Former Gladstone man overwhelmed by support after Taboo
BEFORE appearing on TV show Taboo, Gladstone-born Aaron Nagas said people avoided him on public transport.
Now his social-media inbox is flooded with messages telling him: "If I see you, I'll sit next to you."
Such feedback was a common theme for the Network Ten documentary series.
The show follows comedian Harley Breen as he gets to know four people from a minority group and then writes a stand-up routine that he performs in front of them and their friends and family.
In one show, Mr Nagas, an Aboriginal-South Sea Islander man residing on the Sunshine Coast, joins South Korean Jemma, Islamic Sara and South Sudanese Yong to discuss racism.
The air date, June 20, was the first time he saw the show.
Mr Nagas and his fellow participates all raised concerns about the backlash they might receive from speaking so honestly about the issue.
But it turned out, Mr Nagas had nothing to worry about.
"The support was just crazy. Random people were just messaging me saying how much they loved the show," Mr Nagas said.
"There was no real negative trolling or really bad comments.
"There were a few random comments about downplaying things or being victims but not really anything racist."
Mr Nagas said more important to him was the response he received from other indigenous Australians.
"For me that was one of the best reactions - other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people talking about how much they loved the show and how what I said really resonated with them," he said.
"I didn't want to be the voice of Aboriginal Australia. I'm just one person but a lot of people really connected with what I said."
Although what was said on the show resonated with many, it was what was left on the cutting-room floor that Mr Nagas said was more in-depth.
"We really debriefed with each other and shared stories," he said.
"We even said to the crew and producers 'you probably should have had the cameras on last night'.
"We formed a really close bond being in that environment and we've become really good friends.
"It was really educational for me. I learnt a lot more about Islam, a lot more about South Sudanese culture and a lot more about Jemma, and we talked about Korean culture and her engaging with that being an adoptee."
A key aspect of the show was Breen's stand-up comedy routine.
"We'd spoken in depth with him about it. We were giving him a lot of grief about it, saying 'you know mate you're going to be in a lot of trouble'," Mr Nagas said.
"I wasn't really nervous about the jokes he was going to make on my behalf but I was nervous about how people were going to take the jokes he was going to say.
"But I think he toed the line really well. He still was in that space but he wasn't punching down, which I think is the best sort of comedy."
Despite his hesitations, Mr Nagas was happy he did the show.
"I really loved the experience," he said.
"Just the nervousness of what the final edit was going to look like was my last hurdle.
"Then I saw the show and got so much amazing feedback from friends and family and random people."
As for people sitting next to him on trains, the problem hasn't gone away just yet but it's improving.
"I still do the experiment every now and then, where I sit in the really big four chairs, to see what happens," Mr Nagas said.
"Sometimes they do (sit) and sometimes they don't.
"I quite enjoy the leg room to be honest but if people want to sit down and have a chat I'm more than happy to sit with them and chat. It's a long boring trip."
Mr Nagas hoped the honest discussions he and the three other participants had with Breen would have a lasting impact.
"Racism is just the fear of the unknown," Mr Nagas said.
"If we just took the time to get to know each other I think the world would be a much better place."