CBS’s The Mentalist, starring hot Australian actor Simon Baker, is one of the few new shows to become a big hit. The Mentalist is about showbiz psychic-turned-police investigator, played by Baker. The show is doing so well that CBS just locked up Baker with a five-year contract. Baker is one of those good guys, settled down forever with his wife (and fellow Aussie) Rebecca Rigg and father to three kids: Stella, Claude, and Harry. Baker sat down with Parade magazine to discuss America, politics, and family.
“[The Mentalist] is a good outlet for me,” he said. “In this economic climate, we’re lucky. I signed for five years.”
Baker’s been living in the United States for 13 years. Knowing how fiercely Aussies love their own country, I off-handedly asked him, “Any interest in becoming an American?”
Simon stopped talking, stared at me, and said, “Funny you mention it.” Then he dropped this unexpected news: “The morning after your election in November, I said to my wife Rebecca, ‘You know, I’m thinking about becoming an American,’ and then she said that she felt the same way.
“I don’t follow sports here,” he said. “But politics has sort of taken its place. I followed the race closely. It’s a tricky area, because I don’t want to be offensive, and I had no party loyalty. But electing Obama was this country being very grown-up. It was such a positive step for the U.S. to become a part of the world again after the last eight years. Our two sons were born here, so they’re already Americans, but myself, Rebecca, and our daughter Stella are still Australians.”
Has he done anything about it yet?
“No,” Baker told me. “The show keeps me too busy. But it’s going to happen. People always talk about how great America is, but actions speak better than words.”
Baker first came to the States in 1995 from Sydney with his wife, Rebecca Rigg, a film actress. His first role in a major film was in L.A. Confidential, and he went on from there. “A few years ago, we went back to Australia,” he said. “But after seven months there, I found I missed America and our friends here. Staying in Sydney would have been like conceding defeat.” His daughter Stella was in Chicago for a high school debate when Simon and I spoke. His boys Claude and Harry are now 9 and 7, respectively. Simon himself turns 40 this July. “I think I’m going to be fine,” he said. “I stay fit, mostly mucking about with the boys. And I love the wisdom that comes with age.”
It makes sense that Baker and his wife would seek American citizenship if two of their children are citizens. Add to that the stability of a long-term contract on a hit television show, and it’s no surprise Baker would want to become an American. The family has close ties to other Australian ex-pats: Nicole Kidman, a pal of Rebecca and Simon’s, is their son Harry’s godmother and Naomi Watts is their son Claude’s godmother.
Simon Baker is shown on 11/24/08 outside The Late Show with his son. He’s also shown on 7/18/08 at a Showtime party. Credit: WENN