Leyden made his most notable TV appearance on CBS's soap opera series "AS The World Turns" playing "Simon Fraiser". Now, Leyden is a perfect addition to NBC's new series "LAX", where he stas as a busy airline supervisor, "Tony". Besides good looks, Perhaps Leyden's most appealing charm is his australian accent.. Leyden was born on December 16, 1972, in Melbourne, Victoria, Austalia. One of five children, Leyden was born and raised in Melbourne by his parents, John and Ros. After graduating high school, he attended both Monash University and the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, graduating with degrees in economics and dramatic arts, respectively. The actor starred in the mini-series Tribe, and can be seen in episodes of F.A.R.S.C.A.P.E., Beastmaster and Home and Away. Leyden appeared in the film Under The Gun, and also has a number of regional theater credits. He has also appeared in the daytime drama, As The World Turns. Most recently, he has appeared in episodes of Dragnet and Law & Order, SVU. His last endeavor has been to write, co-produce and direct a 15 minute short film, Liquid Assets. In Melbourne, he and two friends ran Wandering Wolf Productions. Recently he has started a new company, Jackknife Productions. Paul Leyden joined As the World Turns in February 2000 as Simon Frasier. In 2002, he received his first Daytime Emmy nomination, in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor.
In his spare time, Leyden enjoys playing outdoor sports, the saxophone and guitar. Paul Leyden currently resides in New York City.
Paul Leyden is back
Fan favorite PAUL LEYDEN brings his Australian charm and good looks back to Oakdale in January when the presumed dead Simon resurfaces, very much alive. CBS.com chatted with the actor about what he’s been up to since leaving ATWT.
CBS.com: How did your return to the show come about?
PAUL LEYDEN: [Executive Producer] Chris Goutman mentioned that there was a good storyline coming up and the timing was right for me. I said I’d love to do it.
CBS.com: Were you aware that in your absence the fans still talked about your character and thought Katie should remain loyal to him?
PAUL LEYDEN: I’ve been fairly busy since I left, you know, I don’t really monitor it so much. I just get feedback from people, like Terri [Colombino, Katie] and Martha [Byrne, Lily/Rose] and they always mention that people still talk about him, which is flattering. It’s very nice to have made some sort of impact.
CBS.com: What have you been up to since you left?
PAUL LEYDEN: I’d been kind of working for quite a long time before I started on the show and then to come over here and [get settled] in New York and then worked like that for three years, I just needed really to clear my head, that was kind of the main reason [I left]. I’ve done quite a bit of acting work here and back in Australia and I’ve been working on my two feature film scripts, which is what I also wanted to spend more time doing, developing these two films. I’ve shot two short films that are ready to be shown at festivals next year. So, I’ve been busy, combining the acting work and the behind the scenes work as well.
CBS.com: What did you do as far as the behind the scenes work for the short films?
PAUL LEYDEN: The short films I produced, directed, wrote, funded, poured my heart and soul into and came up raw. You know, it’s good. I learned a lot. I just would never want to produce again. To write and direct is enough. Wearing any more hats – I become the mad hatter!
CBS.com: What was it like coming back to the ATWT set?
PAUL LEYDEN: Great! You know, it’s awesome. It’s such an incredible group of people out here. I was welcomed with open arms. They were all so excited to see me and I was so excited to see them. It was like a little reunion – to get back and see all same faces and to pick up the friendships where you left them off. Everyone out here is so into the work and they’re really, really good people.
CBS.com: So, you said you kept in touch with Terri and Martha while you were away.
PAUL LEYDEN: I speak to quite a few people sporadically, but Martha and Terri are definitely my main link to what’s going on [at ATWT]. Everyone out here – I’ve made so many great friendships. That’s the real strong reason I knew when I left that I’d always come back. I never would not want to leave that open so I could come back and hang out.
CBS.com: Is your home base still in New York or are you back in Australia?
PAUL LEYDEN: No, I’m still based in New York. I’ve been back [in Australia] quite a lot this year. And probably in late January, I’ll make the move out to Lala land. Not that I really want to, but it’s something that I should do at some point, and I’ve been kind of avoiding it.
CBS.com: In the future, do you think you’ll be concentrating more on acting or directing?
PAUL LEYDEN: You know, I’m still working that out. I love acting, but I definitely feel more passionate, get more of a creative surge when I see something that I’ve kind of worked on come to life. I love working as a director as well as acting. So, it’s something that if I can combine them all somehow, that’d be great. I’m kind of leaving it open.
