"This song doesn't have a name, cause I'm not into labels. I don't even care if you like it," says Ethan, the main character of "EMO the Musical". Behind the eyeliner, the guitar and the droopy fringe, the actor playing Ethan has a different relationship to labels.
"Since that article came out, it's all people have asked me about. It's not untrue," Benson Jack Anthony told HuffPost Australia about the unconventional inspiration for his name, "My dad did smoke Benson & Hedges, and he named the dog after his favourite cigarette. Then I came along, and my mum and dad were both like 'Benson is such a lovely name,' so they kept it."
You might recognise him from Channel Seven's "800 Words", where he was nominated for two Logies for been playing Erik Thompson's son Arlo. Now a lead in "EMO", Jack Anthony shows off another talent: singing.
"I grew up dancing, I'm a trained dancer and before the acting thing took off, I considered myself first and foremost a dancer. I did a few singing lessons and acting on the side, so I wouldn't say I'm musical theatre trained. It's just that I'm not my most comfortable when I'm singing, although who is? Unless you're a singer by profession."
Jack Anthony stars as Ethan, a troubled emo who was expelled from his last high school for attempting to hang himself on school grounds. Arriving at a new school, Ethan is confronted with pushy Christians attempting to yank him from his dark and dreary existence and fill him with the light of God. There's a looming rock competition, star-crossed lovers and a closeted student self-administering electroshock therapy via an app. It's like "Romeo and Juliet" meets "High School Musical" but Romeo attempts suicide a lot earlier on in the piece and Juliet keeps trying to baptize people without their consent.
"It's ridiculous," Jack Anthony said, "It's such a funny film. It's not your '13 Reasons Why'. I always say don't take the film seriously, but take the themes seriously."
Netflix's "13 Reasons Why" has been championed and criticised for its intense depiction of sexual assault and suicide. It's something that's struck a chord with parents and teens, with some audiences saying it crosses a line, and other noting it may bridge a communication gap between kids and their parents.
Jack Anthony also starred in a miniseries called "High Life" which was executive produced by Stephen Fry. The series dealt with a young high school girl going through her first episode of bipolar disorder, and he played her school mate.
"Conveying a message through TV and film is why I'm in this business," he said. Other people have different reasons. Both 'High Life' and 'Emo' have themes of mental health and how it's affected by the people around them, especially in school environments."
"If you can somehow get content to young teens that portrays a good message that says 'It's okay if you're not feeling good today, or you're a bit depressed', because if you're feeling these things or you're going through hard times, it's so okay to talk about it."
Ethan's journey to becoming the best emo he can be isn't as dark as you'd think, the film's songs are punctuated with hysterically brilliant gags. Questioning her faith, Ethan's love interest Trinity asks a Christian support group, "could Jesus have been an emo?" and beautifully singing "and no girls would have dated him / cause who wants their boyfriend crucified... at the formal?"
While the jokes are rife, and the film promises a good time, it still holds an important message. "It's kind of teaching you to have your own thoughts and be comfortable with who you are and there's no pressure. I think adding some comedy into that takes the pressure off things."
As for labels, Jack Anthony might have sported an emo haircut for a few weeks, but never really bought into the identity. "I'm a ginger," he said, "so I was always just labelled just, that ginger kid."
"Emo the Musical" is in cinemas now.
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