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Interviews > Ben Mitchell

After several appearances as an extra, and even a brief appearance as Brad Willis, Ben Mitchell returned to Neighbours in 1992 as Brad's cousin, lawyer Cameron Hudson. He played the role for a year, before moving to London and pursuing a career in music. Now back in Australia, Ben is back in Neighbours, and this week made his debut on UK screens as police sergeant Matt Freedman...

How did you first get into acting?
The High School Musical. I was in a singing group and my teacher suggested I audition for our production of Brigadoon. Being the new kid in school, when my name went up saying I'd scored the lead role, nobody knew who I was. After High School, I got an agent, did extra work and bit parts and moved onto larger speaking roles.

You had some very minor roles in Neighbours in 1990 and 1991 before returning in 1992 in the regular role of Cameron. Do you remember anything about those initial auditions? What was it like to join the regular cast and those first brief appearances?
It was all new to me so it was exciting too. I do remember where the auditions were held and can picture the room in my mind. When I was successful and ended up on the set of Neighbours the most surreal recollection I have is of hearing Madge [Anne Charleston] and her very distinctive voice and thinking, "This is Ramsay Street. You are on Ramsay Street!!"

Did you enjoy playing Cameron? How would you describe him? Were there any of his storylines that you particularly enjoying filming?
Playing Cameron was great fun. I got to ride a Harley Davidson and wear a leather jacket and what twenty-something wouldn't like being a modern day Fonz? He was a 'nice' guy, always trying to do the 'right' thing and help people. Some of my friends couldn't believe it though when he turned down sexual favours from Annalise (played by the gorgeous Kimberely Davies) after helping her with a legal problem. Unfortunately in Cameron's eyes it wouldn't have been ethical.

What was it like to work on the set in the early 90s? Who did you get on best with in the cast?
Since Cameron was cousin to Brad [Scott Michaelson] and Gaby [Rachel Blakely], a few of my storylines featured around them and they were both fantastic to work and play with. Scott and I used to go to the gym in between scenes and I did my best to keep up with him. Sharing a house with Beth (Natalie Imbruglia) was an absolute pleasure and obviously I got on pretty well with Simone Robertson (Phoebe) as we ended up going out together for a couple of years.

What led to your departure after a year playing Cameron?
When naughty Brad jumped into bed with Lauren (his own cousin's girlfriend) Cameron had enough of being Mr. Nice Guy and took off to see the world and maybe learn a thing or two on his travels. The storyline mirrored my real desire to travel and have new experiences.

Where did your career take you after leaving the cast?
Let's see, I wrote a couple of plays and produced them, did Panto in Sunderland and Preston, toured in Beauty and The Beast, did a bit of television then spent seven years as an indy singer/songwriter hosting Acoustic Trip (songwriter showcase) in Camden. I was lucky enough to record some tracks at Sir George Martin's studio in London and released a couple of EP's in London and my debut album The Stars Can See when I got back to Australia.

Did you find yourself being recognised much, particularly in the UK, after appearing in Neighbours?
When I got off the plane at Heathrow for the first time, there was a bunch of school-girls on excursion and they did recognize me and ask for autographs and photos. It was good timing because the producer of my first panto was meeting me and considering what he was paying, I'm sure it helped give him some confidence I was worth it.

What led to your return to Neighbours as Matt earlier this year? Did you audition again? Did you feel that there might be any problems for long-term fans who'd seen you playing Cameron 15 years ago?
Luckily Neighbours has an expert in these things. Jan Russ cast me in my first parts and she cast me as 'Matt' in my latest role. If she didn't think it was going to confuse long-time viewers then that was enough for me. I guess a lot of new fans wouldn't have a clue who I was. Jan did ask me to come in and have a read with her, but we mostly chatted about old-times and had a laugh.

Did you enjoy playing Matt? How would you describe the character?
Yes, it was great fun. Having a break from acting helped me to find a naturalism perhaps I didn't have before. Matt is a father too and playing 'Daddy' is another first for me. Most of the characters I've played have been the 'good-guy' type and with Matt I had a wonderful opportunity to explore a slightly darker edge.

How had things changed on set in your 15 years away?
Not much. Seriously, I bumped into a couple of actors I worked with years ago (Stefan Dennis, Tom Oliver and Alan Fletcher) and the green room for the actors looked like it hadn't even been vacuumed since then.

Are there any plans to bring back Matt after his initial three-week stint? Would you be interested in returning?
The producers told me they had 'a view to bring Matt back' so we'll see what happens with Donna. I am in a good place now, finishing off my first novel and while it would be great to do some more acting, creatively I have a life that allows me to do what I love everyday whether unexpected opportunities come along or not.

Have you ever been a Neighbours fan yourself?
Sure. Charlene, Henry and Scott were part of my life growing up. I used to love watching Mark Little as Joe Mangel and was inspired to put on a show in a little theatre I watched him do a one-man show in years ago. I love Neighbours when there is plenty of humour.

What are you up to currently?
About 143,000 words. After promoting my music for years, playing local festivals and doing a solo-European tour in 2006, I decided it was time for a change. The first ten years of my life where spent in an unusual cult religion that thought the end of the world was coming in the 70's. When it didn't my family decided to leave and we had to start life over again. While I've written plays and hundreds of songs before, I've never written a novel, but the semi-autobiographical story that I wanted to tell needed more words than a play or song allowed. The idea for my novel has been gestating for many years but I started writing in earnest around March this year. Hopefully I'll be finished by the end of 2008 and have something to shop to publishers early 2009.

With Neighbours now beginning its 25th year of production, do you have any thoughts on why the show has lasted so long?
Life in Australia is good. Neighbours shows the fun, sunshine and outdoor life that we enjoy while incorporating story lines everyone can relate to. Love, betrayal, accidents and ambitions. Universal experiences that are happening now, just over the fence.

Interview by Steve. Added on 6th December 2008