Unconventional Paul Leyden arrives on 'LAX'
Paul Leyden, the dashing Tony on NBC's "LAX" (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on WHDH, Ch. 7), owes his career to an ornery actor in Australia.
Leyden had written a play that was running as part of a festival in Sydney. The Melbourne native was not pleased with his terminally cranky lead actor. On the final night of the performance, the two brawled. "He had to go to the hospital," Leyden said during a recent phone interview. "I went on and ended up winning Best Actor. Things kind of went from there - all because I broke some guy's nose. I should send him a thank-you note. Thank you for pissing me off."
Shortly thereafter, he enrolled at the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Sydney (which boasts graduates such as Judy Davis, Mel Gibson and Geoffrey Rush).
Acting also saved Leyden from a life as a corporate drone. After receiving an undergraduate degree in economics, he spent two years as an accountant, a job he didn't relish. "I almost hung myself from the rafters with a tie," he said with a laugh. "I was not the most productive employee they've ever had. I had the lowest billable hours two years in a row. Instead of going to visit clients, I'd go watch movies. I was the only accountant working there who had a great time, because I was never there."
Prior to his role as the charming and sexy airline-passenger coordinator on the NBC drama, Leyden starred as Simon Frasier on CBS' "As the World Turns."
"I enjoyed my time in daytime. I was constantly working and constantly acting. The main difference between daytime and prime time is time," Leyden said. "We could go and shoot 30 pages of dialogue in one morning. Daytime drama is dialogue driven; whatever you're feeling, you have to say. There's a lot more waiting around in prime time." "The fans of daytime - they love it and they're very loyal."
Leyden has received marriage proposals from women in prison, and one fan asked Leyden to sign her arm. The next time he saw her, she had his signature tattooed on her skin. Now that's devotion.
"LAX" gives Leyden, still relatively new to the profession, the opportunity to work with seasoned veterans Blair Underwood, who stars as terminal boss Roger de Souza, and Heather Locklear, who plays runway chief Harley Random.
"I grew up watching Heather Locklear. You got to have not lived on this planet to not know who Heather Locklear is," he said. "I get a lot just by working with them and seeing how professional they are and how they lead by example. They're just amazing. You wouldn't know how successful they are by how they are."
Although his character's real-life counterpart doesn't exist, Leyden spent some time with a man who does similar work at JFK. "His mindset is: The more stressful it gets, the less you can show that. That was the best bit of advice, no matter what's going on, you can't show it."
Although "LAX" dominates his schedule, Leyden finds time for surfing and writing. He has written a couple of feature scripts, including one he describes as ``an arthouse psychological thriller."
He's hoping his onscreen alter-ego will develop some trauma of his own. Underwood's Roger has marital and gambling problems, and the airport cop (Frank John Hughes) drinks on the job. So far, Tony has been a nice guy.
"He's a bit of a Mr. Fix-It, and he enjoys the adrenaline of the job. But there's got to be a time when the stress of the job gets to him. Obviously, personally, I hope he's going to have his own issues." Who knows? Maybe Tony will punch someone in the nose.
Paul Leyden plays a charmer Mr. Fix in the ''LAX''
Leyden plays Tony, an airline passenger coordinator who does his best to soothe frazzled travelers' nerves, on this drama about the Los Angeles International Airport staff.
THEY SAY: "They were really keen for me to use my own accent, which is great," reports the actor, whose character also boasts Aussie roots. "An airport is a kind of cultural melting pot, so they wanted him to have an international flavor." Mmm, and how much you want to bet Tony's "flavor" is deemed delicious by the ladies? "He's definitely a charmer, a smooth operator," says Leyden. "But he's good at his job and loves the adrenaline rush it gives him. And he's always'on,' so it will be interesting to see how he is different in his private life from his public life."
WE SAY: Who will have the more exciting Jets --LAX, or the time-slot rival MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL? Can LAX put the heat on CSI: MIAMI? (can we think up any more bad puns?) With Heather Locklear on board and hot LAS VEGAS as its lead-in, LAX could rack up some frequent-viewer miles.
