Samuel Johnson as Molly Meldrum in a scene from the TV mini-series Molly.
Samuel Johnson as Molly Meldrum in a scene from the TV mini-series Molly. Channel 7

Molly mini-series: revealing the man behind the myth

WHO is Molly Meldrum?

Nearly every Australian would have an answer, ranging from music critic to journalist, record producer, entrepreneur, Countdown host and that bloke in the Stetson hat.

It's a question Samuel Johnson grappled with for months while preparing to play the music and TV icon in Channel 7's new biopic, simply titled Molly.

"There really are two sides to all of his coins," Johnson told APN.

"He's shy but he's equally blustery. He's private but he's very public. He's very open and giving but also protective and guarded.

"Finding the truth of the guy was tough. I'm not even sure he knows who he is."

For Johnson, Meldrum has evolved from "a dude in a hat who banged on about music on Hey Hey It's Saturday" to his dad's "drinking buddy" to, eventually, a close personal friend.

"He's been helping me with my philanthropic pursuits since about 2000," he said.

"The Molly I know is a man who would do anything for someone who's trying to do the right thing."

Johnson is best known for his roles on The Secret Life of Us and his voiceover work on shows including Gold Coast Cops.

His charity work includes riding a unicycle around Australia, setting a new world record, to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research.

While Johnson said it felt natural for him to play Molly, he still felt immense pressure to do his homework for the landmark role.

"It's obviously very flattering to be nominated by Molly for the role, but that was quickly overshadowed by the responsibility," he said.

"I researched the (expletive) out of him for about eight months. I just knew if I didn't do my homework that I'd be exposed and I wouldn't be able to fudge my way through it like I have most of my career.

"Molly wanted people he trusted in charge of his story. It seems a bit nepotistic really, but I can't see the whole thing happening any other way."

After his intense character study, Johnson has a theory about why a rambling Australian music journalist became a friend to stars including Madonna, Freddie Mercury, Elton John and Bob Geldof.

"Why did all of these international stars hold such a soft spot in their heart for Molly? I think it was because he was trustworthy," he said.

"I think Molly would have been a breath of fresh air around all the sycophants.

"He was loyal; he didn't kiss and tell. I asked all the questions and he wouldn't tell me."

Molly part one airs on Sunday at 8.30pm on Channel 7.

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