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Aaron Brennan is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Matt Wilson. The actor received the role after a long casting process, during which Wilson sent the producers a recording of himself performing a scene, before attending an audition. Wilson relocated from Sydney to Melbourne for filming. The character was initially intended to be a guest part, but due to Wilson's "endearing quality", he was promoted to the full-time cast. He made his first screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 16 June 2015. Aaron was the third Brennan sibling to be introduced, following his brothers Mark (Scott McGregor) and Tyler Brennan (Travis Burns) in 2010 and 2015 respectively.

Aaron is portrayed as a confident, happy, occasionally naive, optimist. He was initially shown to be closer to Tyler than Mark, but the brothers were bonded when their estranged father was introduced. The character had a unique entrance to the show as an exotic dancer performing at The Waterhole. Wilson took dance lessons ahead of his first scenes. Aaron has embarked on various careers throughout his duration, including bodyguard and social media manager. Aaron is openly gay, and he has formed relationships with established regular Nate Kinski (Meyne Wyatt), despite initially having nothing in common, and later Tom Quill (Kane Felsinger). The character has received a positive response from television critics and viewers. He was named Best New Male Character of 2015 by a columnist for Soap World.

Casting

On 17 May 2015, it was announced actor and model Matt Wilson had joined the cast as Aaron Brennan, the middle brother of established characters Mark Brennan (Scott McGregor) and Tyler Brennan (Travis Burns).[1] Wilson was given the role of Aaron after a long casting process.[2] The process started with Wilson recording himself performing a scene and sending the footage to the producers, who then invited him to attend an audition.[2] During the lengthy waiting period, Wilson watched the show "religiously", which made him want to be a part of the cast even more.[3] Months after his audition, Wilson was sent an email informing him he had won the role.[2] Of joining the cast, Wilson said "It's surreal. This stuff is part of your living room growing up and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have this chance."[4] Wilson relocated from Sydney to Melbourne, where the Neighbours studios are located.[3] He made his debut appearance as Aaron during the episode broadcast on 16 June 2015.[4] Executive producer Jason Herbison later revealed that Aaron was only ever intended to be a guest character, but Wilson's "endearing quality" led him to be promoted to the full-time cast.[5]

Development

Characterisation

In his fictional backstory, Aaron left his hometown of Port Lincoln shortly after Mark's departure. Aaron had not seen his brothers in six years, as he was living on the other side of the country, but they had kept in contact and stayed close.[6] Aaron gets bored doing the same job every day and he eventually realised that working down the mines was not something he wanted to do anymore.[6] Wilson told Claire Crick of All About Soap that after Aaron saw a male dance show in Perth, he made "a snap decision" to become an exotic dancer. Wilson said Aaron's career choice was similar to the characters featured in the 2012 film Magic Mike.[6] At the time of his arrival, Aaron was much closer to his younger brother Tyler as they both liked to live in the moment, whereas Mark was a bit more sensible and OCD.[6] Wilson thought Aaron liked being the middle brother because he loves to be the centre of attention. The actor commented, "There's definitely no middle-child syndrome here! He's quick to mediate any arguments between the other two."[6] Wilson also said Aaron was opportunistic like Tyler, but he understood limitations like Mark.[6] McGregor opined Mark's younger siblings made him a stronger character, while Burns thought Aaron's arrival had changed the dynamic between Mark and Tyler.[7]

Wilson described Aaron as "a very confident young guy", who loves life and is not easily fazed. He also likes to make others happy.[3] The actor also told Daniel Kilkelly of Digital Spy: "Aaron's an infectious person. He's really happy, he's an optimist, he's got a lot of energy and there's a really good vibe which comes off him. He's received well by absolutely everyone."[2] A writer for the official Neighbours website described the character has having "a big heart, and a cheeky streak."[8] They also said Aaron's family was important to him and he would do anything for his siblings.[8] Speaking to Hazel Bradley of The West Australian, Wilson admitted that he shared some similarities with his character, such as optimism and selflessness. However, Wilson thought Aaron was also naïve and occasionally vulnerable.[9]