LAX" is from Emmy nominated writer Nick Thiel ("Magnum P.I") and producer Mark Gordon ("Saving Private Ryan", "Speed"), a new drama series that explores the behind-the-scenes dramas transpiring daily at the sprawling and bustling Los Angeles International Airport. Heather Locklear ("Spin City") stars as Harley Random, an ambitious, take-charge runway chief based at LAX. Harley is frequently confronted by her rival, terminal boss Roger (Blair Underwood, "L.A. Law", "Sex and the City"), as each jockeys to be named the new director of the airport while working together to solve everything from bomb scares, to VIP arrivals, drunken pilots and roaming pets. Rounding out the cast are Paul Leyden, Wendy Hoopes, David Paetkau and Frank John Hughes. Created by Thiel, "LAX" is from NBC Universal Television Studios. Gordon and Thiel are executive producers.
LAX is off-beat dramatic series centered in a world unto itself: a major international airport. Security breaches, tearful reunions, illegal immigrants, missing children, runaway animals, drug busts, drunken pilots -- there are countless stories to tell in "LAX." Whether it's the ongoing power struggle between the Airfield Chief (Locklear) and the Terminal Manager (Blair Underwood, "L.A. Law"), the romantic misadventures of the Airline Supervisor Tony (Paul Leyden, "As the World Turns") or the trial-by-fire of a young, naive Immigration Office clerk Nick (David Paetkau, "Final Destination 2"), viewers will be pulled into this unique world. Then there are the passengers, loading, unloading and passing through each episode. Each week will feature their compelling dramas -- from chance encounters between strangers to surprise reunions of long-lost lovers to - "the sky's the limit." Wendy Hoopes ("Daria"), Chad Todhunter ("Party of Five") and Frank John Hughes ("Band of Brothers") also star.
Paul Leyden makes his professional acting debut in ''TRIBE''
The 25 year old was just two weeks from completing his studies at Australia's prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), when he auditioned for a role in TRIBE, doing so more for the experience than with any real expectation of landing work.
Paul was soon called back to read for Andrew and, just two weeks after graduating with the NIDA Class of '98, he was on a beach in North Queensland, rubbing shoulders with actors whose work he had watched and admired for years.
"It was a bit of a spin out actually," says Paul, of his first few days on set. "I'd sit there and try to be fine with it but then I'd go back to my room and pinch myself!"
Paul decided to try his luck in the world of show business after first establishing himself an alternate - and completely different - career. Having completed a Bachelor of Economics, Paul first worked in corporate recoveries at the chartered accounting firm Price Waterhouse for two years. While at Price Waterhouse he had been attending acting workshops, had written scripts and stories and had produced a play staged as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. He soon decided to pack up the suit and tie and pursue his true passion. When accepted into NIDA, Paul moved from hometown Melbourne to Sydney, where he is now based.
Paul, who is also an accomplished saxaphonist and guitarist, loves the emotional moodswings he has to go through as TRIBE's Andrew.
Andrew, who is a newly wed, good-hearted country boy, finds his life shattered by the pirates' ambush. As the drama unfolds, he has to cope with the death of a loved one and the eventual prospect of a new passion. "Andrew is a really good character," says Paul.
"He has huge highs and lows. I mapped out his emotional journey in my preparation and it was all peaks and troughs on the graph. He goes through major lifetime turning points." But it isn't all tears and trauma for Andrew, who has his share of hunting and fighting in the script.
"That's the good thing about TRIBE. It goes from emotional one minute to an action movie the next. It doesn't get much better than that."
Paul Leyden: Surviving The Outback
Paul Leyden (SIMON, AS THE WORLD TURNS) confesses that he was "ridiculously hooked on the last Survivor," and is quite interested to see how the new contestants handle his homeland on Survivor: The Australian Outback.
"I was born in Queensland (where the show takes place), and I shot a miniseries there." he explains. "It's stinking hot during the day, and there is absolutely no cloud cover at night, so it can get really cold. There are creepy-crawlies and critters; some of the world's most dangerous spiders and snakes live in that territory. The good-looking gym junkies and city people are going to find it hard."
How hard? Leyden warns that finding drinking water will be a challenge. "They are probably near a water hole or a stream, which will make it easier. Normally in those outback areas, people put plastic bags over branches in trees and wait till the condensation comes off the trees. It drips onto the bag and they drink that--that's a good old Australian survival tactic."
