There are very few things more Australian than Neighbours. A global hit, the show has offered a sunny, soapy glimpse into suburban Aussie life for over 40 years. Its ‘perfect blend’ of weddings, divorces, love affairs and lots and lots of barbecues continue to win over audiences, as well as offer opportunities for actors keen to make their mark.
Created in 1985 by TV exec Reg Watson, the soap is still going strong despite a three month gap last year when it was cancelled but then promptly revived by Amazon Studios. No doubt Casting Directors will be delighted as Neighbours also has a great rep as a hothouse of talent kickstarting the careers of Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Russell Crowe and Liam Hemsworth to name just a few.
Keen to get yourself cast on the beloved Aussie series? Read on for our complete breakdown of the show, as well as insights and advice from the principal casting director and two of its current stars.
Neighbours came from a desire to portray domestic storylines and realistic characters tailored to an Australian television audience. As a result, Erinsborough (a fictional suburb in Melbourne, Victoria) and Ramsay Street were born.
While Neighbours seems to have addressed almost every human experience possible over the course of its more than 8,000 episodes, at its core, the series focuses on the relationships between families, friends, and the local community. The Ramsays, the Robinsons and the other neighbours have suffered everything from adultery, drug use and murder to tornados, amnesia and Bouncer the dog’s dream sequence .
Neighbours first screened on the Seven Network in 1985 but was dropped after episode 170 due to a disappointing performance outside of the Melbourne market. Fortunately, Channel Ten swiftly picked it up the following year, and the rest—as they say—became (Logie Hall of Fame certified) history.
However in early 2022 it was announced that Neighbours was being axed. A nostalgic, emotional finale was filmed and aired featuring many of the show’s best loved characters old and new. Scott and Charlene aka Kylie and Jason returned to the street. Hollywood star Guy Pearce came back to film a romantic storyline with his 80s lost love ‘Plain Jane Superbrain’. Margot Robbie even sent the cast champagne.
The end of an era was declared and on 28 July 2022 the final episode aired around the world. But it wasn’t the end. Amazon Studios decided everybody needs good neighbours and came to its rescue. The show began production again in April and on 18 September it began streaming globally Monday–Thursday on the Amazon Freevee platform.
Executive Producer Jason Herbison tweeted he wanted the new Neighbours to be ‘warm and familiar yet bold and surprising too!’ In its new incarnation the whole storyline has jumped two years. Most of the central cast have returned – Dr Karl, Paul Robinson, Toady - and there are now new cast members like Mischa Barton from The OC, a gay family the Varga-Murphys’ to join the fun. Somehow, classic character Harold Bishop is back and 80s street hottie Mike played by genuine film star Guy Pearce is also living very happily in the street.
Absolutely. Neighbours is currently filmed in Melbourne’s Nunawading Studios.
The ensemble cast of Neighbours currently includes:
• Alan Fletcher as Karl Kennedy
• Jackie Woodburne as Susan Kennedy
• Stefan Dennis as Paul Robinson
• Annie Jones as Jane Harris
• Lucinda Cowden as Melanie Pearson
• Ryan Moloney as Toadie Rebecchi
• Ayisha Salem-Towner as Nell Rebecchi
• Lucinda Armstrong Hall as Holly Hoyland
• Tim Kano as Leo Tanaka
• Tanner Ellis-Anderson as Hugo Rebecchi
• Lloyd Will as Andrew Rodwell
• Georgie Stone as Mackenzie Hargreaves
• Candice Lysk as Wendy Rodwell
• Emerald Chan as Sadie Rodwell
• Henrietta Graham as Sam Young
• Xavier Molyneux as Byron Stone
• Sara West as Cara Varga-Murphy
• Naomi Rukavina as Remi Varga-Murphy
• Marley Williams as Dex Varga-Murphy
• Riley Bryant as JJ Varga-Murphy
• Shiv Palekar as Haz Devkar
The principal casting director for Neighbours is Thea McLeod, who’s a member of both the Casting Guild of Australia and the Casting Society of America. McLeod is also assisted by Georgia Rickards at McLeod Casting, where they’ve firmly cemented themselves as one of the most prominent players in Aussie casting.
