Simon Baker has shared emotional family secrets and details of the strained relationship with his father on the SBS hit series Who Do You Think You Are?

The Aussie actor agreed to do the show after being approached for many years, “despite my mum, sister and kids saying ‘you should do it’.”

Eventually he decided to take part in the show, saying “I thought, I’ll just see what kind of adventure it is and where it will all take me.”

He discussed the early days of his life after he was born in Launceston in 1969 to his father Barry Baker and mother Elizabeth.

“And soon after, my parents moved to the highlands of New Guinea, with two kids, to a remote area,” he says.

In the show he summarises the family’s brief time there, saying “They went on this incredible adventure – and they didn’t come back together.”

He explains how his young mother went on to remarry, but his father remained in his life under a different persona.

“I didn’t know he was my dad. He was a family friend, Uncle Barry. I’ve struggled with that.”

A reunion between the two finally took place when Baker was 18 years old, but in the meantime, the family moved to the northern NSW beach community of Lennox Head.

“It was a small community and back then it was an idyllic place to live,” Baker says. “I felt a really strong sense of belonging in that place and still do. It was a phenomenal childhood in that regard – but the personal family life was difficult.”

Before he appeared on Who Do You Think You Are?, Baker “looked back at my immediate family as this sort of mess,” he says.

“But the truth is, families have many different forms and I think if you can look at your own past and the past of your ancestors with compassion, you can carry that forward with you with a little bit more wisdom.”

He admitted that revealing the story of his parents was “challenging”, and likened his difficult childhood to why he became an actor.

“I’m pretty shy … But there is a kind of psychological reason in why I became an actor. The initial desire when I was young was about connecting with people, the idea of seeing someone in a story on a screen that you could identify with, and it could help you understand feelings inside you that you didn’t necessarily know how to articulate. When I watched certain episodes of Who Do You Think You Are?, I felt a connection to that person – and with that, you don’t feel as alone.”

Image credits: SBS

This article first appeared on OverSixty.