As for food, Leyden--who says that famous Australian animals like kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats are protected by law--predicts that contestants might try "a famous aboriginal food called witchetty grubs. It's kind of what they had to eat last year on the show; they are going to have to eat lots of fat, juicy bugs. They won't find too many rats, but they'll find snake, and they can cook that up. Lizard. They are going to have to survive off smaller, reptilian animals. And most are poisonous, so it's going to be interesting."---
Paul Leyden's accent made him very popular
Paul Leyden (Simon) has discovered a unique side effect of being an Australian transplant to the United States: His accent has made him very popular! So much so that he has been known to exaggerate that Aussie drawl a bit. "When I'm speaking normally, or on the show, I use my normal voice," he says. "But when I'm speaking to American women, I broaden my accent right out, and they love it!" Although the actor complains that some people mistakenly identify his patois as British, not Australian, he still appreciates the attention--even after the mix-up has been corrected. "Because Australia is so far away, people love to ask what it's all about," Leyden explains. "They're infatuated with the idea of Australia and all the culture. And it's great to be able to answer questions about somewhere you love."
Regarding the stir his accent causes in the States, Leyden remarks, "I think Australians are still a bit of a novelty over here."
Paul Leyden's Vital Statistics:
Full Name: Paul Augustine Leyden
Birthday & Sign: December 16, Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia
Education: Bachelor of Economics from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia; Bachelor of Dramatic Arts from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts Sydney
Marital Status: Single
Heritage: Dutch, Irish, German
Dream lover: Cameron Diaz in "There's Something About Mary"
Someone's diary you'd love to read: Anne Frank
A monument/landmark you'd like to have a view of from your bedroom: Sydney Harbor
Craziest thing you've done for love: I wouldn't call anything done for love crazy.
If you were a cocktail, you'd be: Stirred, not shaken
Sum up your current love life in one word: Seed
"Quality Imperfection" of Paul Leyden
What do we love about daytime's latest Australian import? The fact that Paul Leyden is an imprint for quality imperfection; the lean actor with the golden hue freely admits his vices ("I only smoke cigarettes when I'm out." F.Y.I.: Camel is his butt of choice), is notorious for blunt one-liners ("Award shows are more fun the more drunk you are."), and by all accounts is a fine human being with a remarkable affinity for music, life, and people. To be in Leyden's company is a defining moment in which one of the "beautiful" people defies the vapidity often attributed to them. He's a true friend, never posing as a pretty imitation.
Paul Leyden loves acting in the New York City
Still a relative newcomer to daytime, native Aussie Paul Leyden debuted as con man Simon Frasier on AS THE WORLD TURNS in February 2000. But in the past year, he's had a crash course in soaps, playing action, adventure, romance and even a quickie wedding. "Simon's gone from one extreme to the other," he marvels.
After uprooting his life in Australia to move to NYC and join the cast of ATWT, Leyden knows what it's like to be an outsider. "But I've totally settled into New York," he reveals. "I mean, New Yorkers actually call me up now and ask ME what places they should go do." Although he admits that it's difficult to get back to Australia as much as he'd like, he made sure to spend the holidays at home because there's one thing about Gotham that he just can't get used to. "I went back over Christmas and New Year," he smiles, "basically to get some sun. I can't stand the cold!"
While Leyden explores Manhattan, he'd like to see Simon do the same in Oakdale, but without Lily. "Despite the fact that, as an actor, I love working with Martha [Byrne (Lily/Rose)]," he says, "I think it would be detrimental for the character to ever get together with Lily. Because he then becomes part of a loving relationship, and that just cuts down your capacity to mix it up on the show."
Having learned the soap opera rule that happiness is boring, Leyden wants to keep Simon on his toes, and knows just the girl to do it. "I think with Katie, there's more of a chance for a warped kind of happiness," he predicts. "There's so much interesting stuff to play."
Hot Stuff about Paul Leyden
It was a hot and humid summer day in New York City when CBS.com caught up with PAUL LEYDEN for a getting to know you chat. Despite the heat, the Australian actor was personable and open about his mysterious role of Simon Frasier on As the World Turns, his co-stars, his family and his hopes for the future.
CBS.com: How is it going at ATWT?
PAUL LEYDEN: It's going well. It's good because my schedule has kind of quieted down a little bit. Finally, I can just chill out and get to see the city and do some touristy things, which I haven't had a chance to do yet.
CBS.com: Have you lived in the States before?
PAUL LEYDEN: No, not before the show. This is the first time I've been over here. I came over in early January for the call back audition. This is it - the first time I've been to the States, and definitely the first time I've lived here. It's all very new!
