DANIEL Amalm was only 14 when he started on Home and Away as Jack Wilson, a mischievous kid who was bounced around the foster care system until arriving in Summer Bay. Amalm was thrown into an intense working schedule — 12 hours a day, five days a week — and immediately struggled to cope.
“I remember the whole gang being really warm and friendly,” he recalls, of his first day on set. “I guess I kinda must’ve looked like a deer caught in headlights.”
But despite the friendly nature of most of the cast, it was far from smooth sailing.
“I was pretty nervous, I think, and maybe overly prepared,” Amalm told news.com.au.
“I remember one of the first scenes I shot where Jack gets introduced to the Ross family, and — being totally untrained — I would look at the monitor screen each time between my lines and watch the shot. It really pissed off one of the actors — he actually uttered, ‘Where do they find these kids?’
“So I guess I was off to a flying start first day,” he jokes.
Things got worse, as he recounts a particularly disastrous day on set.
“[I remember a crew member] grabbing my folder of scripts from my hands and throwing it apart on set because I just couldn’t get my lines right. I think we had gone for over 20 takes on this damn scene, and I just couldn’t get it right.
“He was mad as hell, everyone was waiting for lunch break. Camera guys’ faces were seriously grim and someone in the crew said I’ll be ‘eating my lunch through a straw’. That was too much and I went totally blank and almost paralysed.
Amalm believes this was his first panic attack.
“They called for lunch,” he continues.
Amalm recalled that after everyone left the set, a senior figure came straight over to him, saying, “You got one hour to get this scene right now; don’t fuck it up.”
Amalm added: “I was too tense to eat, so got some fresh air and just drilled the lines over and over. I nailed the scene in one take after that. They were pretty tough back then, compared to today [in] dealing with kids on set.”
He still gets nightmares about forgetting lines.
Ironically, the show placed Amlam with what he calls “a lovely foster family” in Sydney, as he was originally based in Brisbane. The stress of a high-pressure job, coupled with being 1000km away from his family and friends took its toll on the young actor.
“As a 14-year-old old kid I wasn’t aware that the pressure and stress could eventually affect me, and just threw myself in the deep end and found my own coping mechanisms along the way,” he recalls.
“I started eating a lot, and drinking a lot of coke and coffee.”
Thankfully after six months, his mother relocated to Sydney, relieving a lot of the pressure for Amalm. His favourite memory from his time on the show involves taking her for a behind-the-scenes tour of the set.
“She was so amazed to see how things were done there and to meet all the cast I work with,” he says.
“I remember her being all laughs and smiles — and very proud of her son.”
As he eased into the hectic workload, a different kind of pressure took ahold. Almost instantly, Amalm found he was unable to go anywhere without being recognised.
“The initial buzz of being recognised everywhere soon wore off and I realised I couldn’t hang out in some of the same places I used to casually stroll around in, if I didn’t want to get swarmed with attention, pictures, and autographs.
“I ended up hiding a lot of the time, spending a lot of time at home playing music on the weekends.”
He sought refuge in Anthony Mundine’s boxing gym, in Redfern.
“I was pretty keen on boxing and no one seemed to care so much about a Home and Away star there.”
Everywhere else it was a different situation.
Home and Away was arguably at its peak in popularity during the mid-’90s, and Amalm found himself overwhelmed by crowds of fans who came out to mob the cast at their frequent shopping mall appearances.
“There was a tonne of hype around the show back then and we were making these regular appearances at Westfield shopping towns where the kids — well, my age group back then — would be going absolutely nuts.
“They used to put a team of security guards around us to pass through the crowd, and I remember someone ripping off my jacket and stealing my cap. A few weeks later I received a new cap in the mail from the girl who took it. I remember thinking, ‘how sweet’, but at the same time being a little peeved that she didn’t send back the exact one.”
It wasn’t all bad though, as Amalm recalls being sent a flood of basketball cards in the mail after offhandedly mentioning in a magazine interview that he collected them.
These days, Amalm works as a professional musician, based in Norway. His guitar skills were used frequently on the show — he even released a Top 30 single in 1996: a flamenco and hip hop fusion of ‘Classical Gas’ — so it was clear that music was always more than just a sideline for Amalm. In ‘97, another single emerged, Honey Dip, but failed on the charts topping the chart at #81 in Australia.
Despite being half a world away, he still occasionally gets recognised as Jack; a situation that has ramped up now that Norwegian TV has begun airing re-runs from his time on the show.
In fact, while answering this question, he was interrupted by his wife who had just dropped their daughter off at kindergarten and was asked by a teacher if he was on Home and Away during the ‘90s.
As they say, you can take the boy out of Summer Bay …
Channel Seven did not respond to news.com.au’s request for comment.
Follow Nathan Jolly on Twitter @nathanjolly