Will Hall plays James, a loans officer at the bank who is just cruising through his life. James loves sports and women, but doesn't score too well with either. But that's okay, he's from Wanganui. Then some really weird shit starts happening: he gets stuck in a car wash, loses days out of his life, and Buddhist monks appear at his door...
He might only be 24, but actor Will Hall has already suffered for his art. After uprooting himself from a comfortable life in Christchurch, Will went to Sydney where he struggled financially, had his actor's portfolio stolen, got arrested for pasting up posters in the dead of night. And then, when he came to Wellington to try to find an agent, ended up sleeping in a van in a car park.
All these experiences have given Will great sympathy for James, his character on the series The Insiders Guide to Happiness - because he reckons if he hadn't moved out of his own comfort zone, he could have been just like him.
"I took the step and moved to Australia. That was a hard thing because all my friends and family are in Christchurch, but I knew if I wanted to act I couldn't stay there," Will explains. "And James' journey is a bit like that. Initially he thinks he's happy and everything's great. Then through what happens to him he realises that he can do more."
Will plays the extremely likeable James on Insiders Guide, a typical young Kiwi bloke working in a bank who spends his weekends hanging out with mates at the rugby, or playing pool.
"James is everyone's friend. He's one of those friendly open guys that has no enemies," says Will. "James can get on with any group, any person, any individual, anyone. He doesn't have any set opinions about anyone.
"But some of his strengths are also his weaknesses. He's very gullible and completely naïve, and just setting himself up for a fall. He's just too trusting. "
Will's role on Insiders Guide isn't all rugby, naivety and beer. For reasons that become clear as the series progresses, the actor had to undergo extensive training in Tai Chi including one-on-one tuition with a master of the art, Stan Chun.
"I ended up getting quite good," says Will proudly. "I was a little apprehensive about it, but then thought it was cool. My tutor can still kick my arse, but I'd like to keep doing it because it was great for relaxing."
For Will, far and away the most challenging scenes in Insiders Guide were the pivotal ones when he gets 'stuck' in a car wash for hours on end.
"We almost did those scenes in actual time!" Will recalls. "I actually spent 12 hours sitting in a car! We had about five of the crew in there with me - camera, director, lighting. So it was stuffy and stinky. And the car wash kept screwing up, because a car wash has a set cycle - so we had to get a car wash expert in. But still, there'd always be issues with the car wash.
"Then we had to get a chip in the windscreen, so this dude had to come and nail a hole that had to be right. And my character had to chew gum to block up the hole. By the end of the day my jaw was sore, but the problem was when we got to the seventh packet of chewing gum, one of the guys said 'Have you read the warning label?'. 'Chewing gum causes a laxative effect.' And it was all over! My stomach just exploded! I've never touched the stuff again.
"That was the day I had to pee into a cup as well. We had fake pee The director pushes a bottle forward and I've got this tube I had to take out of my fly. I hadn't taken it out of my fly yet because I was still at the start of the scene, but he was watching the monitor and he was getting too excited about how the scene was going so he was just squeezing it, and I was like 'dude, I'm wetting myself here - stop that!'
It's exactly those kind of quirky antics that Will says make The Insiders Guide to Happiness extremely hard to describe.
"That's the hardest question I've had to answer," he says, "I keep finding different things. But the main element of the show is finding happiness... One of the great things about the show is most people only know happiness after the fact. The key to happiness is knowing when you've got it. And those occasions are very rare."
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