You have to reach a certain level of fame before people start referring to you by your first name only. So hats off to John Henry Michael McManus, better known to Australians simply as ‘Rove’ (his older sisters gave him that nickname) — he managed it in little over a decade. How? Let’s find out...
Born in WA on January 21, 1974, McManus moved to the Eastern States in the late 1990s determined to make it in showbusiness. And wouldn’t you just know it — he did. In record time, too.
Through his work touring as a stand-up comedian, then through community television station Channel 31 (where he hosted his own late-night show), the affable comedian quickly turned heads, picking up his own talk show, first on Channel Nine, then later with Network Ten, where his show Rove Live ran for nine years from 2000. During that time McManus won three coveted Gold Logies, seven Silver Logies and six Logies for the show — not bad for a boy from suburban Perth.
But his phenomenal career success is only part of the story. Away from the spotlight, Rove’s personal life garnered just as much attention, thanks to a highly-publicised relationship with Australian actress Belinda Emmett, who passed away from cancer in 2006. After her death, Rove went to ground, briefly relocating to LA, where he lived for a time with new partner — now wife — Tasma Walton.
In recent years, McManus has made a comeback of sorts — he currently hosts the Dr Who fan show, Whovians, for ABC, and relaunched his show briefly in 2018. He and Walton have since moved back to Australia, where they live with their daughter Ruby, born in late 2013.
McManus continues to be heavily involved in the Australian TV scene, through his production company, Roving Enterprises, which he runs with business partner Craig Campbell — they produce popular news and current affairs program, The Project, which screens six nights a week on Network Ten.
How did Rove become famous?
Though he grew up in the sleepy suburbs of Perth — Willetton, to be precise — McManus always dreamed big, hoping one day to follow in the footsteps of his idols, US talk show hosts, Dave Letterman and Jay Leno (who later mentored him when he moved to LA in 2010).
Born to parents John and Coralie McManus, Rove attended Orana Catholic Primary School and Corpus Christi College, where he became involved in drama and the high school’s annual musical theatre productions. To all intents and purposes, his was an unremarkable childhood spent “chasing frogs and climbing trees.”
“My mum, Coralie, is a great mum, and Dad, John, is a real estate agent who later became a hotel broker,” he told Good Weekend in 2011. “I loved drawing, especially cartoons. I was always drawing Donald and Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Looney Tunes characters.”
Realising their son had creative instincts, his parents enrolled him in acting classes while he was still in primary school, which he continued to attend for another 13 years until deciding to leave Perth at the age of 21 to pursue a career over East.
After a stint studying art at the Claremont School of Art, McManus relocated to Melbourne, and not long after, scored a gig hosting The Loft Live, a show produced by RMIT University’s student television station, RMITV, for community station, Channel 31. They had just $50 per week to produce the show — a tiny budget! It was while working there that McManus first met on-going collaborator and friend, fellow comedian Peter Hellier, who he continues to work with through The Project.
How did Rove get his start in TV?
Though his first on-air role was through Channel 31, McManus’ big break came via his self-titled talk show for Channel Nine, which ran for just one season in 1999. Prior to this, McManus had been working for Foxtel as a roving reporter on a show called In Fashion — hosted by none other than Aussie acting legend, Hugh Jackman! — but his gig with Nine represented a huge leg-up in his career.
Rove screened on Channel Nine for ten episodes before being cancelled at the end of its season. Seeing something in the young, aspiring comedian, Network Ten snapped him up, signing him to the network in 2000, relaunching his show as Rove Live that same year. While it had been slow to attract an audience on Nine, the talk show was a hit for Ten, quickly becoming a tentpole for the youth-orientated network.
Starting Roving Enterprises
The same year McManus was signed to Nine, he took a huge leap, deciding to start his own production company, Roving Enterprises. Over the years it has produced some of Australia’s most successful series (and a few plonkers), at one point employing a staggering 150 staff across shows including his own show, Before the Game, SkitHouse, and later comedian Hamish and Andy’s first foray into TV.
