"Mate, I am really excited about this one." And so begins a conversation with Newcastle's own Ben Mingay.
The singer, actor and occasional labourer has been cast as Shrek in a multimillion-dollar stage musical alongside Marcia Hines, Todd McKenny and Lucy Durack.
"It's a tremendous cast and such a great story too. Did you know that Marcia's a Newy girl? She lived next door to my brother."
Mingay is delightfully down-to-earth and easy to talk to. He doesn't fit the celebrity stereotype and, in truth, avoids it. People tend to remember his face and his voice but not his name. He doesn't care.
"I've spent a lot of years overseas but every time I've come back I have always slotted in to my little space in Newy," he says.
"The funny thing with me is despite all the stuff that has happened in my career, quite often in between all of these big things that have happened I've just come back to Newy and kind of hung out and gone back into construction work.
"All my mates from around here are tradies and have their own businesses and I'll quite happily put my hand up if anybody has a job going - I'll get back on the tools.
"My mate Jimmy has got an earthworks and remediation company and he'll quite often give me a call and I'll go and demo some buildings.
"It keeps you grounded."
Novocastrians might recognise Mingay from Frayed, an ABC TV series set in Newcastle in the 1980s. He plays the role of Jim; a beer-guzzling, live-at-home, no-hoper brother and son.
You might also recognise him from the "I'm a project manager" advertisement for Toyota.
"Everyone knows that ad. At least two or three times a day I get someone come up and say to me 'I'm a project manager. I drive a Hilux'," he says, laughing.
"The truth is, I drive a big ol' V8 Landcruiser which has got about 410,000 kilometres on it. The whole time we were shooting that ad I would sidle up in my car and go 'Oh, this thing has been great and all but it's getting a bit long in the tooth ... hint, hint, wink, wink'."
Mingay played the role of Grease Nolan in Mel Gibson's 2016 WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge and transformed himself into the late Alan Bond in Nine Network series House of Bond. He has also graced our screens as Trystan Powell in Home and Away, starred for three seasons as Rob Duffy in the Network 10 series Wonderland, playedBuzz in Network 7's Packed to the Rafters and has appeared in Blue Heelers and All Saints.
His stage credits include Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd, Evan in Vivid White, Jud Fry in Oklahoma, Billy Kostecki in Dirty Dancing, Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys, Achilles in Paris - A Rock Odyssey and numerous performances with the hit singing group Swing on This.
He also played the role of Thomas in Rolling Thunder Vietnam, The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, and Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman.
Not bad for a bloke who auditioned for the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music as a dare while working on the F3 freeway bypass a few years' back. He has also worked as a security guard; sold security systems; was an air-conditioning technician; a stunt driver and a certified fire-breather.
Mingay was born at the Mater Hospital in Waratah, grew up in Elermore Vale and attended New Lambton Heights Infant School and Newcastle Grammar. He studied at the conservatorium under Christopher Allan from 1999 until 2001, having been awarded the Florence Austral Scholarship for Voice.
"My old man is a civil engineer so I grew up in that construction world, building roads and subdivisions. It was always in the family. Over the years I have worked in many aspects of the construction industry - mostly hands-on stuff like landscaping and concreting, formwork and paving," he told the Newcastle Herald in 2016.
"My first proper audition was for Hair The Musical in 2003. I borrowed someone's guitar and I was wearing my King Gees and I rode from Newcastle to Sydney on my motorbike.
"I went in and sang a little song and they put me on a dance floor and luckily there was a girl there who knew what she was doing, so she gave me a crash course. I ended up being the understudy for the lead. I knew nothing, I mean, I didn't even know how to audition. All I could do was sing."
But back to Shrek, the versatile and now-experienced Mingay's latest role.
Broadway hit Shrek The Musical opens at the Sydney Lyric Theatre in early January, followed by a season at Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne. With music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, Shrek The Musical is based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film Shrek and William Steig's 1990 book Shrek!.
When it was launched, the film Shrek was the first film to win Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards in 2001. Today, three of the Shrek films remain in the top 20 highest grossing animated films of all time.
Shrek The Musical brings the hilarious story of everyone's favourite ogre to life on the stage. In a faraway kingdom things get ugly when an ogre - not a handsome prince - shows up to rescue a feisty princess. Throw in a donkey who won't shut up, a bad guy with a short temper, a cookie with attitude, and more than a dozen other fairy tale misfits, and you've got the kind of mess that calls for a real hero. Luckily, there's one on hand - and his name is Shrek.
Mingay can't wait.
"This run is for six months - we've got six weeks from the first of January in Sydney and then at the end of February we hop on down to Melbourne for a pretty long season and then up to Brisbane to finish off in June," he says.
"It's school holidays in Sydney for the first four weeks so we will be doing nine shows a week in Sydney over that time, which will be pretty full on. Let's not forget that I have got two hours in make-up before every show, and prosthetics and fat suits. It's gonna be a real hoot."
Being transformed into Alan Bond for the Bond miniseries involved a lot of hair and make-up but Shrek is "next level", Mingay says. It must be a relief to know he wasn't cast as Shrek for any perceived resemblance to the lovable green ogre? Mingay laughs.
"Yeah, if they had said the reason we are offering you this role is because you kind of already look like Shrek, I would have been, like, damn," he says.
Mingay's ability to switch from theatre to singing to acting and even commercials has become one of his greatest strengths. The diversity of his talent means he is in-demand both at home and overseas.
"Frayed and Shrek The Musical have such different vibes. It's nice to have two very separate and very contrasting roles at the same time," he says.
"I like to mix things up. More than ever, in this day and age, you have to be versatile and expand your body of work so that people don't pigeonhole you.
"For many years I was strictly musical theatre but when I left school and wanted to get into the acting game, my dream was to get on to Macleod's Daughters. And because the people looked at my CV and said 'Oh, he's only ever done musical theatre shows', they didn't even get me in the door for an audition.
"And you know me, I would have been right at home on a horse on the farm, or riding a motorbike. I could have done it.
"But yeah, you do tend to get pigeonholed. I just did Sweeney Todd with the West Australian Opera and it was the first time in a long time I had done a legit opera with a legit opera company where they all kind of didn't realise that I was classically trained. Anyway, when I got in there on day one they were like 'Who is this guy? Some actor trying to sing opera?' but I managed to hold my own and it's another case where they went 'Oh, we had no idea you could do that'."
On the home front, Mingay is happily married to Kirby Burgess, a dancer, singer and musical theatre actor who met Mingay on the set of An Officer and a Gentleman.
"She's good, busy busy, and has a couple of irons on the fire over the next 12 months," he says.
"It's nice to be busy, especially in the industry we're in. When I finish Shrek at the end of June, I pretty much either shoot season two of Frayed or I go to Adelaide for Sweeney Todd.
"It's all systems go."