After four years spent mostly behind the camera, writer, producer and actor Charlie Clausen is ready to return to the limelight. He debuts as Zac MacGuire in the second episode of the new season of Home and Away, which kicks off Monday on Seven/GWN7.
Clausen completed a Media Arts degree at Deakin University majoring in film and video and got his first got his big break in acting on ABC drama Head Start in 2001.
He has since appeared in McLeod's Daughters, Blue Heelers, Canal Road and Neighbours, but all the while he still harboured a love for being behind the camera.
In 2008, he founded Blackberry Films with his partner Gemma Lee. They have worked together to produce commercials, short films and web content, as well as music videos for some of Australia's most popular artists, including Guy Sebastian, Kasey Chambers, Reece Mastin and Paul Dempsey.
"My background has always been in production and I'd always been interested in going back to it so about five years ago when I finished on Canal Road, I decided to start producing more with my girlfriend who is a director," he says over the phone from Sydney.
"If the right job had come along I definitely would have kept acting but at that stage I seemed to be getting more work producing and writing."
Then, last year, Clausen decided to audition for the role of Zac and found himself on a different career path almost overnight.
"It was all pretty quick. I got the job and then went on set pretty much the next day," he says. "They dropped five scenes on me the night before my first day."
Clausen was also forced to abandon TOFOP, a weekly podcast he created with comedian Wil Anderson. With more than 50,000 downloads a week, the show was Australia's most popular comedy podcast.
"That was just an unfortunate conflict of interest," Clausen explains. "I'm really proud of what Wil and I did with the podcast and how popular it is but it's just very different audiences and if you have a new employer, you've kind of got to make some compromises. But I'm sure we'll do something together again."
After signing a three-year contract with Home and Away, Clausen is now juggling his executive producer responsibilities at Blackberry Films with his TV role.
Zac looks set to be one of the hottest new arrivals at the Bay as Casey's (Lincoln Younes) prison education officer and Natalie's (Catherine Mack) former flame.
In his early twenties, Zac found himself behind bars after being convicted of growing and selling marijuana.
However, Clausen describes Zac as having "integrity" despite his sordid history.
"He's a guy with a lot of integrity. He's a really sort of stand-up guy but he's someone who's had a bit of a shady past and come through that so the benefit of that life experience is he's very non-judgmental, he feels like he can talk to anyone"
Zac's time locked up also resulted in him losing the love of his life - Natalie, who he met at university.
"They were together back in the old uni days and Nat gets in touch when Casey goes to prison and asks Zac to keep an eye on him," Clausen says.
"The whole Brax (Steve Peacocke), Nat thing, Zac is definitely coming in as that third point of a love triangle. It's my specialty to be honest; I've done quite a few shows where I get brought in as the third point of a love triangle."
While his character butts heads with Brax on screen, Clausen says the situation couldn't be more different in reality.
"I was frightened of the River Boys until I realised all their tattoos washed off," he jokes.
"Steve's great. He's a very laconic, laid-back Dubbo guy. I'm always drawn to those kind of guys."