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Interviews > Kevin Harrington

Having first appeared in a short lived comedy role as Harold's only son David Bishop, Kevin Harrington stunned Neighbours fans by returning fifteen years later as a regular character. For the next two years, David was a guardian of respectable suburbia, a dedicated family man and a key component in making the Bishop family as big a presence as the Kennedys or Scullys. Kevin kindly took some time to discuss playing "the other Mr Bishop" and tell us about what he's currently up to with another of Neighbours' previous stars...

Can you tell us how you became involved with acting and about some of your early roles before Neighbours?
I did the three year full time course at the Victorian College of the Arts, graduating in 1983 or 84. Shane Connor was one of my class mates. I mostly did theatre for the next fifteen years and predominantly at the Melbourne Theatre Company. My first month long stint as David Bishop occurred during this time, in 1988.

How did the role of David Bishop first come around in 1988? Can you recall what the audition was like?
I donít know and very little. Earlier I auditioned for the role of Clive Gibbons and sent a singing telegram in advance of my arrival to tell Jan Russ (Casting Director) how suited I was for the role. She and I are now on a Committee for The Victorian Actors Benevolent Trust*. Iíd love you all to have a look at our website, vabt.com.au and look at the valuable work we do!

What are your recollections of working on Neighbours during that first guest stint at the height of Neighbours popularity?
There was a wedding while I was there. Haroldís to Madge I think. They flew us all up to Sydney to promote the episode and put us up at a posh hotel and drove us around in luxury cars. I came home and as I was no longer shooting the show, I earned $75 that week for a gig as a comedian. Showbiz!

Would you have liked David to become a permanent character back in the 80s or were you happy to move on?
Maybe semi regular. I was doing a lot of theatre at the time and enjoying it.

In 2003 David Bishop returned to Erinsborough after fifteen years away. What were the steps that led to this return?
No idea.

Were you surprised by it?
Oddly, not really. Without knowing much about soap I guess itís the sort of thing which happens pretty often, family members of regular cast turning up on the doorstep without being mentioned for years, if at all. We had a son appear from nowhere.

When he came back, David seemed to change quite a bit in his mannerisms and no longer wore glasses; what were the reasons behind these changes? To what degree if any, did you instigate character changes?
I started, for the first month, doing David as I had in the past, as an impersonation of Harold. Then one of the producers told me to modify my accent and speak in my own. So I did. Hmmm.

As a permanent character, David got more of a balance of comedic and serious storylines; as an actor which did you prefer to work on?
I had no preference for one over the other. I liked the ones that were character driven.

What were your favourite and least favourite storylines while playing David?
Jee you're testing my memory here. I liked the ones where Marcella and I got to work together. There was one where she was throwing my clothes over the balcony because she thought I was having an affair.

Who did you particularly get on with in the cast?
Marcella (Lil), Ian Smith, Jackie Woodburne, Stephen Lovatt. I liked Stefan Dennis and Shane Connor obviously but we didnít get to do much together. Al Fletcher. There were some good actors to work with on the show. Stephi Mac, Marisa Warrington, young Ben, Paddy. I could go on.

David and Liljana's break up and her affair with Paul was quite unpopular with viewers. What were your feelings about it at the time?
I complained. We were the only married couple living with our own child on the street. It would have been nice to continue to represent that part of the community.

After two busy years, the Bishop family had become a popular addition to the cast but were axed in the Lassiter's plane crash. Ian Smith has said in interview that he begged the producers not to kill the Bishops off. Can you give us some information on why this decision was made and how did you feel about it?
I donít know why the decision was made. It was my commitment to fulfill the third year of the contract I had signed. How did I feel about it at the time? I was unhappy about the Paul Lil business so I was comfortable with leaving.

Would you still be there now if you had the choice?
No. Three years would have been enough. Have I contradicted myself? I wanted to do the show as it was when I signed on, for three years. But as it had changed into something quite different I was comfortable leaving after two.

The year the Bishops were killed off, 2005, is often seen by some fans as the beginning of a period of overly sensational storylines for Neighbours, which culminated in a series revamp in 2007 to address the issue. As someone involved with one of Neighbours most bombastic plots, what are your feelings on this topic? Did you feel there was a change in direction from when you began to when you left?
I donít have any ďfeelingsĒ about what happened in 2007. I wasnít there any more. I complained about the nature of the storylines when I was on the show. I addressed the last point before, yes?

Have you been a Neighbours viewer since leaving?
No, but donít read anything sinister into that. I teach camera acting in Melbourne three nights a week and the show is on when John Stewartís show is on cable and itís a bit of a fave.

You've recently opened an acting school with fellow ex-Neighbour Shane Connor (Joe Scully), called The Actor's Coach. What made you decide to become an acting coach, why with Shane, and how do you find day to day teaching compares to working on a TV show or theatre production?
Iíd love everybody to check out theactorscoach.com.au if they are in Melbourne and want to improve their camera acting. Shane, aside from being one of my best friends is a wonderful camera actor and between us we have fifty years of practical knowledge. We are also on facebook as the actors coach.

What have you been up to after Neighbours?
Theatre, including a tour of a play with Marcella, Underbelly, some ads in New Zealand, voice overs, a film called Red Hill which is out in October with Ryan Kwanten. (It will also be in the Melbourne and Sydney film festivals) , a couple of short films and the teaching.

Why do you think Neighbours has lasted 25 years?
It reflects the cares and concerns of people in the Australian suburbs. While we see our passions, our fears and the things we hold dear are reflected in any art form we will treasure it. When it ceases to, we will move onto something which does.

* The Victorian Actorsí Benevolent Trust helps Industry members and their families with emergency financial relief. It is an incredibly valuable and worthy charity. I hope you can support them with a donation. - Kevin Harrington

Interview by David. Added on 5th June 2010