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Alex stays focused on the big picture

Features

Former Rostrevor College student Alex Cusack can relate to the character Andy who he plays in the new SBS drama The Hunting.

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Andy is one of four teenagers who get caught up in the sharing of explicit photos of their underage friends online in the four-part series starring Asher Keddie (Offspring) and Richard Roxburgh (Rake).

“I’m proud of how I have been able to alter my behaviour…I definitely made a lot of mistakes when I was 15 or 16 and I didn’t always treat people with the respect they deserve.”

The 19-year-old Rostrevor College old scholar arrived by electric bicycle for his interview with The Southern Cross just weeks into the screening of The Hunting and hot on the heels of making it to the semi-finals of Channel 9’s popular Ninja Warrior TV program.

Despite his overnight success on the small screen Alex has his feet firmly planted on the ground, thanks partly to the ribbing he has received from his six siblings and the Rostrevor boarders whom he supervises on weekends.

“They bring me down to earth in the best way possible, there’s no way I could ever get a big head with the awesome people around me,” he says.

“The boys in the boarding house all walk around saying ‘Andy’.”

Asked if he’d been recognised by anyone on the streets, he laughs and says only by someone who already knew him. And while he now has an agent and has been for a couple of auditions for other productions, he’s not holding out hopes of a Hollywood career just yet.

In fact, he hasn’t even studied drama. At school he was into sport and studying (not to mention socialising) but then he started writing poetry as a “cathartic experience” and a way of expressing his emotions. It was at a poetry reading session that director Sophie Hyde asked him and a few others to audition for The Hunting. He went along thinking he was trying out for an extra role and ended up being chosen for one of the main characters.

Alex says his first experience of acting was “awesome” and “if every acting role was like that it would be an amazing career path to take”.

But he admits he “felt like an idiot” when he was shooting a scene on a bus where he had to yell out the window. “We were doing the last take and they said ‘action’ and as I go to throw my head out the window I smack my nose on the windowsill. I had this cut that was bleeding and had to be patched up with makeup.”

While Alex may have once been a typical teenager like Andy who doesn’t think about the consequences of his actions, he is a far cry from that now. Not only does he volunteer at Edmund Rice camps for disadvantaged kids up to seven times a year and for Fred’s Van three times a month, in April last year he spent 48 hours alone on a boat to raise awareness and funds for the work of the UNHCR in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.

Shocked to discover that 65.6 million people in the world are displaced, he wanted to “act as a mirror to show to as many people as possible what is going on in the world and how desperate people must be”.

Alex is equally passionate about his involvement in ‘Eddie Rice’ camps which has included a variety of roles from camp coordinator to pastoral care facilitator and group leader.

“There’s this spirit, this energy that isn’t replicated anywhere else…it’s so empowering, everyone is growing, everyone’s having fun, enjoying each other’s company in this week-long experience,” he explains.

“It’s for kids who don’t really get the chance to be kids. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen is this little kid who was just looking in the mirror, he was a bit of a tough kid, and then he blows himself a kiss.”

But he says one of the most “powerful” experiences in his life and a turning point for him was an immersion trip to India with Rostrevor College in 2016.

“It changed me completely,” he says.

“Seeing these kids who have terribly debilitating deformities of the body or mind left in cots and attended by half a dozen nuns was really confronting…seeing the expanse of such abject poverty and how deeply it can cut the human soul and spirit.”

But he says he also found hope in the smiles on the faces of the Sisters who work there. “They were such wonderfully happy and motivated people,” he says.

“When you have the opportunity to see right into the eyes of the poor, you can’t just be grateful for what you’ve got, you also have to have a desire to allow others to enjoy those things as well.”

The Hunting can be seen on SBS on Demand.

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