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Craig with his Helpman Award

I’ve been one of the lucky ones to have known Craig for over 20 years. And I can tell you, as a Producer who has worked in Television just as long, Craig is the most down to earth person you could ever meet. What you see is what you get. He is an absolute gentleman, a total professional, as well as being incredibly talented.

When we say in Showbiz someone is a triple threat – that means they can sing, dance and act. Well, add to that being a musician and composer, and you have Craig McLachlan. A quintuple threat?! Exactly! I can’t say I’ve ever really heard that word, because let’s face it, there aren’t too many who have succeeded at it all.

But Craig has, and he’s won awards in every field – for acting, theatre and his music. Who could forget his massive hit “Mona” from 1991 – a track still played today. It was the highest selling single in Australia (1991) and placed#2 in the UK charts, only to pipped by Sir Elton John! Craig is certainly one of Australia’s most versatile actors, whether on stage, in television, film or music.

Yep, Craig is a unique and multi-talented guy. Talent he certainly is, fun he definitely is, but many don’t know the real Craig in that he is also incredibly loyal, caring, kind, genuine and generous.

When Craig first came back to Australia from the UK in the late 90’s, he lived with my partner at the time (who was his manager) and myself. For many years I got to know the ‘real’ Craig at work and outside of work.

What I witnessed behind-the-scenes was a hardworking professional who brought an energy to the set with his fun and humour to get everyone relaxed before a show. His co-stars absolutely loved him as did the entire cast and crew. Craig has always been inclusive of everyone on set and treats them all equally and with the utmost respect, regardless of their role or status.

Grease: The Arena Spectacular-1999

I have watched Craig perform night after night on stage in Australia’s most successful ‘live’ arena events Grease-The Arena Spectacular 1998 and Happy Days – The Arena Mega Musical, 1999) and saw how this incredible talent was so in tune with his audience. He’d make subtle tweaks to his performance (literally on the spot) in response to the audience reactions, and boy did they love it. Each night Craig’s comedic exaggerations would get bigger and bolder, and the screams and laughter of the audience would get louder. Craig’s comedic timing is perfect, and witnessing the cyclical interchange between Craig and his audience is wonderful to see. It’s not surprising his Aussie shows like Greece The Musical broke all box office records for an arena event.

While Craig is larger than life on stage, in real life he is a regular guy. He’s kind and caring and always the one to make everyone feel welcome. He’s not fake nor has ever had an ego. He just wants to make people smile and have a laugh. There are no two sides to Craig – what you see is what you get.

When you see Craig with fans, it’s not a job, or a chore, he’s just himself. The amount of time and energy he gives the fans is pure. No pretension or ulterior motive. He’s in the moment 110% and the fans feel it.

Craig is always out to make people happy. I remember during the time Craig lived with my partner and I in the late 90s, a few of us went out for dinner for my birthday. Just a low-key quiet one at a restaurant. Not long after we all got home, from dinner, Craig was fast asleep. He apologised profusely the next day that he had crashed out early and said he doesn’t normally drink champagne as it makes him tired, but said how he couldn’t celebrate my birthday without a celebratory drink. And this pretty much sums up Craig – completely selfless and always thinking of others before himself.

Surprise! Craig’s birthday on set Heroe’s Mountain (2002)

When it was Craig’s birthday, his Manager and I decided to surprise him on the set of Heroes Mountain (2002). I took this photo the moment Craig saw his manager walk in with the cake and he was so surprised, chuffed and happy. Look at that smile! It was just a cake, but Craig is always so grateful for even the smallest of things.

Even when Craig was in his younger years and prime of his life – he was never a party boy. Ever. He’s always conservative in the way he’s lived life and is always private, never out to show off or make a headline. He’s always been so disciplined with himself and work. He’d ham it up for the stage and interviews, but that was always for the show and publicity for the show.

Back in 1999 Craig was one of the stars of a major musical (Happy Days – The Mega Arena Musical) and some of the A-list stars were asked to attend the Australian music awards called the ARIAS (Australia’s equivalent to the Grammy’s). Once their publicity duties were done, a group of the leading stars and Craig, along with myself and Craig’s Manager at the time, went back to one of the actresses’ hotel rooms at the venue to watch the show on TV. Us girls went to the bathroom, took our makeup off, talked face creams and girly stuff. The guys were all out in the lounge-room in front of the TV chatting amongst themselves with the show on in the background. And that was it. No rock-n-roll after parties and all the rest. Just very laid back and chilled. And when the awards were over on the TV…we all left. And that was Craig – Always professional, on stage and off.

When I first met Craig I was a young TV Producer in the early years of my career. I’ve dealt with a lot of celebrities in my work over the past few decades, but Craig really was the first big international star I got to know well. And the nicest. And because he is so genuine, laid back and kind, it actually gave me a confidence boost as a Producer. It also gave me a greater respect for celebrities.

Craig has had a stellar career and reputation for over 33 years. He’s a talented and successful international star of the stage and screen, as well as an accomplished musician and composer. And above all, Craig is a genuinely all-round nice guy that I respect and am lucky to call a friend. He is the real deal.

Desleigh Pender- Television Producer (Australia)

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