Raised in Sydney in a mixed Australian household — half-Caucasian, half-Japanese — Takaya Honda cut his teeth as a professional actor starring in repertory productions of Shakespeare before tackling several gigs as a hosting personality. Now a household name in Oz, Honda joined the cast of Neighbours in 2016 playing Dr. David Tanaka, who, in early September, will make history by getting hitched to Aaron, his on-screen fiancé, in Australia’s first same-sex wedding on primetime television.
Tell us a little bit about Neighbours and its obsessive fan base.
The show is suburban semi-realism that sells an idyllic, always-sunny Australian lifestyle. It’s relatable; it’s an average slice of life. Right now we have a cast of 28, so we tackle a variety of domestic issues — some taboo. I think people respond to the show because everyone can find their story represented within.
When you read for the part, were you aware of David’s future story arc?
After landing the role of David, I was told immediately that he would eventually come out on the show, and a long-term relationship with Aaron (played by Matt Wilson) was in the works that would unfold over the course of my multi-year contract.
What parts of David do you see in yourself?
As someone with a Japanese background in Australia I know how it feels to not quite belong. I’m playing an Australian character who happens to be Japanese, just as I’m playing an Australian who happens to be gay — neither one defines David. I get asked this retrograde question all the time: as a straight actor what is it like to play gay? Love is love, and it’s my job as an actor to empathize with my role.
Why is this wedding episode happening so late relative to other Western countries?
Culturally, there are things that take longer than they should — politically too, and oftentimes one blames the other. There were key figures with loud voices who held it off for reasons that were completely self-serving. At Neighbours we’ve been pushing this for quite a while. The head of scripts is a gay man, as is our executive producer, and my storyline has been in the works for years, long before the legalization of gay marriage. It’s nice that our on-screen wedding will have more legitimacy now — it’s a celebration, not an act of defiance.
*This story is part of our '99 Things We Love About Australia' feature in the August issue of Out.