Rove continues to run the company with business partner Craig Campbell (The Project still screens six nights a week on Network Ten) and has spoken in the past about how important he feels it is to nurture and support local talent. “I love giving like-minded comedians a chance to show what we can all do,” he has said.
When did Rove Live run?
The show ran from 2000 to 2009, with a break in 2007. As well launching Rove’s career, the show also starred comedian-turned-lawyer Corrine Grant, Peter Hellier and soon-to-be-Project star Carrie Bickmore — hugely popular comedians Hamish and Andy also got a start in TV through the show.
A live production, it showcased comedy, bands, celebrity guests and had a sprinkling of news (courtesy of Bickmore’s popular ‘Carrie At The News Desk’ segment ).
“We actually have it pretty good, especially for a live show,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time. “We have a lot of leeway. We’ve had American guests who come on the show who are astounded with, for a network show, what we can do. They can’t even blaspheme [in the US]. We had a guy streak through the audience the other night. We can have nudity if we choose to have nudity.”
The show ran until November 2006, when production was halted due to the death of McManus’ then-wife, actress Belinda Emmett. It was a personally devastating time for the star, and he wrote on his website that “it is a very difficult period for all of us and some time away is the best thing for me right now.”
The show returned with a name change back to ‘Rove’ in 2007, running for another two years before McManus decided to step away for good in November 2009.
“I wanted to end Rove Live on a high,” he told Good Weekend. “I figured if I kept going, I’d get tired, the show would get tired, or audiences would tire of me, so maybe I’d only have another two, three years. But if I took a break to refresh myself, maybe I could return and get 10 years out of something else.”
Who was Rove’s first wife?
Rove McManus’ first wife was actress Belinda Emmett. When the pair met in late 1999, the pretty blonde actor was actually the bigger star, with a role on Home and Away and the world at her feet.
McManus met his first wife through his current wife, Tasma Walton, at the official opening of Fox Studios in Sydney in 1999. He first met Walton — who is also from Perth, though they didn’t know one another prior — when she was a guest on his talk show. He bumped into her again at the function, where she introduced him to her good friend, Emmett.
"I spotted Tasma, who was dating someone else. She came over to say hello, then introduced me to her friend, Belinda Emmett,” Rove told Good Weekend in 2011. “Belinda and I joined the queue for the Titanic ride, got talking, found we were kindred spirits and were together for the next eight years.”
Belinda Emmett’s cancer battle
Emmett spent most of her adult life fighting cancer — she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, aged 24, and was in remission when she met McManus a year later. In 2001, while filming the Aussie movie The Nugget with Eric Bana, she found out she was suffering secondary bone cancer after experiencing extreme back pain.
Through it all, she described McManus — whom she wed in 2005 — as her “rock”. And he adored her just as much, telling an audience of millions as he accepted his second Gold Logie award in 2002: “If the choice had to be made between this and her, I’d hand back every single Logie.”
He was by her side when she passed away in November 2006, and has described her death as a terribly low point in his life. McManus shelved his show indefinitely after her death — there were widespread rumours he may never return to television — and retreated from the public eye to mourn his love in private.
“I felt I didn't want to keep going as a performer. I felt so conspicuous, as though everyone was looking at me,” he told Good Weekend. “I got very depressed. I’d never been through anything as profoundly emotionally impacting as that whole experience with Belinda. It’s still a huge loss. There’s always sadness, while I treasure the memory.”
How did Rove meet second wife, Tasma Walton?
As we mentioned above, McManus met his now-wife Tasma Walton when she appeared on his show back in 1999. At the time she was in a relationship with someone else, but the two kept in contact via Walton’s close friendship with Emmett.
It was after Emmett died in 2006 that their connection grew.
“When Belinda died, I got very low, and Tasma was good at knowing what to say,” he told Good Weekend. “She recommended a friend who did kinesiology, which I found helpful. I’d call Tasma to let her know how the sessions were going, and discuss the feelings I was going through.