Of this particular gig (which McLeod has been attached to since 2011), McLeod says: “Casting a show like Neighbours is fast paced.”
She adds: “I don’t mind if actors email me directly. Sometimes I shoot myself in the foot a bit because I get millions of them emailing me because they know I’ve got that very open-door policy. But it’s great because you never know.”
McLeod also says outside of keeping an eye on the graduates of our “Big Three” drama schools (i.e. NIDA, WAAPA and VCA), “I try and get out and see as much theatre as I can. Normal theatre but then also musicals.” Which makes sense, given her base in the theatre-rich centre of Melbourne.
So, if you’re currently heading towards showcase at an esteemed drama school, or are about to open a run in one of Melbourne’s vibrant theaters, let the McLeod casting team know. Yes, they’re an unquestionably busy office, but as McLeod says, “You never know.”
Funnily enough, McLeod—who was an actor before finding casting—actually starred on four episodes of the beloved drama in 1989. As a result, she knows what a gift TV soaps can be for actors. “On a show like Neighbours, you have to work with so many directors, which is a fantastic thing for the actor. It’s really quite disciplined and such a good training ground for young actors because you could be doing seven scenes all in one day and you’ve got to get those scripts down. You have to learn that really fast-paced kind of way,” she says.
“Also on a show like Neighbours, we’re very lucky [because] we have great drama coaches and voice coaches. It’s like the best drama school ever.”
As to what you can expect when you get into the Neighbours audition room, McLeod says: “Generally, we’ll do a little chat to camera. That really is used to just make them feel comfortable and for me to get a sense of their personality and what they’re like as a person. I obviously already know what credits they’ve got. Then we’d play around with the scene so I’d do a couple of takes.”
Some of the actors who have successfully auditioned for Neighbours over the years have revealed what it entailed. Richie Morris, who played series regular Levi Canning on the soap, said his initial audition was actually a self-tape, followed soon after by, “A chemistry test with Colette Mann. The chemistry test was amazing. I love auditions where you get feedback and directions. Colette and I did some improvisation. She was such a dream to audition with.”
Benny Turland, who portrayed fellow series regular, Hendrix Greyson, says his first round was also a self-tape, however, wasn’t meant to audition as he, “Wasn’t what they were looking for.” “My manager didn’t tell me this and had me put down a tape for the show. I put down a tape and then a week later was flown to Melbourne from Sydney] to do a chemistry read with Jemma Donovan (who plays Harlow Robinson) and Tim Robards (who previously portrayed Pierce Greyson). I think three days after that I was told I had got the job. Luckily I had done some work before and had a bit of training behind me, but I guess I was kind of winging it to start off with.”
To prepare for this huge opportunity, Morris says he hit all the basics. “Memorise lines, know my objectives, know the relationships you have between people, etc. I also watched heaps of episodes to really have a clear understanding of the style and ‘vibe’ of Neighbours,” Turland says. Likewise, “Professionally, preparation is key.”
While the chance to audition for such a big gig can no doubt be daunting, McLeod encourages actors to “Think of the audition as the performance rather than the end result. Enjoy that time when you’re actually in the room with the casting director; that’s the heart of what you’re doing.” Morris agrees, advising hopeful auditionees, “Don’t be afraid to play around. I think having some energy and not thinking too hard about it really helps. Tap into your inner kid, it’s really fun.” Turland adds, “Trust yourself, take a risk in the character, know how to take direction, and be able to adjust your choices.”
For parting words of wisdom, McLeod advocates actors control what they can control—namely their preparation and professionalism. “There’s a difference between someone getting nervous and losing their lines or clearly not being prepared. Hundreds of people will be put forward to me and I’m only going to see 10 or 20 or 30, depending on the character. Being unprepared is the most disrespectful thing anyone could ever do, and it surprises me because it does happen.”
“Be on time. You’ve got to stick to a schedule and be there and work. This is like a job interview, really.” McLeod goes on to say, “Even in the casting process, I’m looking for the person as much as I’m looking for the actor.”