Aaron is openly gay, and Wilson told Peter Gray of Q News that he felt no pressure portraying a gay character, as there was a lot of support for Aaron.[10] He called Aaron "a typical Aussie gay guy", which, he believed, was not well represented on Australian television at the time.[10] Wilson turned to his own gay friends while researching Aaron's wardrobe. He thought the character was similar to them and based the clothing on items they wear.[11] Wilson thought Aaron would be a good boyfriend because he was romantic, but his career put a strain on his past relationships.[6] While his siblings have accepted Aaron's sexuality, their father struggled with it, but Aaron refused to let it get to him.[8]

Introduction

"I knew this could not be a better way to enter a show. Some people arrive on Neighbours in a taxi on the Street, but Aaron comes in with an absolute bang so I was quite honoured to be playing him."[2] Mark contacted Aaron after fearing that Tyler had "gone off the rails", following his arrest. Mark knew Aaron and Tyler had a close relationship and he needed Aaron's help.[7] Both Mark and Tyler assumed Aaron still worked down the mines in Western Australia, but he had secretly switched careers to become an exotic dancer. At the same time Mark contacted Aaron, he was booked to appear at a charity bingo night hosted by Sheila Canning (Colette Mann) at The Waterhole.[12] Aaron was set to perform his routine in the bar when bingo was called. Sheila encouraged Mark and Tyler to attend the event and they were "stunned" to see their brother half-naked on the stage.[12]

Wilson explained that he had no dance experience coming into the show and took private lessons ahead of filming. He commented, "I hit the stage with 100 per cent confidence, so all of my efforts paid off!"[7] Mark was unimpressed with his younger brother's new career choice and berated him for it, while Tyler was amused. He was further cheered up when Aaron helped him out at the garage. Mark made an effort to bond with his brothers, after seeing how close Aaron and Tyler were.[12]

Relationship with Nate Kinski

As Aaron settled onto Ramsay Street, Tyler learned he was single and he decided to try and set Aaron up on a date with his friend Nate Kinski (Meyne Wyatt). Tyler's motive for the matchmaking scheme was his need to repair his broken friendship with Nate, who had not forgiven him for stealing a prescription pad from Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher).[12] Aaron and Nate's first meeting did not go well, as they disagreed about everything and realised that they had nothing in common. Despite Tyler's efforts to get them to agree on something, Aaron and Nate realised what he was trying to do and told him that nothing was going to happen between them.[12] Tyler's scheme did manage to get Nate to reconcile with him.[12] Of the scenes, Wilson told Kilkelly: "Although Aaron is quite an infectious person and everyone receives him really well, for some unbeknown reason Nate just gives him the cold shoulder. Aaron doesn't really know how to handle that. The scene where Tyler tries to set us up is hilarious - it's an absolute car crash of a scene!"[2] Nate initially did not want anything to do with Aaron, but then Aaron got involved with his feud with Alistair Hall (Nick Cain) in an effort to help him out. Wilson said that Nate did not like Aaron's "game-playing".[6] Sheila later charged a reluctant Nate with the task of getting Aaron to sign an employment contract for The Waterhole. Nate kept making snide comments about Aaron's career, so he refused to sign the contract.[13] Sheila told Nate to make things right with Aaron, forcing him to beg. Aaron enjoyed seeing Nate's discomfort and agreed to sign the contract if he only dealt with Sheila.[13] However, when Sheila suffered lock jaw, she forced Aaron and Nate to work together and they could resist taunting each other. Nate teased Aaron by telling him he found him to be attractive, while Aaron went to kiss him, only to pull away quickly.[13] A TV Soap writer observed "it's beginning to look like there might be a mutual attraction behind Nate and Aaron's guarded exteriors."[13]