“Previously, Tasma always treated me like a kid brother. I was this immature, excitable little puppy playing at being a TV host when we first met; whereas she was Miss Sophistication, a well-known actress in Home and Away and Blue Heelers. Now we were talking in a different way, and it brought us closer. Gradually, I began to feel a bit more normal again.”
The pair bonded over their similar upbringing — Walton is from Geraldton, in northern Western Australia — and shared interests, and on June 16, 2009, the pair were married in an intimate private ceremony on the beach in Broome, Western Australia.
When did Rove move to LA?
That same year, after Rove Live finished up in Australia, the couple relocated full time to LA, partly to escape public scrutiny of their relationship, but mostly so they could both focus on their careers —McManus in establishing himself on the US late-night talk-show circuit, and Walton on her successful acting career.
They bought a home at the base of the Hollywood Hills and relished the chance to live semi-anonymously in the States (though McManus secured a regular spot on Jay Leno’s talk show — he had his own segment ‘Rove Across America’ by 2011 — he was still a virtual nobody by Hollywood standards).
By that stage, Rove was 37, and in the years that followed, he gained increasing amounts of work Stateside. In 2011 he was given his own show Rove LA by Fox8, which ran for two years, and he hosted the short-run improv comedy show, Riot, which was produced by Steve Carrell.
When was Rove’s daughter Ruby born?
Rove and Tasma’s daughter Ruby Aurelia was born on December 16, 2013, two weeks ahead of her due date, in a Sydney hospital. Weighing just 2.47kg, she was as petite as her two pint-sized parents!
“She is a beautiful life-changing bundle,” Walton told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time.
McManus was smitten from the get-go too, adding, “While she arrived slightly earlier than expected, she is healthy and more importantly it means she'll be here to spend Christmas with us, which is the best present you could wish for.”
The couple is famously private when it comes to talking about their little family, but did tell TV Week at the Logie Awards in 2018 their daughter looked to be following in their footsteps.
“For a four-year-old, she has a finely honed sense of humour,” Tasma told the magazine. “She comes out with some corkers. And she's very good at rhyming.”
When did Rove move back to Australia?
When their daughter reached preschool age, the couple decided it was time to relocate back to Australia so she could begin her schooling back home. By 2018 they were happily settled in Sydney, with Ruby enrolled at a local school.
In 2017, McManus slowly began to dip a toe back into on-air roles, appearing on the ABC panel show Whovians, a show dedicated to discussing all things Dr Who. A year later, while chatting to Ten about other projects, the Network approached him to host their new game show, Show Me The Movie, which ran for two seasons in 2018 and 2019.
“I was in at Ten having a chat about some other stuff and they mentioned they had this show from the producers of Spicks And Specks, which is a show I was really fond of," Rove told TV Week in 2018. “I was really interested when I heard that. It was something that was ready to go and it was an easy decision to make.”
He also took part in Ten’s Pilot Week in 2018, using the platform to relaunch another talk show, Bring Back...Saturday Night. The Network picked up the show, and in August 2019, it ran under the name Saturday Night Rove. Unfortunately, it was not a ratings hit and was cancelled after only two episodes went to air.
What is Rove McManus’ net worth?
Rove McManus’ net worth is believed to be in excess of $5 million but could be far, far higher. Notoriously private, the entertainer has never been showy with his wealth, though he does own a beach-side property in Sydney’s exclusive beachside suburb of Bronte, which he purchased for $6.4 million in 2016. He bought the home, which boasted a home library and temperature-controlled wine seller, after selling another property in Sydney’s Avalon (for $3 million in June that year). The couple has since done extensive renovations, which are believed to have increased its value by upwards of $4 million.
Prior to this, McManus sold a Docker Street Richmond home, in trendy inner-city Melbourne, for $3.4 million in March 2011. They reportedly still own their home in the Hollywood Hills (which he reportedly bought for $1.2 million in 2010).
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