> Nicki Paull
Paull appeared in Neighbours in 1999, playing Joel
Samuels' older girlfriend. Her son was played by Damien Bodie,
who now plays Dylan. Here she gives us an insight into her
career before, during, and after Neighbours.
you give us a background on your career prioe to Neighbours?
I graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1983,
aged 21. Soon afterwards, I got a big role on a series called
Return to Eden, which was a big hit in the UK. I played,
"Sarah", with my hair dyed blonde and curled. I
was supposed to be the ugly duckling who morphed into a beauty
by the end of the sixth-month shoot. (My mother had been similar,
having been plain before being taken by a croc in the north
of Queensland and then been reconstructed by a plastic surgeon,
who became her husband.) It would have been a great series
along the lines of Brideshead, but they sacked the
writer after we'd started pre-production, and it became a
soap opera pretty quickly, with storylines like me finding
out that the guy I was about to marry was my secret twin brother
who was swapped at birth! You get the picture! But it made
me a TV star, and from there, I hopped from one show to another:
Prisoner (spiky peroxide blonde prostitute); Flying
Doctors and other local shows, including playing Miss
Scarlett in Cluedo, which was very successful over
here. Then I got picked up as a film actress, and did many
films which you would never have seen over there, with the
exception of Boulevard of Broken Dreams which is still
in video shops there. I have attached my resume so you can
name things if you want. I had always hoped to have an international
career in film and on stage, and at 32, decided I had to move
on. (I now look back and realise how lucky I was and how I
didn't appreciate that at the time, but we are all wise in
hindsight.) I moved to London, where I did a short film and
a play before retraining and working as a writer and producer
of corporate events.
did the role of Natalie come about? How would you describe
Upon my return to Melbourne, aged 36, things were very different
and it was a lot like starting again. The casting director
for Neighbours had always been a fan of mine, and she
called my agent and offered me the role of the sexy older
woman as soon as it came up. I didn't even audition for the
part, because it was so like an older version of the parts
I had played in my 20s. I was grappling with the ageing process
at that stage, so playing Natalie as a real person and not
a stereotype of the older woman praying on young handsome
flesh was a challenge. She was fairly tough, having been in
the world of pubs and nightclubs for her whole career, and
having been a single mum for a fair while. When she started
to really like the Daniel McPherson character, her first impulse
was to lie about her age. I could relate to that, as youth
and beauty are so important in our culture - especially in
TV land. But ultimately, she WAS a real person, and so she
came clean about her age and it became obvious that she and
her young lover were destined for different things. It was
nice while it lasted.
two main co-stars on the show are now regulars on Australian
tv (Daniel MacPherson on The X Factor and Damien Bodie
back on Neighbours as Dylan). Any thoughts on their
success? Did you enjoy working with them?
Daniel was a delight to work with. I was amazed that he had
such a good attitude to this business, which can be very cruel.
he said at the time that he didn't really have great ambitions
to be an actor all his life and that he'd be happy to retrain
when things slowed down - as they always do. Plus it was no
hardship having to kiss him, I can assure you! To be honest,
I wasn't aware that Damien was back on Neighbours.
I don't have time to watch TV any more. But I'm glad that
he is as he was a very dedicated kid and kids who grow up
in front of a camera can teach us oldies a thing or two -
especially when one's been out of the game for a while like
worked on several Australian dramas – how did Neighbours
Neighbours is probably the toughest Oz drama to work
on, in that they film at a very rapid rate, so when you're
on, you get only a couple of takes and it's on to the next
thing.With lots of waiting in between, it requires quite a
bit of discipline to go from total boredom to being right
on the ball. I am essentially a Shakespearean actress at heart,
so the other thing I find challenging about Neighbours
is the sheer banality of the scripts and storylines, but that
is something you may prefer to leave out of your interview!
The Australian industry is in a very dire state of decline
now, so Neighbours is like a great flag flying in the
middle of the desert as far as Australian actors are concerned.
We actors love it as much as the Brits do!
you ever find yourself running into any familiar faces from
your Neighbours days?
Neighbours is filmed in Melbourne, which is where I
live, and I am an active theatre actor and Equity member,
so I do run into the regulars on the show. Dr Karl was until
recently, the president of Equity and he and I are old colleagues.
Toadie gets out and about a bit, but over the years he would
have met so many guest stars on Neighbours that I'd
be surprised if he even recognised me! He's a really great
guy in real life. Just as adorable and funny as his screen
persona. Shane Connor , who is no longer with the show, was
my best mate at college and I had hoped to get the role of
his wife! But it was too soon after playing Natalie and Janet
Andrewartha was the person for that role. Maybe I'll get onto
the show again when I'm old enough to play someone's granny!
you ever consider a return to the series?
above. It is a real pleasure working in your profession full
time, and although I'd probably prefer to be working in rep
at the RSC, a great series like Neighbours would be a
joy to do. The casting people, the producers and the directors
they have through are all such good people that the set is a
you ever been a viewer of the show yourself?
enough, the only time I ever watched Neighbours regularly
was when I lived in England! The lifestyle on the show was
in such contrast to the lifestyle one has in London that it
was a reminder of home then. The weather (obviously), the
big houses and gardens, the friendly neighbours and the close-knit
community, plus the affordability of leisure activities seemed
quite foreign when I lived there - and were ultimately the
reason for my returning.
have you been doing since your guest stint as Natalie?
When I got back, people remembered me from my days as a TV
star, but time had passed and I was in a lousy age-group.
I thought long and hard about what to do if there wasn't enough
roles for women of 40, and decided to go back to University
and study a business degree. For a while I worked in corporate-land,
but as my studies progressed, I realised that I was motivated
to be an artist and that if I ignored that it would be to
the detriment of my personal happiness. So I am now a Master
of Business in Human Resource Management, and in addition
to guest roles on TV and a lot of Shakespearean theatre, I
deliver seminars Australia-wide for all freelance professional
artists. Called, The Business of Being an Artist, they
are about teaching business skills to artists - financial
management and marketing, as well as business coaching and
psychology to help people deal with the ups and downs in an
artistic career. I love being able to help my fellow artists
while making enough money to allow me to do projects that
I want to do even if they're in fringe theatre or student
films or whatever. I feel like I'm giving back some of the
good fortune I had in my early years.
Neighbours now in its twentieth anniversary year, do
you have any thoughts on why the show has lasted so long?
It is definitely the British market which has sustained Neighbours
over 20 years and probably for all the reasons I gave above.
It shows a lifestyle that is appealing, it shows friendly
people with old-fashioned values dealing with everyday issues
in the modern world. It doesn't preach, it's not full of unpleasant
stories and characters and so many of the Neighbours
community have grown up with the viewers that it feels like
a comfy old sweater!
To read a full biography of Natalie Rigby, click here.
by Steve. Added on 28th May 2005