> Sweeney Young
Having debuted in Australia on the 17th August 2007, one year on, Riley Parker has just left UK screens. We take the opportunity to catch up with the man behind the surfing journalist, Sweeney Young, as he looks back on his time on Neighbours...
Can you tell us a little about your acting experience prior to Neighbours and how you got into it?
I've done a heap of short films, an episode or two on a bunch of Aussie shows, I was in a telemovie called Little Oberon. I always enjoyed performing and telling jokes and being the centre of attention when I was younger. I loved watching tv and movies, but never even considered that I could be part of them. Not because I didn't think I could, just because it seemed like such a different world. I got to play a small role in an educational video made for my dad's work, and asked the kid who played my younger brother how to get acting work, he said get an agent. I started auditioning and got bigger and bigger roles over the years.
How did the role of Riley come about?
I auditioned for Declan on a Monday, and on the Thursday of the same week I had a workshop audition for Riley, who Jan Russ and the producers felt I suited more. I got a phonecall a week and half later to say I had the role.
Were you a Neighbours viewer before being cast?
No. My sister and Mum have been on and off over the years so I was familiar with all the longstanding characters.
How did it feel joining as part of the new Parker family; was it nerve racking being the new family on the block?
I joined the cast a month after the rest of the Parker family arrived on Ramsay St, so Steve, Niki and Eloise were able to give me some great tips on how to settle in, having just arrived themselves. But everyone was extremely welcoming and made me feel really comfortable, I'll always remember how nice everyone was.
What's it like working so closely with experienced actors like Steve Bastoni and Nikki Coghill?
Great, I look back at the scenes I shared with them with real fondness. Steve gave me a lot of advice and my acting has improved a lot because of him, but I learnt a lot from both Steve and Nikki through osmosis, just by working with them. They are now both real friends of mine.
How would you describe Riley? Are you like him?
I'm a little like him, we both tend to fall back on humour when feeling uncomfortable or hurt or sad, we share a lot of the same moral values, we both can be pretty cheeky sometimes and a bit of a tease.
What have been your favourite and least favourite storylines?
My favourite storylines have been the ones about Riley, ones I can really sink my teeth into because I was a part of them from start to finish. Riley's affair with Nicola was great to do, and probably my favourite storyline, it had guilt, lust, passion, a certain rawness to it, and a real sadness too. It also showed a more selfish side of Riley, which was interesting, until that point he had followed his moral compass uncompromisingly.
Riley's relationship with adoptive aunt Nicola caused some media attention, with some critics describing it as "sick". What's your view on it?
I think it was a great storyline, and well written. I didn't follow any of the commentary about it because I had no interest in it, I found it fun and challenging to do as an actor, and Imogen and I worked on every scene to try and keep them interesting and away from a 'taking advantage' storyline. We made sure that the power in the relationship kept changing hands, that it wasn't one sided, and that there was always a choice for Riley. I think "sick" is going a bit far, but then I don't have young kids to worry about and 6:30 is quite an early time slot. That being said, I can identify with Riley because I have some hot Aunties.
What led to you leaving Neighbours?
The producers and writers felt that Riley was hard to write for, and that perhaps he had achieved what he was meant to achieve in Erinsborough. There would have been other reasons that I am not aware of though.
There have been rumours that you'll be returning to the role a few months down the line; any truth? If not, would you like to return one day?
I've started rumours about Eloise more believable than that one. I learnt a huge amount during my time at Neighbours and doubtless I could learn a huge amount more. But, I think I've done that, and that really, a year was the perfect amount of time to spend on the show. I'll never say never but I have lots of other things occupying me at the moment, and I'm more than happy with them.
Who did you most enjoy working with? Will you be staying in touch?
The Parker family are where my fondest memories are, and I do stay in touch with them. Every now and then we all catch up for dinner, and its always a great night. Eloise lives close by so we catch up every now and then as well. Sam Clark and James Sorensen I see every now and then, not as often as I'd like, but once again, when we do catch up its always fun. Matt Werkmeister is an elusive man and I'd love to catch up with him and Caitlin Stasey sometime soon. It'll happen here or there I'm sure.
What are your future plans?
Keep acting when roles come along, there's a lot of great things going on in Australia right now for an actor. I've just started a production business with a friend, 'ICEBOX PRODUCTIONS' and we've made a few corporate videos and we're planning a youtube serial.
You're involved with scriptwriting and film making; how would you describe that work and do you prefer working behind or in front of the cameras?
I like them both, I enjoy scriptwriting and editing most, the actual filming is really a necessity in getting to the final product. I am enjoying acting more and more as I've been playing more and more interesting roles, but sometimes I get the itch to say 'why don't you try this shot?' or 'maybe do it like this'.
What do you think is the reason for Neighbours long running success?
I think a lot of people enjoy it because it's very simple, for want of a better word. Its almost carefree in it's simplicity, it's picturesque, sunny world, all within this peaceful friendly suburban cul de sac. A few of my friends who started watching it when I joined the cast, are now hooked on it, maybe because it's so simple there's an honesty about it, and it's easier to care about the characters and want to know how they're going to get out of whatever fix they happen to be a part of. It doesn't hurt that its on five nights a week at dinner time, and that a Current Affair is the other option.
Interview by David. Added on 16th August 2008