Wayne Bennett thought George Burgess was having a laugh when he first fronted him and asked for some time out to act.
"Wayne has obviously said 'having an interest outside of football is key', but he thought I was joking when I said I might be doing a bit of acting," said Burgess, who returns from a three-match suspension for South Sydney against Manly on Saturday.
"A front-row forward [acting] in his day was probably not something he had come across.
"He was happy for me to do something I enjoy and something I'm passionate about."
It has been 153 days since Burgess was suspended for eye-gouging New Zealand's Dallin Watene-Zelezniak during England's second Test at Anfield.
The 128kg wrecking ball was forced to sit out the third and final Test and the first three rounds of the NRL season.
So the Englishman made the most of the delayed start to club football by throwing himself into acting, including playing Prince Charming in local stage production Not So Enchanted, and filming Seven's The All New Monty alongside Shane Jacobson, of Kenny fame.
The discipline required to play in the NRL assisted with learning scripts, said Burgess, while acting had also helped him prepare for what could be his final season at Redfern.
"There are parallels between the two professions," Burgess said.
"I've come back to training and I feel mentally fresh and ready to attack the new year – I'm ready to rip in."
Burgess had a three-year offer to join Parramatta, with the western Sydney club making a play for him twice over the summer, only for Bennett to rule out any early exit.
Bennett told the Herald at the time releasing Burgess would be "crazy stuff" and "George is too valuable to us … we cant replace George at this stage of the season".
While it remains to be seen if Bennett and the Rabbitohs can afford to retain Burgess beyond this season – letting him continue his career alongside brothers Sam and Tom – the Englishman is determined to repay the coach's faith in the short term.
Bennett also has an immense respect for Burgess, slotting him straight into the front row against Manly despite Souths' unbeaten start to the year.
"I respect the boys and what they have done [the first three rounds] and thankfully Wayne has put me back in there," Burgess said.
"My spot in the team is never sure-fire. He's given me my chance to get my jersey back but that doesn't mean I'm going to stay there if my form isn't up to it.
"I don't want to think too much about [my future]. I'm always playing for my pride in myself. If I think too much about playing for a contract, it will affect me in the wrong way.