There’s Life After Neighbours for Joe, as Sons of Summer Hits Our Screens. What’s Next?

WORDS: Greg Pride PHOTOGRAPHY Brian Usher - [email protected] Plus supplied

WITH smouldering good looks redolent of a cross between Chris Hemsworth and Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam – and an acting talent to back it up – Joe Davidson was always destined for the silver screen.

Joe Davidson

After scoring his first big break in Neighbours, which has helped springboard stars including fellow Gold Coaster Margot Robbie, Davidson has landed what could well be his breakout film role in the soon-to-be-released Sons of Summer.

Also starring Temuera Morrison of Once Were Warriors fame and Byron Bay-based actor and model Isabel Lucas, Sons of Summer is the third instalment of legendary Coast-based producer Phil Avalon’s Summer City – the 1977 cult surfing drama that helped launch the careers of Mel Gibson, John Jarratt and Steve Bisley.

Davidson, 31, plays the drug-running surfer son of Bisley’s character Boo, who was murdered in Summer City. The film was shot entirely on the Gold Coast last year, at locations from Currumbin to Jacobs Well.


It’s Davidson’s first major movie role and one he hopes could put him on a trajectory to stardom, just as Summer City did for Gibson and Co.

Davidson grew up on the Coast, attending Hillcrest Christian College and enjoying surfing and surf lifesaving at Palm Beach where he lived with his family. He was a handy beach sprinter and won a Queensland junior championship in beach flags.

His love of acting began in Grade 2 or 3 where he fondly remembers his first school play role as William in William Tell.

“In the final scene, I got to shoot an arrow but as I did, my pants fell down and everyone laughed,” he says.

“I also played a guy with a pickaxe in another play. I thought it was so cool to play all these different characters.”

Davidson studied drama at Hillcrest, landing small roles in Coast-made teen dramas H20 Just Add Water and Mako Mermaids while still at school.

He did a “warehouse workshop” with Emmy award-nominated casting director Tom McSweeney who recommended that Davidson enrol in a Bachelor of Performing Arts course at Actors Centre Australia (of which Hugh Jackman is patron) in Sydney.

Davidson – who was working as an actor at Movie World at the time in roles including Fred in Scooby Doo and also Edward Scissorhands – remembers getting to Sydney with $4 in his bank account, $50 in his wallet and a head full of hopes and dreams.

“I’d flipped my car coming home from a late-night audition and snapped off the wheel and my car broke down as soon as I got to Sydney,” he remembers.

“I caught a train to my grandparents’ house thinking ‘I better not lose these fifty bucks’.

“I was down there for two weeks and didn’t like it one bit, but I ended up staying two years.”

Davidson lived in Redfern, where he remembers being ambushed and surrounded one night by a local gang, whose ringleader yelled: “Let’s get him!”

It was set to end violently and painfully, but Davidson used his easy-going charm to defuse the volatile situation.

“There were five or six of them but I just went ‘Hey guys, how are you going?’,” he recalls.

“It caught them completely off-guard and they went ‘oh, he’s a friendly guy, leave him alone’.”

It wouldn’t be the only time Davidson has had to think on his feet as he sought to make his way in the cut-throat film and television industry.

After graduating from the Actors Centre in 2015, Davidson headed to LA in 2017 to try his luck landing a role during Pilot Season.

“That was a big eye-opening experience because it was almost like I wasn’t ready yet,” he says.

“Even after all this training, it was a different world. Everything I knew after 10 years of training, I still felt like I had so far left to go.

“They call LA the ‘city of broken dreams’ and it almost felt like that for me.”

But Davidson says he felt his acting had more edge when he returned to Australia after the ill-fated trip.

“I was just making more dangerous choices, not caring so much – not being so nice in the (audition) room. Just taking more risks and not really worrying what the casting director would think.

“I was still being respectful but just taking more risks and pushing it a bit further. Not to the extent of Russell Crowe kicking holes in walls like he reportedly did when he auditioned for Romper Stomper, but definitely pushing it to a little bit more of a dangerous level.”

After returning from LA, Davidson was booked for an acting course with Thea McLeod, casting director for hit shows including Neighbours, but ended up in hospital with a burst appendix.

“I got out of hospital one hour before my course,” he recalls.

“I’d memorised the script while I was in hospital and just jumped in my car with all my bandages still on. Some guy helped me up the stairs where the course was being held, they called my name and I stumbled up the front of the room.

“But it worked perfectly because my character in the script had just come out of hospital as well. He has a line where he says ‘you did this to me’. I lifted up my shirt with my bandages on and said ‘you did this to me’.

“Thea really respected me after that and she fought for me on Neighbours. I turned up (to the audition) and I gave it all I had. Other people auditioned too. It was between me and another guy who looked like Heath Ledger, but I ended up getting the role.”

All up, Davidson spent seven months and 59 episodes on Neighbours, playing the part of villain Cassius Grady.

“I shot one scene where I killed my dad (Hamish Roche, played by Jacki Weaver’s husband Sean Taylor). The first scene I ever shot was me drowning him in a spa.”

