Heartbreak High’s secret hook ups and heartbreaks
While it was common knowledge Callan Mulvey and Lara Cox were embroiled in a romance at the same time their characters Drazic and Anita were dating on-screen, Rel spills they weren’t the only ones with eyes for their co-stars.
“I had a thing for Ada Nicodemou but she didn’t want a bar of me,” Rel divulges of the actress, who played Katerina on the show.
“I was kind of seeing Nathalie Roy [who played Ryan’s girlfriend Sarah Livingstone] and we went to the Logies and you know when you really like someone and you get a bit carried away? I tried to kiss her and it was when were about to get out of the car and she literally pushed me away and was like: ‘Not in front of the cameras!’
“It didn’t really go anywhere. I think she thought I was a player, which I probably was back then. I did really like her though.”
The reality of being a teen heartthrob in the 90s
There are often celebrities who complain about constantly being recognised on the street by fans. But Rel definitely wasn’t one of them – even if his boyish good looks regularly meant his followers transformed into the embodiment of the heart-eyes emoji.
So what was it really like to hold that coveted heartthrob status?
“Terrible! [Laughs] I mean you know the answer to that one. It was the best thing ever,” Rel confesses.
“And I never got tired of signing any autographs - not that they were asking me all the time. I never got sick or tired of being famous or being in the public eye because it was a show that I was proud of and everyone loved it."
Rel adds that it wasn’t just teenage girls who approached him. In fact, there were a few surprising Heartbreak High fans.
“Didn’t matter if it was the hardest group of gangsters, rolling up in a car going, 'Oi, Scheppers'. I never got a bad comment about it,” Rel says.
“The only bad comments were the bagging from my own mates being sarcastically like, ‘Oh, yeah heartthrob.’ Or calling it ‘Hard Knob High.' People I didn’t know would come up and shake my hand and give me high fives. I never got a bad experience and so why wouldn’t I love that?”
Ryan vs Drazic: The real story about the tension between Rel and co-star Callan Mulvey
The star has previously been open about the tension between actors that existed on the set of Heartbreak High and Rel explains the reason it occurred.
“We were competitive. We wanted to make a really good product and you were doing scenes where it was confrontational, hostile, and you wanted to make it look real,” Rel explains.
“And sometimes there were fisticuffs, like there was a punch on and they captured that. They liked to make us feel like we were in a cage, you know? I think the directors there and also the producers liked that we were in a hostile environment and they would push us into that.”
One of the ongoing on-screen rivalries involved Rel’s character Ryan, who often butted heads with Drazic (played by Callan), over various seasons – and Rel admits sometimes the clashes were real.
“Me and Cal – there were times when, I guarantee you, I hated him,” Rel confesses.
“In the scene – because the scene crosses over and he would say something in an improv which hit a nerve. He’d know what pissed me off and I’d know what would piss him off and you use that in a scene and it would flare up.
“We had fight scenes where we were throwing each other and I guarantee you there were times when my fist was clenched when I was hitting him. And same, he would hit me too. We hated each other.”
However, Rel insists they left any hostility between one another on set and off set it was a different story.
“When they called cut and we had a beer at the end of the day, it was over. I never had a bad feeling about him and I don’t think he had a bad feeling but in the scene, we hated each other. We wanted to hurt each other,” he says.
He adds: “I wasn’t that close with Cal because he was a big star and because he had a lot of stuff going on. But we never hated each other. I never hated him and he never hated me. We were mates at the end of the day as far as I’m concerned.”
Ryan vs Kurt: Why there was also tension between Rel and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor
When the students moved from Hartley High to Hartley Heights in the later seasons, it ushered in a host of new students, including Kurt, played by Jeremy Lindsay Taylor.
Kurt and Ryan quickly got off on the wrong foot as they fought over the same girl – and this tension spilled over between the actors.
“Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, he’s a tough man, he’s a hard man. He would destroy me in a fight. But I would give it a good go. But he’s a very tough guy. Him and I had a lot of fight scenes,” he says.
“I guarantee you in the fight scenes, it was real but then at the end of the week on a Friday night, we’d have a beer together and we loved each other.”
WATCH: Heartbreak High's Lara Cox plays WHO's Deadset or Rack off!
Sibling love! Rel's relationship with Lara Cox was "organic"
After not catching up with on-screen sister Lara Cox in years, Rel reunited with the actress for WHO’s exclusive video shoot (which you can watch in the player above and the top of article) and their easy chemistry was palpable.
