Leon Ford takes a break after ‘The Letdown,’ ‘Upright’ and ‘Rams’

Leon Ford in ‘The Letdown’ (Photo credit: Tony Mott).

Admirers of Leon Ford who enjoyed his work as Ruben in the ABC’s The Letdown and other shows should savour his performance in Jeremy Sims’ upcoming movie Rams because after that he will be off screen for a while.

The actor-writer moved to Los Angeles last year with his wife Alice Bell and their three young children as Alice serves as the writer/creator and co-showrunner on The Expatriates, a 10-part Amazon series produced by Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films.

Based on Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel, the series centres on a group of close-knit American women and their lives as outsiders in Hong Kong and is yet to go into production.

“I would like to find a happy medium that a lot people have where they can go and back forth and do jobs,” he tells IF during a family vacation in Australia.

Ford has been nominated for an AWGIE award for best situation or narrative comedy screenplay for an episode of Upright, the Lingo Pictures/Foxtel dramedy which stars Tim Minchin and Milly Alcock.

Minchin has also been nominated for an episode he wrote, along with Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola for two eps of Rosehaven and Benjamin Law and Kirsty Fisher for The Family Law.

Created by The Chaser’s Chris Taylor, Upright follows two misfits – Minchin’s self-destructive Lucky Flynn and Alcock’s tough-as-nails teenager Meg – who meet by chance in the middle of the desert and form a bond in their quest to get a piano from one side of Australia to the other.

After Taylor came up with the concept he called in Ford and Kate Mulvany to brainstorm ideas, and Mulvany then approached her old mate Minchin. “Tim had an amazing influence on the whole process,” says Leon, who wrote two episodes. “The show is very much a part of his DNA now, as much as it is part of Chris’.”

Ford, who is repped by Cameron’s Management, was in the Upright writers’ room when Alice told him about the move to LA.

In Rams, a re-imagining of Icelandic drama Hrútar, he appears alongside Sam Neill and Michael Caton, who play estranged brothers who live on adjoining farms but haven’t spoken to each other for 40 years. The brothers are forced to find a way to work together to save their flock and their family’s legacy when their sheep and their small town are threatened.

He plays the antagonist De Vries, the Department of Agriculture official from Perth who informs the brothers their sheep are infected and must be killed.

Relishing the chance to work with Sims, he says: “He’s so full of energy; he can’t sit still behind the monitor when you are delivering stuff that he likes. I had an absolute ball.”

Roadshow has yet to set a release date for Rams, which co-stars Miranda Richardson, Wayne Blair, Travis McMahon, Asher Keddie, Hayley McElhinney and Kipan Rothbury and was produced by WBMC’s Janelle Landers and Aidan O’Bryan.

Leon Ford in the Sydney Theatre Co. production of ‘A Flea in Her Ear’.

Ford met his wife-to-be at the Old Fitzroy Hotel when he was appearing in Josh Lawson’s idiosyncratic play Shakespearealism.

The last time Alice wrote a part for him, it wasn’t much fun: He played a sleazy teacher named Mr Candy who publicly professed his love for one of his students in Puberty Blues.

The actor’s extensive credits include Offspring, the first season of Squinters, Wanted, House Husbands, House of Hancock, Gallipoli, The Pacific, ANZAC Girls and Rush.

“I have often played the unsuspecting culprit when no one would think it was me and in the end it was me,” he says. “I think it’s because I’m such an every man kind of guy.”

He enjoys balancing his career between the stage, writing TV several episodes per year and film and TV roles.

In the US he intends to use his down-time by writing another novel. His first, What Doesn’t Kill You, the saga of a guy who wakes up on a stranger’s couch, hungover, after discovering his wife is not in love with him, his job has disappeared and one of his friends has betrayed him, was published in 2009.

In 2010 he wrote and directed his first and so far only feature, Griff the Invisible, a comedy-romance starring Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody and Patrick Brammall.

He’d like another crack at directing a feature but in the meantime is happy to take TV jobs, observing: “TV pays proper money and when you start writing scripts you know they are actually going to be shot and seen. You could spend years writing great scenes for a movie which will never be shot or seen.”

Created by Alison Bell and Sarah Scheller and directed by Trent O’Donnell, the second series of the Giant Dwarf-produced The Letdown is screening on Netflix in the US, giving the actor a profile he did not expect.

Recently he was walking along the street in LA pushing his youngest daughter in a pram when a passing motorist pulled over and yelled: “Hey that’s funny. You’re a dad on TV and you’re a dad in real life.”