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Aussie Big Brother runner-up Blair McDonough takes on a new challenge – as a star of Ramsay Street…
Soap characters come and go at an alarming rate, so the arrival of Stuart Parker in Neighbours this fortnight should be nothing out of the ordinary. Yet when Stuart made his first appearance Down Under, the episode attracted some of the show’s highest-ever ratings. So what was all the fuss about? Well, perhaps if we told you Blair McDonough, who plays him, was in the Aussie version of Big Brother, you’d understand why!
Blair may have missed out on winning the Big Brother competition but many believe that he is enjoying the last laugh. Neighbours producers signed him up just weeks after the reality series ended, and the move attracted a storm of publicity. Blair describes the experience as “a roller-coaster ride” and is well aware that many critics are waiting for him to fail.
“There is a lot of pressure, but I try not to let it affect me,” he says. “I’ve taken this on as a challenge. I don’t expect to be a shining light straight away. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I’m sure I’ll get better as time goes by.”
Although Blair’s resume includes a couple of acting courses, his ascent to soap stardom has been largely accidental. “I had never been on a set before and didn’t understand how it all worked,” reveals the 20-year-old actor. “I’m learning heaps every day, such as how to interpret what the directors say. I thought it would be daunting, but once you get going it rolls along.”
Scriptwriters obviously erred on the side of caution when it came to Blair’s character, who is nicknamed Chooka. According to Blair, his alter ego is very similar to himself. “There’s a lot of him in me. He’s a fairly straightforward guy, who’s just out to have a good time,” says Blair. “We’re both from the country, though Chooka is a bit more naďve than me. He comes from Oakey – Drew Kirk’s home town – and is the brother of one of Drew’s old mates.”
Stuart- or Chooka – makes his first appearance at the Oakey rodeo, where Drew is competing. “I only had one line in my first scene,” Blair says. “But you find out more about Chooka as time goes on.”
While Blair can’t reveal too much of what’s in store, he does reveal that Chooka follows Drew back to Ramsay Street. “He turns up at Drew and Libby’s house a week later, with the intention of making a name for himself in the big smoke,” Blair says. “That’s when he meets everyone else. He soon wins people over with his country charm.”
So far, Neighbours bosses have also been impressed. Blair’s initial 13-week contract was extended to six months, and before Christmas, he found out he’d been re-signed for a full year. While Blair is excited, he’s also determined to keep his feet firmly on the ground. “I never dreamed that being on Big Brother would result in a role in Neighbours and I’m very appreciative of everything.”
This article originally appeared in Inside Soap magazine dated 15th February 2002 and was written by Jason Herbison