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Interviews > Raelene Isbester

Last month, Karl Kennedy found himself caught up in dodgy dealings at Vivex Pharmaceuticals and double-crossed, then ultimately saved by, his personal assistant, Julia Sanders. Here, actress and singer Raelene Isbester talks about her time working with the Neighbours...

Can you tell us a little about your career prior to your Neighbours appearances as Julia this year?
I have mainly been working as a professional singer in bands and musical theatre in Melbourne. I have been working for Tokyo Disneyland in Japan for a few years as a singer in a number of different shows, special events and recordings, though recently my focus has shifted to acting.

How did the role of Julia come about? Was it just a typical audition for you?
I have never had the opportunity to audition for Neighbours before so when my agent told me I had an audition I was thrilled. It was a lot of fun and the character of Julia was really interesting, so I was really happy to have had the chance to play her.

Did you enjoy your time playing Julia? What do you remember most about working on the Neighbours set?
I really enjoyed playing Julia. Its always great fun playing a bad guy. It was a challenge to play someone who was quite complex in the fact that she always had a number of motives with everything she did. She needed to please her boss to get what she wanted even though she didn't like doing what she did, this got increasingly difficult as she grew to like and respect Karl which ultimately came through in her telling the truth to the police in the end. Working on the set was great. Everyone was really relaxed and playful which makes it easier to relax.

Was there anyone you particularly enjoyed working with during your time on the show?
I enjoyed working alongside Alan Fletcher [Karl]. He was just so comfortable on set that it made it easier for me to feel comfortable. I also really enjoyed working with Neil Pigot [Christian]. He was really generous with his time on set and was always interested in doing line runs.

What was it like to work alongside such an established cast?
I got to work mostly with Alan Fletcher and Neil Pigot and Steve Bastoni [Steve]. To be able to work with all of these actors was fantastic. The amount of experience that each of these actors has in Australian Film and Television is massive. I was excited to be able to work with such industry professionals and they were all very generous actors which made playing opposite them and my job really easy.

Are you still in touch with anyone you worked with on Neighbours?
Actually I'm not, although I am sure I will bump into them at some stage in Melbourne, as everyone knows everyone else in the industry here.

Would you ever consider a regular role on Neighbours, if the opportunity arose?
Of course!! If the right character came about I would be very interested in being a part of the Neighbours family.

Having appeared in other Australian dramas, such as Blue Heelers, how did Neighbours compare?
Neighbours was a completely different experience, as my character was there for a few episodes. So I got to meet alot of the cast members even if i wasnt working with them.It was great seeing how everyone just chills out in between filming. Whereas the Blue Heelers episode was just a few days of filming on location so I didnt get a chance to really chat to anyone.

Have you ever been a Neighbours viewer yourself?
Yes. On and off over the years. Although I was watching it a lot more closely before appearing on it.

What are you up to these days?
I am currently back in Japan for a short while as a singer with Tokyo Disneyland working in two different shows and am also involved in a number of special events over the Christmas and New Year period. I will be returning to Melbourne in the New Year and am looking forward to getting back on the auditioning circuit.

Finally, as it enters its 24th season on Australian television, what do you think accounts for the show’s enduring success?
I think the reason that Neighbours has been so successful for so long is because it has a good family focus to the show. Families can sit down and enjoy watching the show together.

Interview by Steve. Added on 15th December 2007