CBS.com: How do you like living in New York?
PAUL LEYDEN: I think it's great. I love New York. New York is just everything it's cracked up to be - it's a big, bustling, energetic city and there's always something happening. Come summer, it's a little depressing that it's so sweltering hot and there's no escape. There are no pools around; the closest ocean you can swim in is about an hour away. I think that's going to get to me. It's one of those things that you have to adjust to, I guess. But apart from that, I'm having a great time in New York.
CBS.com: How did you land the role?
PAUL LEYDEN: I was back home in Melbourne doing an audition for a new primetime series. I was on about my third call back for that when my agent called up and said they want you to put an audition down for a CBS TV show that's shot in New York. I said, "That sounds pretty cool." I had no idea what the show was. I had a feeling it was a soap, but I wasn't sure exactly. So I did the audition at a studio back home, and my agent sent it over and [I] thought nothing else of it. I didn't really care what happened. [Laughs] You know, because I was booked out anyway [with the local show]. Then this job came through; they wanted to fly me out for a call back audition. And that's when everything sort of took a new direction. All the contract stuff had to be worked out before I was flown over because if I agreed to come over for the call back audition and if I got the job, then it was sort of a given that I'd take it. It's pretty hard making decisions about what you're going to do when you haven't even got the job yet. I decided that despite the fact that the show back home was going to be really terrific, to be given an opportunity possibly of working in the States and living in New York was too good to pass up. So, I came over for the call back audition, thought I bombed it completely, pretty much tripped over the carpet and hit my head on the furniture. [Laughs] I must have done something right...God knows what! I went back home and two weeks later, they called up and said, "Yeah, you got it."
CBS.com: You screen-tested with Martha Byrne (Lily/Rose). What was your first impression of her?
PAUL LEYDEN: She was great. I didn't know this at the time, but she had been trying to audition for this role for about nine months. She'd seen about 35 or 40 people who had to do the same audition scene and kiss her at the end of the scene. We were the last lot of Australians that they had flown over. So, I think she was at the end of her tether with the whole audition process, but she was so professional and really giving. She was terrific. And she's a great kisser! [Laughs]
CBS.com: Simon is very mysterious. What can you tell us about him?
PAUL LEYDEN: Well, I'm kind of learning about him everyday as well. Because we don't have a breakdown of what's going to happen to the character or the story more than a week in advance, you kind of just continually learn about the character you're playing day by day. He did start off quite mysterious and, obviously, as a bit of a con artist trying to weasel his way into Lily's life somehow to track down this diamond. I guess that was his main priority. But as the weeks go by, that's becoming less and less important as his relationship with Lily grows into one of great affection, I think. [She's] someone that he really enjoys being around, someone who can handle him and sort of give it right back to him as good as he gives. You know what I mean? Every single time I'm on the floor playing this character, I'm learning so much and trying to take risks with the character, trying to make him fairly bold. Obviously, some of them pay off and some of them don't. That's what's good about this medium of TV, you do it, it's over, then you go on to the next [scene] and you try to make up for something that you didn't like in the last scene. That sort of got off the question a little bit, didn't it? [Laughs]
CBS.com: Were you given a lot of background about Simon coming in?
PAUL LEYDEN: No. When I got the job, I had to fly out of Australia as soon as the Visa came through, which took about a week. They FedExed about three scripts. I flew in on Wednesday morning. I got into New York at about two o'clock in the morning. I had a meeting with [Executive Producer] Chris Goutman at about 9:30, and I was on the floor shooting by about ten to ten. [Laughs] So the background information I got on him was during that twenty-minute conversation with Chris. I don't think they really knew where he was going or what he was going to be doing because the storyline was only in the beginning stages. I think a lot of what they initially had planned for this character may have changed as the story has gone along. As I said, I'm kind of learning everyday and not really knowing where the story is going. Once we get off the island and back into Oakdale, who I'll be involved with, I have no idea. Every single day is kind of flying by the seat of your pants a little, but that makes it exciting at the same time because you don't plan too much. You don't have any idea in your mind of what you want to do. You just kind of play each moment as it comes.
CBS.com: Do you know anything about Simon's relationship with his sister Celia?
PAUL LEYDEN: Again, no background information. We have no idea where we come from. [Laughs] It's all a little bit up in the air. It's sort of what you make of it on the day. I think Fiona [Hutchison, Celia] obviously had her ideas about their relationship, so it seemed pretty dysfunctional. I don't think they get along. Something happened in the past for them to be sort of mortal enemies.
