Have you been watching Netflix’s latest addictive series Firefly Lane? If you have, you might have wondered, Where have I seen the actor who plays Johnny Ryan before? The Aussie native has been a working actor for over a decade, appearing in projects like Bombshell, The Good Place, 13 Reasons Why, Designated Survivor, and Doubt. Not bad for a guy who got his start on Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, an Australian TV series about a highly intelligent pet kangaroo.
Part of the charm of Lawson, 41, is that he hasn’t forgotten his roots. In 2020 the actor wrote an illustrated book called To My Country, in response to the devastating Australian bushfires. Proceeds went to The Koala Hospital, which focuses on preservation and conservation. “I refer to Australia as ‘she,’” he told The Sydney Morning Herald at the time. “She provides for us the same way a mother would.”
That sweet sensitivity—and, sure, those good looks—is perfect for the role of TV producer Johnny Ryan in Firefly Lane. The character is Kate Mularkey’s ex, Tully Hart’s confidant, and Mara’s protective dad in the series, based on Kristin Hannah’s novel of the same name, but (spoiler warning) by the season’s end, things aren’t looking so good for him. So what’s in store for the Netflix star? Time for him to answer our Inappropriate Questions, Glamour’s column that asks all the cheeky, slightly off-kilter stuff best saved for a second (or better yet, third) date.
Glamour: Your Instagram handle is @BennyVegas. Tell me the story behind the name.
Ben Lawson: It’s not as good as you think it is. When I was a young actor, around 19, I was working at a restaurant in Brisbane—where I grew up—and hustling, trying to be an actor. This guy in the restaurant started calling me Benny Vegas because he said I wanted to be Benny Hollywood, but I wasn’t quite there yet. I’ve had that moniker for over 20 years now.
And look at you now!
I literally live in Hollywood, and they still call me Benny Vegas. When am I going to graduate to Benny Hollywood?
I’m glad you got to keep your accent to play Johnny Ryan. Was that always the plan?
Before I went in to read for the role, there was a note that said I was welcome to do the part in my natural accent if I wanted to. I usually disregard that because it doesn’t work for the character a lot of times. If a part is written in American rhythms, the writer has written it with an American voice in their head. But I read the first couple of scripts and the audition sides and thought, This guy could totally be Australian. I played around with it, tried it in an American accent, tried with my Australian accent, and eventually settled on Aussie. It felt like a good fit when I met with the casting director. And when I met Kristin Hannah, the author of the book, I said, “Hi, I’m Ben! I hope you don’t mind I made Johnny Australian.” She said, “No, I love whatever. It’s great!”
Did you have a chemistry read with Katherine or Sarah before you got the role?