You can take the boy out of Newcastle, but you can’t take Newcastle out of the boy.
That modified saying reigns true when it comes to ex-pat and actor Zac Garred.
Zac has been calling Los Angeles home for the past seven years and, while he loves it, he often finds himself missing the place he grew up for “just a second”.
The 34-year-old is best known for his roles in Foreign Exchange, General Hospital, Occupation and its new sequel Occupation: Rainfall.
Even though he has some big titles on his list, Zac’s career started in high school when he performed in plays around Newcastle.
He says his family’s connection to the city remains strong.
“My family were merchant mariners, so my grandad jumped on a ship here when he was 14 and that was it,” Zac said.
“He went around the world and worked in the dredges for years, so my family’s connection is very deep to the harbour.
“I also love Bar Beach; it’s our beach, dad always took us there.
“It sounds really silly, this is very specific, but there was also a spot up the top of Queens Road in New Lambton and it’s beautiful.
“You can see straight down into the city but you back onto Blackbutt, so you feel like you’re in the bush but you can see the beaches.
“So, that is always an image I have in my head when I am not here, it’s really special for me.”
Zac says even though LA is his home at times he wishes he could return.
He adds that he is an avid follower of the Newcastle Jets and the Knights.
“My first 12 months in LA I was like: ‘oh god, oh dear, oh dear, I don’t know if I can do this I just want to go back’ but I didn’t and I am glad I stayed,” he said.
“So, homesickness now is just ‘oh I’d just like to go back for a second, I just want to go and jump in the water for a second, I just want to have a beer at the beaches for a second, that kind of a thing.
“I’m less connected to the place and more connected to people, the place is amazing but the Newcastle that I grew up in has evolved into this really exciting, fascinating and I think very evocative new space.
“However, the Newcastle where my grandfather dredged the harbour is totally gone.
“But, the character permeates, that working-class character is still here and it makes amazing artists and inquisitive, open and honest people.
“There is something that is forged in the place that I always miss.”
Some of the biggest adjustments Zac had to make, after the move overseas, was learning to drive on the other side of the road and getting his head around the tax and health care systems.
He’s made use of his time across the ocean though having starred in several films and TV shows and, within the first six months being there, he joined the Screen Actors Guild.
However, Zac often returns for roles in Australia, like his next project Australian Gangster which will air on Channel 7 in 2021.
Occupation: Rainfall was released earlier this year and includes some international and national stars in its cast, including Ken Jeong (Crazy Rich Asians, The Hangover Trilogy), Daniel Gillies (The Originals, The Vampire Diaries), Dan Ewing (Love and Monsters, Home and Away) and Dena Kaplan (Dance Academy, Long Story Short).
The Australian-made alien invasion blockbuster picks up from where Occupation left off.
Directed by Luke Sparke, it follows an intergalactic invasion where survivors in Sydney are fighting back.
As casualties mount by the day, the resistance and their unexpected allies uncover a plot that could see the war come to an end – the race is on to save mankind.
Zac said he had an absolute ball acting in and producing the film.
“This has been such an immense project that I’ve been involved in now for two years,” he told Newcastle Weekly.
“To see it come to fruition and on the big screen and to see the reactions it’s getting is very rewarding.
“It was thrilling to shoot, action [films are] always fun, it’s demanding and taxing but fun and worth it to see people’s reactions.”
Moving forward, Zac’s goal is to continue to act in and produce more films and TV shows.
“I love to produce and act and develop so I’d love to do what Joel Edgerton, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett are doing,” he said.
“They are producing incredible projects and developing and acting in them and that makes it a really great experience because it is a really cohesive team approach.
“I played a lot of sports when I was younger so I love working in a team – it is immersive because once you are in, you’re in and you’ve got to go.”