Reality TV

Samuel Johnson: Behind the smile of the nicest man in Australia

''I'd definitely say it's probably my life's biggest sadness. And in a way, the more time goes by, the more it hurts.''
Loading the player...

If you’ve ever been to a live taping of Dancing With The Stars, it’s a spectacle for the senses.

The air is electrifying – with an enthusiastic audience and incredible cast of professional dancers guiding their celebrity partners.

But there is one star who seems to shine just that little bit brighter.

He’s the first to congratulate his fellow dancers with a handshake and a pat on the back, with a smile so huge, it lights up the entire room.

That star is actor, Gold Logie winner and cancer advocate, Samuel Johnson.

It’s hard not love this man. He’s goofy, fun, talented and incredibly sensitive with a heart the size of a mountain – but behind his infectious smile, is a life filled with tragedy, mental health struggles and loss.

Here we take a look at the nicest man in Australia and how he’s come to be, well, Samuel Johnson.

Samuel Johnson – the nicest guy in Australia! (Source: Getty Images)


Samuel, 41, was born in Victoria to an already established family of four – his mum and dad, and two sisters Constance (Connie) and Hilde.

When he was just a toddler, Sam lost his mum to suicide, leaving his father to raise three young children on his own.

She would be the first of three key women in his life to die, shaping him to be a man filled with compassion and empathy for those around him and above all, someone who wants to live life to the fullest.

“I was too young to really gauge the effects of it, but she had all kinds of psychosis, she was in and out of institutions,” Johnson told Anh Do in 2017, speaking about his mother’s mental health issues..

“She was in and out of institutions — she tried over and over again … countless times.

“By the time she eventually succeeded, I’m told there was a bit of relief, for her. According to my older sister, it was probably best that I didn’t grow up with her.”

READ NEXT: Samuel Johnson reveals both his mother and former girlfriend committed suicide

Samuel with artist and comedian, Anh Do. (Source: Facebook / Love Your Sister)

By the age of 14, the actor had performed in his first school play and was discovered by the wife of director Fred Schepisi, Rhonda.

His first foray into acting happened by chance.

“So I figuratively got a phone call on the first night I’d ever been in a play,” he told The Age in 2007.

“She [Rhonda] marched me to the union and demanded that they give me a card, and then she drove me to an agent and demanded they take me on.

“It was somewhat fortuitous and I happened to get the first 20 or so jobs I went for. This career was certainly not designed by me.”

These jobs were a financial miracle for his father. Now the young actor was able to pay for his way through private school at Melbourne’s Wesley College, before helping his family set up a chain of second-hand bookstores – Book Lore.

“[And] by the end of the first term, I was earning enough to pay for the school fees that we couldn’t afford. I was very lucky. I got an opportunity and I made the most of it,” Sam said.

Samuel and his sister, Connie. (Source: Instagram/@loveyoursister)


While playing writer Evan Wylde on the hit show The Secret Life of Us was certainly his breakout moment, Johnson had smaller roles, including as Sally Fletcher’s (Kate Ritchie) first boyfriend on Home and Away.

The pair even shared an on-screen kiss, which he later revealed was more special than just a television scene.

“Kate Ritchie was my first kiss. Not my first screen kiss. My first real, actual kiss. And it was on-screen!” he admitted in Instagram post.

“Many years later I hid from her when we were shooting Underbelly II, because I was so embarrassed.”

WATCH NEXT: Samuel Johnson kisses Kate Ritchie on Home and Away. Story continues after video.

Loading the player...

After appearances on Rush, the mini series After the Deluge and even a cameo on Wilfred, Johnson starred in the titular role in the miniseries Molly.

For his portrayal of music scene legend, Molly Meldrum, the insanely talented actor was awarded with a TV Week Gold Logie – to a standing ovation and the highest of praise from fans around the country.

READ NEXT: Samuel Johnson’s Gold Logie acceptance speech

Samuel as Molly Meldrum in Molly. (Source: Channel 7)

Most recently, he has put on his dancing shoes as a contestant on Network Ten’s Dancing With The Stars, cha cha-ing himself all the way to the grand final.


