Why Sam Moran isn’t bitter about The Wiggles
SEVEN years since he was asked to relinquish his yellow skivvy, Sam Moran would like to make one thing very clear - he is not now, nor was he ever, bitter about his job loss.
"I loved my time with The Wiggles and I'm very proud of everything we achieved while I was there," he tells Stellar.
Besides, he says, "I'm just really happy that I've been able to continue doing what I love to do. This is [now] 21 years of me being in children's entertainment."
Career longevity aside, Moran's decision to tackle this particular showbiz niche was clearly the right one, and The Wiggles provided him a launching pad that worked in his favour.
He first became involved with the group in 1998, playing a number of characters onstage and in their television series, before becoming understudy to Greg Page's Yellow Wiggle in 2002.
In 2006, he officially donned that signature skivvy after Page retired due to ill health; through 10 albums, countless performances, five ARIAs and an ARIA Awards Hall of Fame induction, Moran had a steady pay cheque. Then, in 2012, Page returned.
"Look, it was something of a surprise to me at the time and I didn't really... the easy answer is I wasn't really done doing what I was doing," says Moran.
So he pivoted, creating the popular Nickelodeon preschool series Play Along With Sam the year after his dismissal.
It has been a fruitful endeavour, earning Moran another chart-topping album, more ARIA Award nominations (and a win in 2015) and a Logie nod.
As for his former Wiggles colleagues, "I haven't heard from any of those guys, really. I did get a message from Murray [former Red Wiggle Murray Cook] when I won the ARIA, congratulating me, which was nice. But we don't really keep in touch beyond that."
Moran does, however, have a friendship with Emma Watkins, the woman who would become Page's second replacement and the group's first-ever female member.
"Emma was in the show when I was there as well, so I know Emma quite well," says Moran.
"We talked after it was announced she was taking over. She was nervous about it at the time, but I told her she would be absolutely fine and if she had any questions, she could always come to me. She's been doing a great job."
As a children's entertainer, Moran, who has a nine-year-old daughter named Eloise with wife Lyn (the pair separated a few years ago), is used to the often eardrum-busting, outlandishly enthusiastic screaming of little children. Not that he was ever one himself.
"I was quite an introvert as a kid and I was probably a bit of a geek, to be honest," says Moran, who was four years old when his mother enrolled him into an early childhood music class.
One day, the teacher pulled her aside and said, "Your son can sing very well in tune for his age." Ever since, music has played an integral role in Moran's life - he studied classical voice and music education at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music before starting to work with The Wiggles.
And while the singer may have long ago gotten used to the decibel levels of young audiences screaming with delight, he had to brace himself for the more grown-up cheers that came his way when he performed an on-camera striptease for Seven Network's The All New Monty, a one-night-only special that aims to shine a light on men's health.
"It's definitely a little bit different," says Moran with a laugh. "It's from the sublime to the ridiculous in a way."
Hosted by Shane Jacobson and choreographed by Todd McKenney, Monty hopes to repeat the success of its inaugural airing last year, which saw an audience of two million people tune in to see eight male celebrities drop trou to support awareness of prostate and testicular cancer checks.
Joining Moran in the buff this time will be The Bachelor Australia's Matty J, actor John Wood and footballers Lote Tuqiri, Robert "Dipper" DiPierdomenico, George Burgess and Brendan Fevola. The eighth member has been billed as a "surprise addition".
Moran admits he put in some extra hours of training at the gym to ensure he looked his best for his big reveal. After all, there's no hiding anything in a show like this.
"I certainly went and told my personal trainer, 'We have to step things up a notch over the next few weeks...'" he says.
"We've all got insecurities, whether we're male or female, and I'm no different. But the whole point is to show that we can put ourselves out of our comfort zone, too, because we're asking men to go put themselves out of their comfort zone a little bit to go and get themselves checked."
The sheer importance of the cause was ultimately what swayed Moran to get naked.
"I think all guys put their family first, but really, the best thing a man can do to look after their family is to make sure they're there," he tells Stellar. "This is about prostate cancer and testicular cancer - and men's health in general."
The decision to strip down may have been clear-cut, but that didn't make Moran any less anxious about how audiences would react.
Asked how he felt as the night approached, he says one word with emphasis: "Petrified. I've had a lot of experience onstage but not anything like this before. Some of my experience came in very handy when doing the choreography and the dance moves, which is something some of the other guys might have struggled with.
"But a lot of the football players were very... it was hard getting them to keep their clothes on!"
But, he laughs, their enthusiasm was not contagious. "Unfortunately their eagerness to get their clothes off didn't rub off on me."
The All New Monty airs soon on the Seven Network.