them here," he says. "I'm so excited to be around the table with my mum and dad, eating amazing food."
"The space we provide on a Friday night is a beautiful space to be in." (Ten)
Barry will be relishing every moment with his wife Leonie and nine-year-old twins Bennet and Arabella, who continue to make him smile every day.
TLR's final episode for the year will see Miguel dropping around to Amanda's house to cook. It's not dissimilar to what actually happens when the show finishes filming for the year.
"We all feel a bit adrift from each other, so it's a great excuse for us to hang out," Amanda explains.
After all, 10 years of friendship is something worth celebrating. And for this awesome foursome, life with each other doesn't get much better than this.
"The space we provide on a Friday night is a beautiful space to be in," Barry says. "I'm so proud of who we are. Since that very first day, we've built an incredibly close connection that only gets stronger. We are family."

read more from

/assets/images/headerlogos/TVWEEK-logo.svg