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The quality of Neighbours is getting better, Steve Bastoni tells Sarah Nicholson
STEVE Bastoni describes his new Neighbours character Steve Parker as "a straight shooter and a dependable family man". But this is Australia's longest-running soap opera, so there are bound to be a few ghosts in Parker's closet. "He has a past, but you will have to tune in to find that out," Bastoni says mischievously. "Steve is brother to Ned, husband to Miranda (who is played by Nikki Coghill), father to Bridget and Riley. He's a vet and is originally from country Queensland but the family has been living in Sydney. We (the Parkers) just jump in because we haven't been a part of Ramsay Street. We establish alliances very quickly and ruffle a few feathers. It's actually like being an intruder on Big Brother."
While Bastoni is no stranger to Australian TV audiences, Neighbours is the first time he has worked on a daily drama and the 41-year-old actor says he's thriving on the experience. "I have never done a soap opera. This is my first crack at it," he says. "It's challenging because it allows you to encompass all these different performance styles," he says. "One minute you might be doing a US-style sitcom, then drama, then comedy, it can be anything. The character is constant but the genre continually changes and evolves. One minute you might be saving a child and then the next moment you might be doing slapstick."
Bastoni first came to the public's attention in the early 1990s, playing Yiannis "Angel" Angelopoulos on the ABC's hit cop drama Police Rescue. But the actor says he has changed a lot since then. "I look back on that stuff and think `Gee, I was hopeless'," he says. "I was really rough around the edges and I have learnt a lot since then. I have learnt how to be a lot more subtle. I was a bull at a gate and played everything at face value but now I have a few more strings to my bow. Rescue was a great series and it resonated with Australian audiences. It had great storylines and great drama. It's a rare thing when everything comes together -- script, acting, writing -- but it happened with Rescue. It's weird, I still think of myself as a 20-year-old but I am a bit older now, and it's plausible that I could have a 20-year-old kid, but there's still a little Angel inside me."
Bastoni says he was initially apprehensive about joining Neighbours because he prefers "jumping from show to show" rather than getting involved in a long-running project. But when he found out that the Parkers would arrive in Ramsay Street when Neighbours was going through a generational makeover, he says he couldn't resist getting on board. "There was a major overhaul planned for the show," he says. "Part of it was recasting some of the roles and bringing in good fresh actors, but it was also about bumping up storylines, injecting money into the sets and lighting, and going HD, and that was a good opportunity for me. It was nice to get some regular work, because the industry has been going through a downturn for the past five years, and I wanted to work solidly and be part of something that was kicking off for a fresh start."
Joining Neighbours meant Bastoni and his partner had to leave their home in Sydney and move to Melbourne, but that was something they were already planning. "We were going to move down anyway because we both have family here," he says. "I love Melbourne. I grew up here and I am happy to be back, but this winter has been bloody freezing. But it has given me a chance to wear a lot of clothes that I haven't worn in 20 years and that are now back in fashion."
This article originally appeared in the Herald Sun newspaper, dated 18th July 2007