Melbourne-born actor and broadcaster Cameron Daddo might have experienced the ups and downs of showbiz during his career. But nothing could have prepared him for living rough on the Sydney streets with no money, no mobile phone — and no hope.
“It’s exhausting,” he says. “You’re in flight or fight mode 24/7. Nights are when you’re at your most vigilant, days you can relax a little bit, because people are less inclined to victimise you. And that’s just one aspect of it.”
Last seen in Perth in 2016 as Captain von Trapp in the musical The Sound of Music, Daddo recently exchanged the trappings of privilege for second-hand clothes and a sleeping bag to take part in the second season of Filthy Rich & Homeless.
The first season, which aired last year and featured Tim Guest, Kayla Fenech, Jellaine Dee, Stu Laundy, and Christian Wilkins, triggered a national debate around homelessness and resulted in a spike in donations and volunteering.
The second instalment, again hosted by journalist Indira Naidoo and with the participation of social researcher and homelessness expert Dr Catherine Robinson, looks set to do the same.
This time Daddo, along with charity fundraiser and Sydney socialite Sky Leckie, author and journalist Ben Law, politician and activist Alex Greenwich and 19-year-old singer and social media sensation Alli Simpson are dropped in different locations throughout Sydney and Parramatta and left to fend for themselves.
As they navigate the streets, crisis centres and temporary accommodation, sometimes in the company of those for whom homelessness is an everyday reality, they learn to confront their deepest fears, challenging their own notions of what it means to be human.
Daddo, 53, says his intention from the outset was to learn and soak up as much as he could about those experiencing homelessness. Along the way, he also experiences the indifference of his fellow human beings, as well as the generosity.
“It’s not a talent show. And it’s certainly not a relationships show. It’s documentary television at its best”
“Talking about it now still brings up the same feelings of frustration about what is not being done, and how people can end up in a situation like that,” he says. “It can be so random.”
Again, he mentions the sheer state of exhaustion he found himself in. “And I realised that the longer you are in a state of homelessness, the more difficult it is to get out of it, because it is so exhausting. It’s hard to rally yourself to get clean or to get a job interview.”
He also admits it can happen to any of us, regardless of our station in life.
“Of course. It’s in our natures to forget, to move on, because it’s just too painful to rehash or go over different times. We park it in a box and think it will never happen again. Well, guess what — it can. And very quickly.”
One man Daddo spends time with on the show was a chartered boat owner in Queensland.
“An unmanned trawler was on fire and ran across the bow of his boat and sunk it,” he says. “He’d been living on the streets for eight months, fighting the insurance company to get money. But he felt safer living on the street than in crisis accommodation. That’s his story. And that happened in a moment.”
Daddo rejects outright the notion that Filthy, Rich & Homeless is reality TV.
“I would never refer to this as reality TV,” he says. “It wasn’t producer-driven. There was no one saying ‘He’s doing a little bit too well — let’s throw a spanner in his wheel’. It was more like, ‘We’re going to put you in a situation and then we’re going to follow you and see how you handle things’.
“So it’s not a talent show. And it’s certainly not a relationships show. It’s documentary television at its best.”
Filthy, Rich & Homeless returns on August 14 and 16 at 8.30pm on SBS. This week is also Homelessness Week: for more information see shelterwa.org.au