RISING actor Wayne Davies was poised for big things before taking his own life earlier this year.
He should have attended his Murdoch University graduation ceremony in March.
Two weeks ago he should have been on stage accepting a third best actor gong at the WA Screen Awards (WASA) for his work in drama short Lola & Luis.
He did neither, because on January 14, seemingly out of nowhere, Mr Davies committed suicide.
The 46-year-old worked hard to carve out a career as a musician and was a sought-after bass player, boasting gigs with Australian acts Gangajang, Mondo Rock and Mental As Anything among his extensive resume.
While music kept food on the table, in the late 1990s an acting workshop unearthed a passion for film that eventually led Mr Davies to enrol at Murdoch University to study a Bachelor of Media in 2013.
Described by younger brother Glen as “the most emotionally intelligent person I’ve ever known”, Mr Davies quickly impressed everyone he worked with his innate ability to fully immerse himself in a role.
Acting parts began to flow and in their wake came accolades.
His first WASA nomination came in 2009 and his first best actor award in 2011 as part of director Maziar Lahooti’s Good Pretender.
Two years later he picked up his second best actor award for short film Heaven, another collaboration with Mr Lahooti.
“We had absolutely no idea it was coming, it was a complete shock,” Glen said.
“Every day I think about what happened and how it happened, and how he could leave all of us behind, including his two young boys.”
Mr Davies is survived by two sons, aged nine and six, from a past relationship.
Glen said his brother had embodied the starving artist trope all his life. But with a degree under his belt and an established reputation as an accomplished actor, Wayne appeared to have turned a corner.
“He was starting to move more into the behind the scenes stuff – he wanted to be a director and was writing a screenplay loosely based on the life of a musician,” Glen said.
“He was reaching a peak where his career really could have shot off and that is one of the things that is so upsetting.”
Where that career may have led Wayne will remain a mystery but the void left by his absence is all too real.
“Wayne was generous and loving and caring and always had time for people – he had a real gift for motivating people,” Glen said.
“We would talk together for hours about life and philosophy and often the things he’d say would stick in my mind and years down the track he’d be proved right.
“He was a very deep and emotional person and I think that was why he was such a great actor.”
Cleaning out Wayne’s apartment in the wake of his death, Glen discovered his brother had visited a GP on December 30, two weeks before his suicide.
“He had a mental health care plan and was being treated for anxiety, which nobody knew about,” Glen said.
“That was really upsetting for me personally because I work in the mental health field – I’m the first person he could have spoken to.
“If he’d just told me or anybody else what he was going through we could have had a completely different outcome and that’s something I have to live with everyday.”
Readers seeking support or information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
Death robs local industry of “bright talent”
Director Maziar Lahooti and Murdoch University screen production lecturer Damian Fasolo believe Wayne Davies’ death has robbed the local film industry of one of its brightest talents.
Mr Lahooti was paired with Mr Davies at an acting workshop in 2004 and was immediately impressed with the older man’s obvious ability.
Later that year he offered Mr Davies a part in a short film he was shooting for TAFE and the duo soon became mates and trusted colleagues.
Mr Lahooti was scheduled to meet his friend on the day his body was discovered.
He had good news – he had just completed a detailed story treatment for a feature film version of Heaven, the short for which Mr Davies won his second Best Actor WASA in 2013.
“Both Wayne and I regarded Heaven as his best acting performance to date, so I was excited to tell him about the feature-length project,” Mr Lahooti said.
“Then I got the call from his girlfriend. It was a big shock, it took a while to sink in.
“Wayne was very stoic, he would always carry his issues himself so it really came as a big surprise.”
Mr Lahooti said Mr Davies’ career was about to take off, with the actor having worked hard to establish his brand and credentials over the previous decade.
“In terms of ability, Wayne was amazing from the moment I met him,” Mr Lahooti said.
“What went against him was that he had just passed the stage where he could play the younger leading man but he was also too young visually to play older roles.
“He was just reaching the stage where he was becoming far more castable and I think over the next 10 to 15 years he would have really made a name for himself.”
Mr Fasolo regarded Mr Davies as one of his best students, the pair forming a special bond while working on feature film Broken from October to November last year. It was the last project Mr Davies completed.
“Honestly, there is no way I would have a film if Wayne hadn’t jumped on board,” Mr Fasolo said.
“He ended up co-producing the film and working as the location manager.
“He found literally every location I could have dreamt of from bars in Perth to places down south in Denmark.
Mr Fasolo believes Mr Davies took on the project because the film’s plot – a young couple with a child going through a break-up – was close to his heart.
“Wayne actually has a very brief cameo in the film playing a loving father to my real life daughter,” he said.
“He was an incredible father, his kids were always on set and you could always tell he was just so proud of his boys.”
WA residents more likely to access crisis services
New data shows that Western Australians are almost half as likely to access Lifeline’s crisis support services as the rest of Australia.
The findings come despite the fact that WA has one of the highest suicide rates in the country with 14.4 people in every 100,000 choosing to end their own lives.
Lifeline WA chief executive Lorna MacGregor said that while more than 55,000 local calls were made to the charity’s crisis line last financial year, only the equivalent of two per cent of West Australians seek help from Lifeline, compared to a national average of 3.5 per cent.
“Our latest statistics show that thousands more Western Australians are reaching out to our trained crisis supporters but we remain concerned that help-seeking behaviour in WA is lower than the national average,” she said.
Lifeline WA also assisted close to 15,000 people through its nightly online crisis support chat service, a 15 per cent increase on last year.
“This indicates the deep isolation, anxiety and sadness experienced by many in our community,” Ms MacGregor said.
“We also know that, due to the stigma around mental ill health, many more people are suffering in silence.”