News State NSW News McLachlan admitted into mental health facility after groping reports, court hears

McLachlan admitted into mental health facility after groping reports, court hears

Craig McLachlan
Craig McLachlan denied having "a temper and a tendency to get angry easily". Photo: AAP
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Actor Craig McLachlan has said he was profoundly devastated by media reports that he had kissed, groped and touched actresses without their permission during a 2014 production of The Rocky Horror Show.

McLachlan, 56, recounted the effects of the January 2018 articles on Wednesday during his defamation trial against the ABC, Fairfax and actress Christie Whelan Browne, who played the Janet character in the stage production.

“I felt completely overwhelmed. I felt helpless,” he told the jury.

The Gold Logie award winner said he developed extreme social anxiety as a result of the publications and was admitted into a mental health facility by the end of 2018.

He had only been to a restaurant once in four-and-a-half years and had to heavily disguise himself when shopping at Coles for his 91-year-old mother, the court was told.

When 7.30 and The Sydney Morning Herald published the reports in January 2018, McLachlan lost the lead role of Dr Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Show. Future telemovies for the period crime drama, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, where the actor played the titular role, were also put on hold.

Under questioning by his barrister Keiran Smark SC, McLachlan denied kissing Whelan Browne, pulling aside her underpants and tracing her vagina during a vertical bed scene in which the two actors’ bodies were under the covers and hidden from the audience.

Allegations of improper conduct towards understudies and sound technicians were also rejected.

The reports’ claims include that McLachlan called actresses into his dressing room while naked, stuck his tongue down an actress’s throat during a musical number and threatened to end her career if she complained about him, and groped a crew member’s breasts.

In the 7.30 report played to the jury, Whelan Browne accused McLachlan of saying her vagina smelled sweet and that he could see the slit through the white knickers that were part of her costume on stage.

On Wednesday, McLachlan told the jury this was just an ongoing joke between them during the 2014 production.

“Christie would frequently joke about wearing the white knickers and bra on stage, and would joke about the audience seeing her vagina,” he said.

In a text message sent to Whelan Brown in May 2015, McLachlan expressed his disappointment that she was not participating in that year’s production of the show, saying there was “no one to be foul, filthy and funny with”.

The media outlets are defending the accusations in the NSW Supreme Court on the basis of truth. McLachlan has accused Whelan Browne and two other women, Erika Heynatz and Angela Scundi, of approaching the media for money or notoriety.

The defence case revolves around the testimony of 11 women who worked with McLachlan on the musical and on other television and theatre productions.

Witnesses to appear for the plaintiff include the actor’s partner, conductor Vanessa Scammell, several actors and about 10 reputational witnesses.

The hearing in front of Acting Justice Carolyn Simpson continues.