While Samuel’s career continues to soar, his personal life has been far from perfect – marred by severe tragedy.

In 2006, Johnson’s ex-girlfriend, Lainie Woodlands, committed suicide just hours after he broke up with her.

“The love of my life hanged herself,” the then 38-year-old revealed on Anh Do’s Brush With Fame.

“I’d definitely say it’s probably my life’s biggest sadness. And in a way, the more time goes by, the more it hurts.

“You know how they reckon that you come to terms with your grief as you go along? Not with this one.

“With every year it gets more profound. My sadness grows.”

The DWTS contestant described her death as, “a great loss – one that I feel a lot more profoundly than the loss of my mother”.


After losing his mother, tragedy would strike the Johnsons once again and this time, in the form of cancer.

At just 11 years old, Sam’s older sister Connie would receive her first cancer diagnosis – bone cancer in her leg.

“I looked over at my dad, he was just white … he was curled up on the couch, weeping, bawling,” he recalled.

Connie would then be diagnosed with uterine cancer at the age of 22, followed by breast cancer at the age of 33.

In 2012, “Samuel Seal” and “Connie Cottonsocks” founded the Love Your Sister charity which aimed to raise $10 million for cancer research.

WATCH NEXT: Remembering Connie Johnson

Story continues after video…

Loading the player...

In 2013, Sam left Melbourne on his unicycle and rode 15,000kms around Australia to raise one million dollars for their charity. After 364 days on the road, he finished the cycle with a world record and $1.5million.

Then in May 2017, the siblings made history when The Big Heart Project, an initiative of Love Your Sister, raised $2.2 million for cancer research at the Garvan Institute.

The pair had asked Aussies to donate their 5c coins with an aim to build the longest line of coins, but as the project gained momentum, they changed their approach and decided to build an enormous heart on the Lyneham netball courts in Canberra.

The incredible heart donated by the “Love Your Sister village” was able to be seen from space and the sheer love and support was overwhelming.

Connie Johnson in the middle of the 5c coin heart for the Big Heart Project. (Source: Love Your Sister)

On 8 September the same year, Connie lost her battle with cancer, a day after being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.

“We lost Connie today. Or, as she asked me to say, she died of cancer today. It was so beautiful. We laughed, we cried, we sang stupid songs from our childhood to her, which she loved (mostly!),” Sam wrote on Facebook.

“I read her so many village messages, which she relished. She went so richly, and with such grace. Trust me, she was genuinely cushioned by your love, till the end.”

Samuel and his beautiful sister, Connie. (Source: Love Your Sister)

On March 12 this year, Samuel announced that Love Your Sister was partnering with the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute.

And then, during the semi-finals on Dancing, Samuel revealed that they had reached $9.1 million in donations.

Taking to his Facebook page before the show, he urged viewers to forgo voting for him.

“Being that SMS votes cost 55c and NONE of the proceeds go to charity, I’m asking that you forget voting for me and consider donating 55c to cancer research instead?” he wrote.

“I’ve even created a special 55c button! Unforch it’s not deductible, because it’s less than two bucks. I cannot work harder for your donation and appreciate your consideration regardless.”

Then he thanked fans for their continued support.

“If I get the boot, it won’t be because I f–ked up. No way. I am so happy that I’ve not repped you poorly,” he wrote.

“So thanks for inspiring me to get clean and clear. Thanks for giving me something to dance for.”

WATCH NEXT: Sam dances for Connie

Story continues…

Loading the player...

If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s the fact that Samuel Johnson is resilient.

Through adversity, tragedy and just plain awful-luck, he exudes a positivity that cannot be beaten.

With his open heart, incredible positive attitude and brutal honesty, he is the epitome of strength.

Hey, Australia! Be more like Samuel Johnson. The world needs more people like him.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14

‘Love Your Sister’ is a million-strong village of everyday Aussies committed to vanquishing all cancers with hard science. To donate or find out more, click here

Related stories

Unwind and relax with your favourite magazine!

Huge savings plus FREE home delivery