Aaron and Nate were forced to spend more time together when Naomi Canning (Morgana O'Reilly) locked them in an outdoor hotel room with a glass front as part of a promotion for Lassiter's Hotel.[14] The storyline started with Naomi hiring Aaron and a female model to pose as a happy couple. However, when the female model failed to turn up, Naomi grabbed Nate and locked him inside the room with Aaron.[14] Nate decided to make the most of the situation and he hoped he could annoy Aaron in the process. Wyatt said, "after a while Nate doesn't even notice the audience and starts to lighten up, which surprises Aaron."[14] Naomi's plan was a success, as Lassiter's received positive press about its support for same-sex relationships. She then asked the men to do something special for a photograph and Nate spontaneously kissed Aaron.[14] Nate enjoyed the kiss and it became clear that he had strong feelings for Aaron. Wyatt thought the characters were "a good balance", but a future relationship depended on whether they could be themselves around each other.[14]

When Aaron attempted to cheer up his friend Josh Willis (Harley Bonner) by acting as his wingman for the evening, he put himself in danger when her boyfriend Evan Shields (Daniel Fischer) appeared.[15] Aaron tried to smooth things over, but he and Evan squared up to each other, leaving Josh to defuse the situation.[15] As Aaron walked home, Evan appeared and threw a drink in his face, before attacking him.[15] Wilson said it was a "pretty bad" moment, but Nate came to Aaron's rescue and dragged Evan away, before scaring him off. Aaron did not have a chance to thank Nate, as he left the scene.[15] Neither Aaron and Nate were willing to accept that they had romantic feelings for each other.[16] Nate believed Aaron was not interested in him, so when Aaron offered to be his slave for the week to make up for injuring him during Tai Chi, Nate was unaware Aaron was trying to flirt with him.[16] Nate later confronted Aaron, who confessed to having feelings for him. But Nate thought Aaron was joking and Aaron was "crushed" by his rejection. Tyler then told Nate that his brother was attracted to him.[16]

Aaron and Nate eventually developed a relationship. After Nate got involved in a fight, he decided to leave town to clear his head. Aaron was "angry and upset" when he learnt that Nate had returned to Australia and had not been in contact with him.[17] Wilson said Aaron and Nate had "a lot of stuff to sort out",[18] while adding that the characters wanted to be together, but were unsure if they could make it work.[19] He continued, "Ever since they first met they've always argued about the small suff and they're still doing it now."[19] Wilson later commented that as much as they loved each other, they could not live with each other because they were opposites.[20] He also said that the couple complemented one another well, as "Nate is really closed off, whereas Aaron is a lot more free and happy."[20] When Nate eventually returned, he struggled to reconnect with Aaron and was "gutted" to learn that Aaron had moved on with someone else while he was away.[21] Wilson added that Aaron resists a reconciliation as he has been hurt.[19]

Career changes and Tom Quill

After giving up exotic dancing, Aaron briefly sold coffee and then worked as a bodyguard for "resident baddie" Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis).[9][22] However, Aaron struggled to cope with Paul's various schemes.[22] In March 2016, Wilson teased a new darker storyline for Aaron, saying "I can't talk about it yet but anything where you have to go to the dark places in your mind is really challenging."[9] Aaron was later hired to be new mayor Sonya Rebecchi's (Eve Morey) executive assistant, and Wilson joked "I get to wear a lot of suits from here on in, which is better than wearing next to nothing, which is how I first came on the show."[9] Aaron also attracted the attentions of Tom Quill (Kane Felsinger), the development manager for Lassiter's Hotel.[17] Aaron accepted some champagne from Tom, before realising that it could be seen as conflict of interest as Tom wanted to know Sonya's position on the proposed expansion of Lassiter's. Aaron later returned the gift to Tom, who made an advance on Aaron. As he was hurting over Nate's silence, Aaron agreed to go on a date with Tom.[17] Following the success of the first date, Aaron and Tom went on another and Tom learnt that approval for the Lassiter's expansion could take months. He persuaded Aaron to give him a list of everyone opposed to the expansion and when Aaron discovered they had withdrawn their opposition, he knew he had "crossed the ethical line."[17] Tom then used Aaron's laptop to doctor an environmental impact report, leading the council to approve the development. Aaron then realised Tom had taken advantage of him and told Sonya, who fired him.[17] Shortly after, an explosion at the Lassiter's Hotel dominated the show's storylines and Aaron was shown to have "a guilty conscience" over something.[18] Aaron was later "anxious" to know if Tom was okay, as he had not been since that day. After hearing that Tom's ID had been found in the wreckage, Aaron feared that he was dead and tried to push Nate away. But when Nate pressed him, Aaron admitted that if Tom was dead, then it was down to him.[21] In an interview with Carena Crawford of All About Soap, Wilson detailed the events in the lead up to the explosion, saying "Aaron knew Tom was dodgy and went on a hunt to find out exactly what was going on. The last time Aaron saw Tom they had a bit of an altercation and got into a fight in the hotel boiler room."[19] Wilson went on to explain that Aaron hit Tom and then walked away, leaving Tom in a semi-conscious state. When the boiler room exploded shortly afterwards, Aaron believed that Tom had been killed.[19]

