> Patti Stiles
Paul Robinson caused something of a stir last year when he almost brought about the end of Ramsay Street by getting involved with American Lee Thomas and Affirmacon. Here, actress Patti Stiles discusses her career and the experience of playing Lee...
Could you give us some background on your career before your role in Neighbours?
Sure, I served my theatre apprenticeship at Loose Moose Theatre Company, birthplace of Theatresports™, under the playful, eagle eye of its inventor, Keith Johnstone. I am an actor, improviser, director, instructor and playwright. The majority of my work is theatre based and ranges from classical to contemporary. I have a great passion for improvisational theatre and much of my work is focused in this field. Through improvisation I have been lucky to tour much of the world performing. Currently I am the Artistic Director of Impro Melbourne in Melbourne, past Artistic Director of Rapid Fire Theatre and a member of the Canadian improvisational company, Die Nasty – the live improvised soap opera.
How did the role of Lee Thomas come about?
I’m not sure how the writers developed her. For me I felt there was a definite expectation that she would reflect all the stereo-typical mannerisms of an American Politician. Fake warmth and courtesy. I was delighted when the fans saw right through her. As an actor reading the script I felt Lee was created to cause conflict and some comedy with David and Liljana. I never felt Lee was created to be regular cast and I was surprised and pleased to be brought back to cause more trouble with Paul and Izzy.
Did you enjoy playing her? How would you describe the character?
Very much! Manipulative, power hungry, self-serving. She needs to control others to protect and validate herself. She was described to me as a sexual predator. That made me laugh and I really enjoyed that side of her. I think she has a very soft underbelly and if anyone could break through her armor and gain her trust she would change. I would have liked to have played her long enough to see that happen, to watch her grapple with real love or trust.
Were there any actors you particularly enjoyed working with?
Everyone was so fantastic. There was so much laughter. Kevin Harrington, and Marcella Russo were so playful. You never knew what Marcella was going to say next! I also really enjoyed Stefan Dennis and Natalie Bassingthwaighte. Natalie is a sweetheart and Stefan is very charming and down to earth. The whole cast and crew on set and off made me feel welcomed and I had a great time.
How did it feel to be working alongside such an established cast?
I’ll be honest, I was so nervous going in. Luckily I had meet Ben Nicholas at Celebrity Theatresports™ and when I walked in to the green room he tackled me. That broke the nerves and almost my back. The regular cast is very welcoming and professional. They went out of their way to introduce themselves to me. It is a great environment. I loved going to work!
Would you ever consider a return to the series?
Oh yes! Definitely. I would love to see her try to get revenge on Paul for not following through on his contract with her. I think she could really give the bad boy a run for his money if she was let loose. That would be fun!! Or maybe see whom else she could try and seduce…that too could be fun.
Have you ever been a viewer of the series yourself?
I started watching the show when I was asked to audition and I still tune in.
Having worked on other Australian dramas, such as Stingers, how does Neighbours compare?
Shows and casts develop their own distinct dynamic. Shooting a weekly is very different to a daily. With Stingers they focus one episode per week. You meet the cast for read through of the script and then you only see the cast you are shooting with. With Neighbours they are shooting two episodes in a week. With all the studio shots the cast has more time together. This playful friendly atmosphere is wonderful and you feel it immediately when you walk in. I also felt a real commitment the cast has to the fans of the show. I would often see the regulars answering their mail and I know there is a regular meet the fans event in Melbourne.
Do you ever find yourself running into familiar faces from your Neighbours days, either through work or socially?
Yes, each year Impro Melbourne runs a show called Celebrity Theatresports™ and we usually have Neighbours cast in the show. This year I got to play with Ben Nicholas, which was a hoot! Adam Hunter also played and he was very funny. I was also asked to teach some improvisation classes at the Grundy studio. So it was great fun to pop back in catch up with everyone. I am also friends with and perform improvisation with Geoff Paine and Lliam Amor who were both on Neighbours.
What have you been doing since your final guest appearance last year?
I toured Germany, Belgium, and the UK acting. In Melbourne I organized an international improvisational festival. I’ve also been a regular on the Derek Guille show on ABC 774. I shot a few ads, created two impro shows and did a whole heap of teaching. Right now I am preparing to go to New Zealand to teach for a theatre company, then off to Canada to perform then back to write and direct a play for primary schools called A Shared Story. When I can I have been working on a book I am writing about improvisation.
Do you prefer acting on television or in theatre?
They are both quite different mediums and I enjoy them both.
With Neighbours now on screen for over 20 years, do you have any thoughts on why the show has lasted so long?
I think we all like stories about people. Many soaps place their characters in an elite world. Neighbours is about real people dealing with the big themes of life, love, trust, betrayal, success, failure, birth, death and so on. There are tears and laughter and an honesty we can all relate too.
To find out more about Impro Melbourne, click here and to read a character biography of Lee Thomas, click here...
by Steve. Added on 15th July 2006