CBS.com: It seems like you enjoy working with Martha.
PAUL LEYDEN: Oh, I love it. It's a great job; it's a terrific show. I think there are some really fantastic actors on the show. Out of all daytime soaps, I think this is one of the better-acted shows on TV. To get the opportunity to work with Martha is fantastic. Not only do I love working with her as an actor, but she's a great personality. She has made my transition to New York 100 times easier than it could have been. She's great. We get along like a house on fire. We have a very similar sense of humor, which is a pretty dirty sense of humor. I can't speak highly enough of her. She's terrific.
CBS.com: How was it to work with Martha playing Rose as opposed to Lily?
PAUL LEYDEN: It was great because it was probably a little more Martha than Lily. [Laughs] You saw these flashes come through in Rose and you're like, "That's just like talking to Martha in her dressing room!" I love working with Rose because I can see how much fun Martha was having with it as well. I can't wait to work with Rose again because [Martha] has delineated those characters so well. They're two such different people that when I finally got to work with Rose, it was seriously like working with a different actress. Lily and Rose are just kind of worlds apart. [Martha] has obviously done so much work, and it's really paying off in the fact that the characters are different. Which gives me something to work off, too. I don't have to pretend that I'm working with a different person, because it's really obvious that it is.
CBS.com: What are your hopes for Simon's storyline?
PAUL LEYDEN: I don't know. I don't think that people on screen know who he really is. It's all a cover. Every time Lily tries to talk to him about his past life, he gets off it. No one's been able to get close to him. So, I guess my hope is that the relationship with Lily will bring something out in him. I think that will completely settle him as a person and make him kind of a more loveable character than he is now.
CBS.com: You haven't had the opportunity to work with much of the cast. Who would you like to work with?
PAUL LEYDEN: As I said, I'm working with Martha, so I have no complaints whatsoever. But I guess for the show and the storylines and to keep this character going, he's going to have to be integrated into Oakdale. If that's the case, I'd love to be involved somehow with Terri's [Conn] character Katie and Trent [Dawson, Henry]. I think add Simon into that mix and it can be kind of fun. [Laughs]
CBS.com: We've gotten some letters saying Simon should hook up with Julia.
PAUL LEYDEN: Oh, yeah. Again, I wouldn't complain if they hooked me up with Annie [Parisse]. That's fine. She's very cute. She's a great girl.
CBS.com: What do you do when you're not at the ATWT studio?
PAUL LEYDEN: At the moment, I've had a lot of people visiting from Australia. So it's been good to do some kind of touristy things and get out and about and kind of discover the city with someone who doesn't really know it either. When I don't have visitors in town, I pretend I'm a local and just do normal things - eat, sleep and go to work. When I have visitors in town, that's when I kind of get out and about and really explore the city. I've met some really terrific actors and filmmakers in town. I do a lot of writing. I've written a feature and I'm halfway through another one and I've just finished two short films.
CBS.com: Have you always been interested in writing?
PAUL LEYDEN: I've always had a passion for it, since I was way back in primary school. I didn't have the opportunity [to write] when I first got over here because I didn't have my computer. Since I've kind of settled here now and I got a laptop, I'm really right back into that now, which is good. It's another creative outlet from the show. I'd love to be able to get into some theater here and meet some people in the independent film scene because that's ultimately where my passion is - film. To be able to meet some great people in that field and work when I'm not on the show would be perfect.
CBS.com: Tell me about the feature you just wrote.
PAUL LEYDEN: It's kind of a psychological thriller. It's a young and funky, urban based psychological thriller, bit of a love triangle. It's like Fight Club meets The Game.
CBS.com: That sounds cool!
PAUL LEYDEN: It's pretty cool, actually.
CBS.com: Do you go to the movies often?
PAUL LEYDEN: I probably go to movies more than I should. Especially here in New York. All the big movies come out to Australia, but here you just have the opportunity to see a new film opening every week and it's great. I try to get to about two movies a week because I love seeing films, even if they're not that good. I love watching films and watching actors and what they're doing. It's good escapism for a couple of hours. Gets me off the streets!
CBS.com: What is the best movie you've seen recently?