In what was billed as "a tense storyline", Aaron began receiving threatening text message from an unknown sender who knew what he did to Tom.[23] Aaron initially tried to keep the messages to himself, but he was "freaking out" as he could be charged with manslaughter or murder if his secret came out.[19] Nate believed Tom's mother Julie Quill (Gail Easdale) might be behind the messages, as she had been asking Aaron a lot of questions about the day of the explosion and his relationship with Tom.[19] However, once Nate discovered it was not Julie, Aaron thought that it would be best if he went to the police. Wilson told Carena Crawford of All About Soap, "Aaron's finding it hard to walk around Erinsborough thinking that he's killed someone."[19] The person behind the messages soon demanded $10,000 from Aaron, giving Nate a chance to set up a trap. He hid some money in an envelope at an old well and when they mystery person picked it up, they caught him.[19] The person behind the messages turned out to be Tom, and Wilson said Aaron experienced "really mixed emotions" when he saw him. Aaron really believed he had killed someone and was facing time in prison and when he realised that was not going to happen, he wanted to stop Tom.[19] Aaron then declared that he was going to tell Mark, but Nate warned him that he could still face charges for punching Tom.[19]

Other storylines

A month after Aaron's arrival, the Brennan brothers' father Russell Brennan (Russell Kiefel) was introduced and the family became the focus of a "controversial" domestic violence storyline.[24] Russell abused his sons as they were growing up and the brothers later became estranged from him. Russell wanted to prove that he was a changed man.[24] While Mark was pleased to see his father, Tyler tried to avoid him, while Aaron was not pleased as Russell had not reacted well upon learning he had a gay son.[25] Russell later made plans to buy the local garage with his sons, but Tyler was still unhappy to be reunited with him. When Tyler punched Russell, he eventually told Aaron and Mark about the abuse he had suffered at the hands of their father.[26] Mark was initially sceptical, until he talked with Aaron and they confronted Russell, who did not deny the accusation. Aaron and Mark supported their younger brother as they asked Russell to leave the street.[26] When Josh learned Aaron was looking for someone else to join his dance act, he auditioned for the place, as he needed to raise money for an operation for his sick daughter.[27] Aaron and Josh then form an exotic dance duo called The Heat. Josh was "terrified" when The Heat received their first booking, a 50th birthday party at the community centre.[27] Aaron and Josh put together a routine on the day and while the performance started off "a bit rough", the female audience enjoyed it. Aaron also enjoyed receiving all the attention, while Josh received an indecent proposal from a member of the audience.[27] Bonner revealed that he and Wilson had dance lessons at the Ministry of Dance for the scenes.[27]

Needing another job, Aaron decided to reinvent himself as a social media manager in mid-2016.[28] He befriended his neighbour Xanthe Canning (Lily Van der Meer) upon learning that she being bullied online by trolls. When Aaron realised that Xanthe was trying to lose weight and change her appearance, he became her mentor and told her to ignore the trolls.[19] Aaron then decided to launch his own brand management company and Nate helped fund it.[28] Just as Aaron started feel disheartened, Paul Robinson asked Aaron to help him clear his name after he was charged with causing the Lassiter's explosion. Paul explained that he just wanted to change public opinion of him and Aaron agreed to help.[28] He came up with a strategy to use social media, as traditional media sources would not touch the story. Aaron convinced Piper Willis (Mavournee Hazel) to interview Paul for her vlog.[28]

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