“Seeing Lara, that was natural and I wasn’t even that close with her. We had each other’s back, we were in a lot of scenes together but it was real,” he says.
“We [me and Lara] became brother and sister straight away. It’s funny, I was never in the mix for Heartbreak High until suddenly something happened. We were doing these auditions and they liked the way we looked together and then Cal and I hated each other straight off the bat. In the scenes, there was an antagonism there so that’s why I got the role – because of him. Because he hated me and I hated him on the auditions.”
Meanwhile, Rel says his bond with Lara was “organic” and like a siblings' relationship from the get-go.
“Then with Lara, there was something nice about that. It was a lovely brotherly sisterly thing. Then I saw her and I never felt… every other guy in the world loved her and wanted to be with her but I just saw her as being a nice girl that I wanted to protect.”
A sneaky traffic-stopping appearance by the Bra Boys
Heartbreak High filmed the majority of its scenes in the Sydney coastal suburb Maroubra, home of notorious surf gang, the Bra Boys.
Turns out the gang actually had a role – albeit an unofficial one – in the production of Heartbreak High.
“We were in Maroubra and the Bra Boys were down there. So we’d go for a surf and they wanted us to go and hang out with them. And they’d been going to Maroubra Bay High School so we’d just kicked them out of their school. [The producers] wanted us to get that tension,” Rel says.
“We went and surfed with Koby Abberton and all those hardcore boys from My Brother’s Keeper. Full on. So we go down there and then they’d say, ‘If you play by the rules down here, you’ll be ok. If you f**king drop in on us, you’re dead!’"
Rel reveals that once they got to know each other, the Bra Boys ended up lending a helping hand.
“I became mates with them and then there’d be a Heartbreak High scene on a street and they would help us stop traffic – the Bra Boys would help us stop traffic. We became mates with them. Half of them are in jail now because of drugs or whatever,” he says.
From school to the streets: Life after Heartbreak High in Macbeth and Underbelly
Following his exit from Heartbreak High, Rel scored a contract in the US, working on the Cruel Intentions prequel, Manchester Prep, and doing voiceovers and cartoon work.
Locally, he nabbed roles in high-profile Australian productions such as Macbeth (2006) and Underbelly: Razor (2011) and shares some intriguing behind-the-scenes goss on these gigs.
“Sam Worthington I became really good mates with on [Macbeth] and we were out on the drink every f**king night and who else was there? [Steve] Bastoni, Gary Sweet... we were out on the drink,” Rel spills.
“We got into a lot of trouble actually because Worthington got into a fight and I had to protect him.”
Meanwhile, Rel says his time spent playing feared brothel owner William Archer in Underbelly: Razor came with an unexpected cost.
"It was all night stuff so we were cutting each other up and we were fighting each other and we were being awful creatures - this is the show, not me... and it actually started to impact on us,” he says.
“There must be some psychological experiment that they could do to show… we turned into those people. We weren’t sleeping.”
Headed back to class? Rel’s thoughts on the Heartbreak High reboot
As far as a return to the upcoming Heartbreak High reboot is concerned, like many of the show’s alumni, Rel says never say never.
“[I’d return] if they asked me! As long as it fits in with my commitments now,” Rel says. “I would but I’d be equally cool if they said, ‘Oh yeah, we don’t want you for the reboot.’ I’d go, ‘F*ck yeah, it’s a new generation.’”
And he’s already got some ideas for how he could make his way back now that he’s outgrown the possibility of being a high school student, admitting he’d be up for returning as a parent, teacher or something else entirely.
“What I thought would be good is if I go in there as like a gangster. Like a mad bastard who goes in for one episode and scares the sh*t out of everyone and gets blown away,” he laughs.
“I could be the Shark Pool owner as a gangster. Like the guy who sells drugs to the kids and he gets locked up or he’s a bad dude. I think that would be the best option. I’d do that.
“So if you talk to the producers, I know they’re going to do the remake, I want to get in there. 100% if it works in and the character’s decent… I wouldn’t mind being like an edgy teacher.”
Praising his time on Heartbreak High two decades ago, Rel adds he’s eternally grateful for the opportunity and would never turn up his nose at the series.
“I’d be mad not to say thank you. This show has given me so much. It got me everything,” he says.
“I can’t believe it’s still so popular. I just feel like Ashton Kutcher is going to jump out like I’m getting Punk’d. I’m just waiting for someone to say, mate, no one f**king likes the show, we’re just gee-ing you up.”
WATCH: Heartbreak High's Rel Hunt and Lara Cox reunite to play TV WEEK's 2-minute challenge