I auditioned for Neighbours twice before they gave me a role – which was a straight offer (I didn’t have to audition for it). Both roles that I auditioned for were three-year contracts with options, meaning it could extend from anywhere to an extra six months or an extra six years. There’s a lot of debate to the advantages of being on an Australian Soap Opera and what it can do for your acting career. Sure, the script and character development may not be the most gripping or even logical viewing, but from my experience it was good money, good training and great exposure. Although I missed out on the initial two characters I went for, I made a lasting impression on the casting director and producers that they found a role for me. I auditioned well. They liked me. They wrote me into the show. This isn’t unusual, it happens all the time. So here’s how to get onto Neighbours:
Thea McLeod is the current casting agent for Neighbours. She’s based in Melbourne, however auditions all over the country. When a new character is written, Thea will get a brief and send out audition requests to agencies. Agencies can also push unconsidered actors for the role. Having an agent is quite crucial on receiving an audition; it is highly unlikely that a freelance actor will be put up for a role. Neighbours give long, specific briefs for their roles, usually consisting of an age range, nationality (mostly open to any ethnicity), occupation and a lengthy description of their upbringing, family and work history. It reads like a cross between a medical report and a resume. Does the brief inform your decisions about the scenes and your character? Not really. Neighbours have a formula when introducing a new character that involves a lot of backstory – however when it comes to shooting the scenes, most of this exposition is thrown out the window and rightfully so. It’s just too much information that usually doesn’t serve the real story.
The audition is usually one scene. Sometimes two if they need to see some sort of contrast within the character. Here’s my 6 biggest tips when working the scene:
- Watch the show. Every show has a certain tone, theme and style. You can be a fantastic performer however if you’re not on the same wavelength as the other actors in the series, you’ll stick out – and not in a good way. Get familiar with the rhythm and pace of the show. Don’t mimic or force it. Just be aware of it. Simply streaming (legally, of course) a few episodes while learning your lines will go a long way. The producers are looking for the actor who is not only right for the character, but who can easily slip into their way of doing things. It’s a well-oiled machine and they’re looking for a new cog. The size and resilience of that cog is up to you.
- Be natural. The actors who get onto this show are the ones who can deliver lines with credibility. This may seem like a blatantly obvious note but it is more important with soaps than any other show. Soap scripts are notoriously stilted, laboured and dated. Some lines on the page will have even veteran actors tearing their hair out on how to deliver them. Find a way to say the line that makes sense to you. If this is too hard – change the line. Casting directors, are fine with you altering lines – as long as it still serves the character and scene. Take license with words; change it up so it’s easier for you to say. The writers may not like it but they’re not the ones making the decisions. Make the scene believable. Sometimes that’s impressive enough
- Warmth. Neighbours has and always will be on 6.30pm on weeknights. People tune in before or after dinner because it is comforting. Most scenes are set in houses, pubs or cafes – rather than the beach or schoolyards where you will see more frequently on Home and Away. Neighbours has a huge following in the UK for this very reason, it’s a cosy show. It’s a winter show. Even the ‘villains’ of the show will have a large degree of warmth and ease of connection with the other characters. Don’t get sucked into the drama too easily, avert from intense, physical choices and lean towards charm, vulnerability and chemistry.
- Image. Once you’ve got a good grasp on the scene it’s time to come back up to the surface and make sure you look good. Look fit. You’ve probably noticed that people on TV are attractive. You’re right. Particularly on soaps, working actors are fit and healthy. Start looking like one by trimming fat and eating well. You need to start doing this a year before you audition for the role. Its not a quick turn around. But it’s the vain truth. Of course there are always roles that don’t need a six-pack or tight gluts. But on Neighbours, most of them do
- Drink water. Smash a lot of H2O the day and night before the audition. It will hydrate your skin and make you glow on screen. Also avoid salt and sugar for a few days before putting down the tape. You want your skin and eyes looking their healthiest on the day.
- Shoot it well. If putting down a self-tape, make sure you have a good set up, particularly lighting. There are a number of great self-test studios in Melbourne and Sydney that will help you out here. It is imperative that your tape is well-lit, with a complimenting backdrop and a good lens. Go for medium/close-up framing (shoulders and head) and have your eyeline close to the camera.
Abide by these tips and you will turn some heads in the Neighbours production office. They recognise talent and work ethic and if they like what you do, they will get you on the show. It may be a number of auditions down the line but they love giving young talented actors a run on their field and have always been an incredible platform for emerging Australian actors to make their start in the industry. Hundreds of successful working actors owe their start to Aussie soaps. Every actor needs good neighbours…