> James Condon
Condon holds a special place in the history of Neighbours.
As well as starring in the series twice, as conman Douglas
Blake in 1985 and as wealthy philanthropist Reuben White in
1995, he was also the husband of the show's best-loved and
longest serving cast member, the late Anne Haddy.
you give us some background on your career?
My acting career - professionally - began in ABC Radio in
1942, when I was aged 18 and on the RAAF Reserve, awaiting
call-up. I resumed with ABC after three and a quarter years
in the Air Force, with the rank of Flyer Lieutenant, having
flown operationally with RAF Squadron 547, B24 Liberator,
Coastal Command stationed at Leuchars Junction, Fife, Scotland
for the last six months of the war in Europe. In
1949, I went to London and worked for the BBC in Radio and
television until 1951, when I was given a contract by the
ABC in Australia at four times the salary I was on in London.
I took it, obviously, and worked as an actor, scriptwriter
and interviewer until in 1956, when television began in Australia,
I moved to Sydney. For the next 29 years, I never stopped,
either in television, radio, theatre, film and voice-overs
- the list is pages long. During those years, Anne Haddy and
I met as actors - just friends, then much later as lovers,
and together since 1974. The most wonderful 25 years of our
lives. We married in 1977.
1985, Anne landed the role of Helen Daniels on Neighbours,
and you both moved from Sydney to Melbourne for the part.
Had you any idea how big the series was to become?
We took a chance relocating to Melbourne, but we had no idea
- just hopes that Neighbours would succeed.
did the role of Douglas Blake come about?
I was offered the role of Douglas Blake and said "yes"!
are your memories from that time on the show?
My most vivid memory of my first day's shooting as Douglas
Blake was the ice on my car's windscreen - the temperature
was 0.8 degrees Centigrade. Of course, we were all dressed
in light summer clothing. At one stage the director said "Relax,
James." I replied slowly: "I can't relax, my jaw
is frozen!" My best memory of all from those days was
working with Anne.
years later, you joined the cast as Reuben White. How did
that return come about?
Previously, I was playing simultaneously in Prisoner
and Neighbours. When Douglas Blake finished in 1986,
I told the powers-that-be that I'd grow a beard and return
as a different character with a Scottish accent. I have a
very good Scottish accent, having lived there for a long time,
and having had a Scottish girlfriend during the war. Many
years later, my schedule happily fitted in with Reuben White's
time, and almost all his scenes were with Anne.
did playing Reuben compare with playing Douglas?
Douglas Blake was a colourful character - baddies are always
fun to play. But Reuben married Helen, and our being married
again on camera was very special - no acting required - just
living and loving it.
the show changed much in the 10 years since you last appeared?
The show had become more sophisticated when Reuben arrived
on the scene, but our early timeslot could not allow too much
relaxation of moral standards.
did you most enjoy about your second stint on Neighbours?
Obviously, I most enjoyed acting with Anne.
Anne always intend to stay with Neighbours for as long
as she did, and what was the mood on set as she recorded her
Anne intended to stay for however long the show lasted - but
her heart and liver troubles and her hip operation caused
schedule disarray. For her final scenes, I was not on set
- I was rehearsing in the theatre - so I didn't see the tape
till later. We thought it a bit strange.
do you think accounts for Neighbours' phenomenal success?
Neighbours arrived on the world televison scene as
a fresh, very human and real portrayal of ordinary, loving,
decent people. After 18 years, and still going, that quality
alone indicates the strength and reason for its impact.
have you been doing since playing Reuben?
What have I been doing since? In theatre - a wonderful production
of Madame Butterfly, which was great success in Melbourne,
Sydney and touring over several months. In film, I had a small
part in Evil Angels, starring Meryl Streep and Sam
Neill, Spotswood, starring Anthony Hopkins and featuring
Russell Crowe, and Backstage which featured a lot of
Australian actors. I've also done a whole lot of television
- a couple of series for PBL (Packer), Time Trax -
an American company working in Queensland and Something
in the Air for ABC. The ABC still does radio drama and
this old man - I shall be 80 next September - is still working!
But mostly, I record talking books for the blind. Originally,
for the Louis Braille Talking Book Library, now for the National
Institute of Library Resources. I record about six books a
year - have done so for at least 18 years and I love it!
you ever watch Neighbours now?
Yes, every now and then I watch Neighbours, when I
have the opportunity. I know some of the old guard still acting
in it and most of the cameramen and technical and production
in your view, was Anne Haddy's contribution to Neighbours?
Anne's portrayal of Helen Daniels was the backbone of the
entire Neighbours saga from 1985 to 1997.
read a full character profile of Helen Daniels, click
Interview by Moe. Added on 24th May 2003