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Interviews > Perri Cummings

She recently set the cat amongst the pigeons as long-lost Robinson sibling Jill, but actress Perri Cummings has other connections to the residents of Ramsay Street - as a scriptwriter for the show, and as the half-sister of Stefan Dennis, who plays Jill's own half-brother, Paul. Here, Perri chats about her time as both an actress and writer in Erinsborough...

Can you give us a background on your career and involvement in the television industry - both as an actor and writer - prior to Neighbours?
Since studying drama some time last century, I have spent a lot of time working in theatre. I was an ensemble member for Tropic Line Theatre Company for six and a half years before moving to Melbourne and since have performed in outdoor Shakespeare all over the country. I am also studying Screen Writing at RMIT at the moment.

How did you first come to work on Neighbours as a writer, back in 2007?
My brother encouraged me to ring them, so I did. They gave me a sample script and I have been working for them on and off since then.

Were you a fan of the series before joining the crew?
With Stefan in the show since the beginning I've always been a huge fan.

Who are your favourite Neighbours characters to write for?
I love the teens, they are a lot of fun, especially Donna and Kate and it comes easily to me as I have two daughters around that age. Elle and Lucas are great too and I love writing for Paul and Rebecca, they work so well together.

How does a typical writing assignment on Neighbours work for you?
It's like a lucky dip you never know what you are going to get. Teen pregnancy to Motorbike racing. Then you have two weeks to research, write, re-write and cross your fingers.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Neighbours format?
The Neighbours team are amazing, producing so much good television each week. The writing team have really worked hard over the last two years or more to reinvigorate the ways the stories are told and I think it's working beautifully.

How important is the comedy in Neighbours, in your opinion? Is it something that you’re particularly conscious of when writing for the show?
I love the comedy in the show it gives it a real warmth and truth. I enjoy writing it too much and have to have some of my lame jokes pruned out!

Your first Neighbours acting role came when you played a nurse in two episodes back in 1993. What do you remember about filming that role?
It was one of my first times on TV and I was very nervous! Everyone was really sweet.

How did your recent role as Jill Ramsay come about? What was it like to work alongside your real-life brother Stefan Dennis for the first time?
Jan Russ asked me to audition and I did, I think they thought it was too much fun not to have a real life brother and sister on the show. Stefan is my half brother, we have the same mum, even though I'm quite a bit younger! (Just like Paul and Jill) It was great to work with him, we both thought it was going to be weird but it was fun and easy but too short! Any excuse to hang out. Now he has his beautiful babies I don't get to see him as much as I would like.

Will you continue to make appearances (in flashback) as Jill?
Jill will be back on the show for a little bit.

Which do you prefer as a creative outlet – acting or writing?
Both, preferably together! They are very complimentary and each helps the other. Writing is certainly more frustrating than acting. I tend to become really engrossed and lose contact with the outside world, where as acting is all about other people and lets me sample lots of other lives.

What do you think accounts for the huge success Neighbours has continued to enjoy over the past 24 years?
The wonderful cast, the great crew and some fine stories. It's a show that you can come back to and be reminded of everything that is good about the way we live. It's like an old friend.

What's next for you?
I've just filmed a short film Why Must the Show Go On that I co-wrote and played a part in, we are hoping to get the idea picked up as a sit-com. And in the mean time I'm writing a script for Neighbours at the moment and then go into the story room for eight weeks as a storyliner.

Interview by Steve. Added on 22nd August 2009