Cassius ended up going to prison and being written out of the show but Davidson has not ruled out one day reprising the role should the opportunity arise, with streaming giant Amazon saving Neighbours after the iconic show was axed last year.

“After I finished with Neighbours, the executive producer said to me ‘maybe we can do a prison break sometime.’

“Working on the show was a great experience, especially working with older actors like Stefan Dennis, Alan Fletcher and Jackie Woodburne who have so much experience and wisdom.

“Neighbours is like a drama school in itself.”

After Neighbours, Davidson auditioned for other roles but then Covid hit.

“I saw how bad the lockdowns were in Melbourne, with police shooting people with rubber bullets, and I decided I didn’t want to be there,” he said.

Davidson went to Sydney, where he worked as a swimming pool lifeguard and, when the pools closed, as a lifeguard for Randwick City Council.

“My job was to tell people that they weren’t allowed to go for swims at the beach,” he says.

“It was so strange – they were allowed to swim off the rocks but weren’t allowed to swim off the sand. People were getting washed along the rocks and cut up and we had to rescue them. It was so stupid.”

Fed up with the hard-line Covid rules in the southern states, Davidson returned to Queensland, travelling to the Daintree in a van.

“I was shooting audition tapes on the road,” he says.

“I’d peg my bluescreen up to trees and set up my camera. If it was a really important audition, I’d do it in a hostel or book a room and set up my bluescreen there.”

Davidson had sent an audition tape to Avalon but heard nothing back.

Back on the Gold Coast, he did a course at Colin Handley’s Stunt Academy at Nerang.

Handley, who knew Avalon, recommended Davidson for the Sons of Summer role which had previously been given to another actor but was re-cast under the film’s new award-winning director, Clive Fleury.

“Phil had been really happy with my audition tape I’d sent him months previously but for whatever reason, I didn’t get cast,” Davidson said.

“He talked to me about it and shook my hand and said ‘you’ve got the role if you want it’.”

Sons of Summer was shot over six weeks in 2022, at locations including Currumbin, Nobby Beach, Jacobs Well and the Southport Spit.

“We shot a scene at about 10’clock at night where I had to go into the Broadwater, which was a bit sketchy,” he says with a chuckle.

“I was told not to worry about the bull sharks, because they’re going to bump you first to check you out before they eat you!”

Working with Morrison and Lucas, Davidson says, was incredible. While initially sceptical when told they would star in the film – and that entertainment giant Lionsgate would be involved – “everything just fell into place”.

“I’d heard a lot about Once Were Warriors but I hadn’t actually seen the film,” he says.

“Before we started shooting Sons of Summer, I made sure I went and watched it with my girlfriend. She said afterwards ‘you’ve got to be very careful; this guy (Morrison) could kill you. She was serious, she wasn’t joking. She actually thought he was going to kill me because his role in Once Were Warriors was so believable.

“But from day one, he was so nice. He comes up and shakes your hand and gives you tips on set – he’s just a really great guy. He’s very nice, even though he’s very aggressive in all his films. He’s got this fierce energy about him, but he’s very generous.”

Davidson says Lucas, who plays his girlfriend in the film, was something of a teenage crush for him.

“I was an extra in one of her movies when I was 18 called A Heartbeat Away,” he recalls.

“I always thought she was incredibly beautiful when I was a kid – not to mention incredibly talented – so to work with her again felt pretty surreal.

“My friends even asked me what it’s like to kiss someone you’re attracted to when you were a kid. (I told them) ‘A bit weird but awesome as well’.”

As he awaits the release of Sons of Summer, Davidson is continuing to audition for new roles while working on his side hustle as a producer of stock video clips.

“We’ve got about 150,000 clips online – plants, animals, buildings, you name it,” he says.

“I’ve trained up a team in the Philippines and they keep an eye on other people’s clips and I shoot stuff as well. If I’m not acting, I’m always doing something with the camera because it keeps me in the industry.

“I’m always watching stuff – I’ve been to the movies six times in the last 8 days. I’m trying to see everything before the Oscar season because I just want to make sure I’m up to date.

“My girlfriend and I just love films. We’ve got a popcorn card with unlimited refills.

“I think I just love a good story; anything I see on IMDB (Internet Movie Database) that has a score over 7.5, I just feel like I have to see it.

“We just saw Brendan Fraser in The Whale – it was an incredible performance. Probably my favourite for a long time, although (Baz Luhrmann’s) Elvis was awesome too.”

Davidson says he is proud of his work on Sons of Summer and hopes it will be as big a hit as Summer City, which cost less than $70,000 to make but grossed more than $1 million at the box office.

“I’ve watched it and I really enjoyed it,” he says.

“I enjoyed the experience of making it and I think it’s definitely got potential to grow more characters if they were to do another sequel.

“When I audition for more roles, I’m going to take some of the snippets with me from the scenes that I really loved in Sons of Summer.

“I’m really happy with the work I’ve done in it. You do the work but then you step away, and the rest is up to the audiences.”