> Lawrence Mah
Considering the fact that he only appeared in 9 episodes of Neighbours, Lawrence Mah's role as Mr Udagawa was certainly a popular one. Having last appeared back in 1992, he is still remembered fondly by many fans to this day, even topping a recent Favourite Obscure Character poll for the BBC. Here, Lawrence, who has also had roles in Australian dramas such as Stingers, Pugwall and Chances, shares his memories of playing that very important Japanese businessman...
Can you tell us a little about how you first got into acting?
By accident. I was attending voice classes for self-improvement when I
was asked to provide a V.O. for an advertisement. After a few V.O’s, I was asked to audition for a miniscule role in a college film. This led to other small roles… well… that’s how it all started.
How did your first appearance as Mr Udagawa come about?
At that time I was registered with an extras agency. This is pure conjecture but I thought that the public was beginning to feel that, for a multi-cultural community, there should have been a better racial mix on television. This is pure conjecture on my part and may not be correct. Mr Udugawa didn’t appear again for at least 12 months ('til the following year), hence I am indeed so thankful that viewers remembered me.
How does it feel to be responsible for the union of one of Neighbours’ most popular couples, Paul and Gail?
I've never thought about that at all (especially when my character was so minor). We were not told the overall storyline and was given only the script of that particular episode the week before.
You made a couple of returns to the series in 1989 and 1992. Do you remember how this came about?
For the same reason as my answer above.
Was there anyone who you particularly enjoyed working with on the show?
I enjoyed working with all the cast as they were such fun to be with. Of course, one always remembers the actors who you share the scenes with. Much water has flowed under the bridge since those days and as we move in different orbits, we tend to lose touch, however it is always such a pleasant surprise when we cross paths on different film sets in different countries.
Have you ever been recognised by members of the public thanks to your role as Mr Udagawa?
We have a new solicitor (from the UK) working in the office opposite. Apparently she used to be a fan of Neighbours and she was so excited when we swapped notes as she knows Mr Udagawa. Yes, a few people have asked me about
Udagawa in the streets and I have received some fanmail.
Mr Udagawa recently topped a BBC poll for the 20th Anniversary, asking readers to name their favourite obscure character. How does that make you feel?
I am deeply humbled and honoured that the readers think so. I loved the character and wished, at that time, that it was to be an on-going role, but it didn’t work out that way. However, it did help me in gaining new work.
What do you think Mr Udagawa would be up to these days?
Mr Udagawa will have moved on from those halcyon days. He will be a retiring businessman perhaps deeply involved in Community activities such as Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, a marketing adviser to small- and medium-sized establishments, a valuable asset to Western companies interested in trading with Asian countries as he understands both the Eastern and Western mind-sets. He will probably be married to an Australian woman, domiciled here, a citizen of this country and still travels widely within and without Australia. He will be an artist, a lover of classical music, and will appreciate good food and the occasional wine. That’s it - in a nutshell!!
With Paul Robinson now back in Ramsay Street, can you envisage a return for Mr Udagawa? Would you be interested in going back?
Of course I would be keen to return. But then, its up to the scriptwriters and the producers.
Where has your career taken you since your last appearance in Neighbours, back in 1992?
Events have taken me to many places and in many roles. I've never regretted a minute of my time in this industry!!
To read a full biography of Mr Udagawa, click here.
Would you like to see Mr Udagawa back in Erinsborough? Contact us with your thoughts, and we'll make sure to pass them on.
Interview by Steve. Added on 5th November 2005