PAUL LEYDEN: It definitely wasn't Mission Impossible II. That was really disappointing because it was shot in Sydney as well. The one that I've kind of enjoyed the most recently was High Fidelity with John Cusack. I had read the book beforehand and it was a really, really good, close adaptation to the book. I went and saw Shaft recently and that was fun. It was good to see an Australian actor like Toni Collette doing really well.
CBS.com: I understand you dabble in music as well.
PAUL LEYDEN: Yeah. Not to as great a degree as I used to when I was younger. When I went through secondary school, I played the sax and was in lots of bands. Then I went through one of those weird early twenties periods when you get involved in things you shouldn't and you run out of money. [Laughs] So, I sold my saxophone, which was a nice, beautiful, incredible instrument. It was a great, great saxophone. I haven't gotten around to buying another one since. That's another thing I want to do when I'm here. I play the guitar as well. I was actually going to do that this week, go out and get a guitar and take some singing lessons and get back into that side of things as well. If I've got the time, I might as well. I want to milk this city for what it's worth while I'm here.
"Aussie Philosophy" by Paul Leyden
We Americans tend to have a fairly warped sense of all things Australian. Take, for instance, the headline of this story: It's a play on the slogan for a line of haircare products---made by a family from Connecticut. Misnomers like this and other strictly stateside inventions like the Outback Steakhouse (based in Florida) confound AS THE WORLD TURN's Paul Leyden, who does exude the laid-back charm and endearing self-confidence we often associate with his countrymen, but doesn't quite understand some of the other romanticized notions people have of his homeland. Like the ATWT crew members who, on his first day, asked if he'd ever stuck his head in a crocodile's mouth ("We don't really have crocs roaming the city streets," he told them), or the guy who asked, in all seriousness, if he just rode around on his kangaroo when his car broke down. "He thought we used kangaroos as modes of transport! And I said, 'Of course. And it's great because you never lose your keys---you just tuck them in the pouch,'" laughs Leyden, trying to figure out how people got the wrong idea. "Everyone straight away thinks of the outback. They think of a guy in beige shorts and a tan shirt wearing a hat with corks hanging around it, sitting with his pot of tea on the fire looking up at the stars with a kangaroo on his shoulder," he quips. "The outback is a big and a great part of Australia, but we have a population of 17 million people, and I don't know the figure, but I would say 16 million of them live on the coasts, in big, cosmopolitan cities."
It was in one of those cities----Melbourne, on Australia's Southeastern coast---that Leyden, the self-described "black sheep" of a close-knit, rather rambunctious family, was raised. His grades were good enough to major in accounting and earn him an economics degree at a university, "which is really weird, because I'm bad with money," he grins. "But all the career advisers at school were saying, 'Go into a profession,' and I had no idea what I wanted to do. It wasn't until I worked in a big firm, Price Waterhouse, for two-and-a-half years that I realized I would probably hang myself by my tie on the toilet door if I hung around any longer because I just couldn't stand it." To keep sane, he started writing screenplays at work and doing short films with friends in his spare time. "Then I just sort of woke up one day and said, 'I know what I want to do,'" he recalls. "So I walked into the partner's office with a piece of paper. He looked at it and said, 'Is that what I think it is?' I said, 'Yeah.' He goes, 'Thank God, because we really like having you around, but we can't afford to pay you to do nothing anymore!"
He'd given up the steady paycheck, but his parents (Mum's a teacher; Dad's a lawyer who runs a trucking company) were behind him all the way. "My parents have always trusted any decision that we've made because they know that we'll make the most out of it," he says. "Mum was a ballet dancer when she was younger and a really terrific artist. She was so happy that someone in the family would be on the more creative side. And Dad was great. He just said, 'Do you think you're doing the right thing?' I said, 'Maybe not. But I'll never know unless I find out.'"
For a while, he tried finding out on his own, but after realizing that all the good roles in Australia were going to graduates of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), he auditioned there. Out of roughly 3,000 applicants, only 23 aspiring actors are chosen to join the program each year, and Leyden was one of them. "I got in, and three years later I came out the other end, which I never thought I would," he says. "It's like being chewed up and spat out. It's very intense." When his three years were up, Leyden performed the Tom Cruise role in a scene from Jerry Maguire in front of "400 of the heaviest industry people in Australia," and even Star Wars author George Lucas and his producers, for the school's Agents' Day. "It's so daunting getting up and knowing that the last thing you'll ever be remembered for is that three minutes in front of this audience," he says. "And you see all the agents and the casting people writing notes as you're acting. It's like, 'Stop! What are you writing?'"
