Finding Self Esteem

Photograph for TIME by George Fetting

'Brendan's a strange character in that he has this outward persona of being very laid-back, yet there's this prodigious output that occurs.'
—DIRECTOR MICHAEL SAVILLE

Over a cup of tea at Sydney's Wharf Theater, Brendan Cowell is talking about the time he gave up drinking for 11 months in 2005. "And I didn't even have one of those brandy chocolates," says the 30-year-old playwright and actor, his laconic bearing becoming increasingly animated. "I didn't have a drop, because I favor a couple of drinks, and my whole world just changed in the most beautiful fashion and in the strangest and darkest as well." Around this time in the interview, Cowell's hand accidentally clips the tape recorder, sending a pair of sunglasses flying off the table. "Whoops,"...

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