Dec 2020 Now to Love
Fans of the show will already know this, but we're going to say it again: Neighbours is one of Australia's most incredible productions. Leaps and bounds ahead of many others, they gave us Australia's first same-sex TV wedding, introduced transgender character Mackenzie, played by trans actress Georgie Stone, and now they're welcoming Australia's first actor with a cochlear implant – Nathan Borg. The news couldn't come at a better time as Thursday December 3 marked International Day Of People With Disabilities.
It hasn't been an easy journey to land a gig on our screens and represent hearing impaired people, in our exclusive chat with Nathan he reveals he faced many professionals "telling me to cover my disability" and at one stage was "kicked-out of a full-time acting course and told to choose a different career path”. Despite the abhorrent treatment, Nathan persevered and landed a role as Ramsay Street's next resident, Curtis.
How did you land your role on Neighbours?
I was very, very nervous, but I called Neighbours about myself as an actor and how I thought we should have a character with a cochlear implant on our screens. I believed it was time for a change. I had to do an audition with the Neighbours' casting director, which was a memorable experience and a month later I got the role. For a year I worked closely with the Executive and Script Producer and Story Editor to develop the character and storyline for Curtis.
What's it like being the first Aussie actor with a cochlear implant on our screens?
I have to admit, it's quite surreal to be the first Aussie actor with a cochlear implant. It's great that we are taking steps forward to diversify the Australian film and television industry. For the past 7 years I always said that I would work hard to become the first Aussie actor with a cochlear implant. I knew it wasn't going to be easy... which it wasn't, but I was never going to give up.
It's an incredible feat, but we sadly can't imagine it was an easy one…
I had many professionals and mentors telling me to cover my disability, to grow my hair out to cover my cochlear implant and to never speak about my disability or else I would never be successful in Australia. I was kicked out of a full-time acting course and was told to choose a different career path. I gave up on Australia and decided to try make it in America because they were a bit more inclusive at the time, but that didn't work out either, so I went back to Australia to keep fighting. It is truly a blessing to finally see my hard work being recognised.
Are you hoping to be a role model or example to young kids who don't often see themselves on our TVs?
I'd really love to be a role model for young kids who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a disability. I want to show all kids growing up in our day and age that everyone is beautiful in their own unique way. I get very excited when I meet young kids who are like me because I didn't grow up meeting many people like myself. I feel somewhat responsible to take that step and be a role model for them, someone they can grow up watching on screen to relate to and feel represented.
Does your experience on set/filming differ much from an actor who isn't hard of hearing?
My experience is really no different on set compared to an actor who isn't hard of hearing. I may have to ask the cast and crew to repeat themselves when the set gets loud, but honestly there's no major difference. I am here to prove to the Australian film and television industry that no matter what, even with a cochlear implant, I will work just as hard as anyone else, as will any other actor with a disability.
Tell us a bit about your character…
Curtis Perkins has just graduated university and has arrived in Erinsborough for a fresh start. He is very excited to start his dream job at Erinsborough High. He is very passionate about helping his students achieve their goals and goes above and beyond for them. He's a bit of jokester and knows a little bit of humour is the best way to deal with life. Curtis is here to prove he's the best man for the job... no pressure! Curtis arrives with no intention to cause trouble which will be a nice change for the residents of Ramsay Street, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have secrets of his own!
Are you similar or different?
Curtis and I are both passionate about chasing our dreams and not letting anyone stop us. Curtis is extremely smart, he's a maths and physics wiz… I'll just stick to acting! Haha! It's quite funny, I arrive to set each day in oversized comfy clothes and runners, whereas Curtis is always in classy clothes and suit shoes. I now have a couple of heel blisters to go along with that! Haha! And one more thing I should definitely mention, we both obviously have a cochlear implant!