Nothing but good things, apparently, because Leyden had his pick of top agents after graduation. He'd already nabbed a role in a miniseries called TRIBE, which he shot a week after leaving NIDA. "It was pretty schlocky, but it was what it was," he shrugs. Next came a short stint on the Australian soap HOME AND AWAY, which he got without even having to audition, but he turned down the long-term contract they offered. Instead, he played "an outer space commando" on the sci-fi series FARSCAPE, and did commercials while constantly auditioning for roles in film and American TV movies.
But it's not easy being an actor in OZ, even if you're a native. "I was up for a lot of the main roles, and at the last minute, they would find a B-grade American actor," sighs Leyden. "It's a very frustrating place to be, because you can get so close, and yet be still so far. So when this [ATWT role] came up, it was like, "Well here's an opportunity at least to work consistently---in New York---and get out of that insular industry in Sydney.'" He was on his third callback for a new FRIENDS-style drama series set in Melbourne, but he sent a tape to ATWT anyway. A few weeks later, they called to fly him in for an audition. "That's when all the decisions had to be made because all the contracts had to be worked out before I left," he points out. "I had to speak to my friends and the big casting directors that I knew in Sydney. And they just said straight up, 'You're mad if you're even thinking about not trying to go for it.'"
He did, and took his first step ever on to American soil upon arrival in New York. "Just coming across into Manhattan when you see the lights, it was surreal," he recalls. "And it was winter, so seeing the steam coming out the subways, and all those things you see in movies, it was bizarre." He thought he'd "completely bombed" the screen test with Martha Byrne (Lily/Rose), but took advantage of the free trip anyway and went for a night on the town with the other three Australian actors who'd been flown in to test. "By the end of the night, we were all a bit saucy, laying bets about who would get it," recounts the actor. He ended up losing a chunk of money---back home in Sydney, his agent told him he had the job.
"I was floored because it was so unexpected," he recalls. "That's when the whole issue with girlfriends come up and you call your family and everything kind of goes into overdrive," The only hurdle left was his visa, which wouldn't be issued until Leyden was approved by the U.S. actor's unions. "I had to have my bags packed for about a week and a half, because as soon as the visa came through to the Australian consulate, I had to be on the next flight out of Sydney. So for two weeks, it was nuts," he marvels. It all worked out, of course, and soon he was saying good-bye to his family ("they were happy to get me out of the country," he jokes), as well as his girlfriend. "You can have all the pipe dreams in the world to say, 'Yeah, we can make this work,' but reality kicks in pretty quickly," he says. "It's more painful knowing you can't see this person and you're still going out with them than breaking up." Then, after one last rowdy night with his mates, he moved 10,000 miles from home, and began playing out his three-year contract the next morning with 40 pages of dialogue.
Even aside from the heavy workload, there's no doubt the States have been an adjustment. Byrne's friendship and support have helped, and he's having fun with Simon's storyline, but he still gets homesick. "What's funny is when I was in Australia and saw someone like Russell Crowe interviewed, I heard that really broad accent, and kind of cringed a little bit," he admits. "You go, 'Ugh, do we really sound like that?' And then when you get here and you see him interviewed, you're like, 'Go get 'em'" And these days, he doesn't even mind a minor misconception or two, like when Crowe peppers his speech with stereotypical slang. "He tucks in every Australian cliche he can, which I think is fantastic," Leyden chuckles.
Paul Leyden is the true Australian patriot
"At the moment, there 's such a great vibe with Australian actors in the film industry," praises Leyden, who attended the same prestigious drama school as Mel Gibson, Judy Davis and Toni Gollette, among others. And he's right--with imports like Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and Health Ledger making waves, it's a good time to be a bloke from Down Under. It's also the home of many new studios, where Mission: Impossible 2 with Tome Cruise and Moulin Rouge with his wife, hometown girl Nicole Kidman, were shot, and sequels to The Matrix and Star Wars are under way. But, laments Leyden, "Despite the fact that these films are being shot there, the leads are going to [Americans]. A supporting [role] might go to an Australian, but it's generally someone that one of the big stars knows, so it's kind of tough...I mean, you're bound to get a job as a storm trooper." Of course, the third installment of the Crocodile Dundee movies is also in production. And isn't that what people think of when they think of an Australian movie anyway? "Exactly! And to be remembered for Crocodile Dundee is so offensive," he groans.