Reference > Erinsborough News > The Inside Interview: Andrew Bibby
As Lance Wilkinson prepares to leave Erinsborough, actor Andrew Bibby reveals all to Jason Herbison about his time on Neighbours and his life-changing experience…
Money, fame and good looks are often a dangerous combination for young soap stars, but not when it comes to Ramsay Street’s Andrew Bibby. Just as his character, Lance Wilkinson, has a reputation for good behaviour – give or take the odd gambling addiction – Andrew is more boy-next-door than teen heart-throb. He’s endearingly polite, shows no signs of vanity, and would rather cure world poverty than sign autographs. In other words, he’s exactly the kind of lad you’d like to take home to meet your parents!
Now, after four years of playing Lance, Andrew has quit Neighbours. In a few weeks’ time, viewers will see Lance depart Erinsborough with his trippy girlfriend, Allana Truman. Meanwhile, in real life, Andrew has left his home town of Melbourne and relocated to Perth, Western Australia, where he has been accepted into a respected drama college.
As you can imagine, it’s a time for new beginnings, and also a time for Andrew to reflect on his journey which led him to the popular soap. When asked to recall when the acting bug first bit, Andrew simply says, “It was meant to be”.
Growing up in Melbourne’s outer suburbs with mum Jill, dad Ross and little brother Daniel, Andrew admits he was always a bit of a show-off. By the age of 13, he’d caught the eye of a minor casting agent, and won a role in an educational video. “It was a safety training video – the kind that gets sent around to schools,” Andrew recalls, blushing. “It was all about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I played a dork on rollerblades, who jumped into a river!”
A few small parts followed, before Andrew scored an audience with Neighbours casting director Jan Russ. “They had about five different parts going, and I won the occasional role of Lance, Hannah Martin’s boyfriend,” he explains. “My first scene was outside the coffee shop, with Rebecca Ritters, who played Hannah, and Jesse Spencer, who played Billy Kennedy. On my second day of filming, I had to kiss Rebecca – which was more than a little awkward!”
The role eventually fizzled out, and Andrew thought he had seen the last of Ramsay Street. Then, a year later, he was asked to audition for a new character named Jon Wilkinson. “I kept on saying ‘If I get the role of Jon, won’t people remember me as Lance?’,” he recalls, laughing. “They said ‘No, don’t worry’. Then when I finally won the part, they said ‘Oh, we better change the character to Lance’. So they quickly changed all the scripts, so that I came back as the same person – though this time, I had a family!”
That family included mum Ruth, played by Ailsa Piper, and sister Anne, played by Brooke Satchwell. Together, the Wilkinsons became a trio to be reckoned with – both on-screen and off. “I was really lucky to start out with Ailsa and Brooke,” Andrew says. “Ailsa had been acting for 20 years, and took me under her wing. And I’d already met Brooke before – she’d was in another educational video that I’d been in – so we all clicked.”
In his early days in Erinsborough, Lance seldom put a foot wrong. He was always the rational thinker, helpful around the house, and rarely told a lie – and if he did, soon confessed all. In fact, life for Lance was somewhat boring until he hooked up with Amy Greenwood, played by Jacinta Stapleton. Amy’s naughtiness blended well with Lance’s niceness, and the pair soon became known as the odd couple of Ramsay Street.
“They were total opposites, and I think that’s why it worked,” Andrew says. “Lance was the straight one, and Amy was the wild one. But then their romance didn’t work out and Amy got pregnant to someone else, but you get that!”
Not that Lance was always without fault. Andrew’s all-time favourite storyline involved Lance’s addiction to instant-scratch lottery tickets! “I really enjoyed the gambling stuff, because it showed that Lance is capable of making mistakes and getting hooked on things just like everyone else,” Andrew says. “It was a long-running storyline and I got to do some great scenes.”
While Lance has always been at the forefront of storylines, Andrew has mostly kept a low profile in the press. Unlike his co-stars, who became regulars on Aussie magazine covers, Andrew remained focused on his work. “I made a conscious decision not to do too much publicity, because you can get typecast in a role,” he says. “Also, I’ve seen how it can change people, and it’s not always for the better. It’s never been something I’ve felt the need to do a lot of.”
Andrew has also managed to keep his private life just that. There has been mention of a girlfriend from time to time, but apart from that, he’s said little about his real-life status. “Lance’s life has always been a lot more interesting than mine in that respect,” he says. “People would be bored stiff by the details of my home life!”
One thing Andrew has always been happy – and proud – to talk about is his life as a Christian. In recent years, he’s thrown his celebrity weight behind the Christian Blind Misson International (CBMI), an organisation that raises money to cure blindness in third world countries. He credits a 1999 trip to the Philippines, where he saw CBMI in action, as a life-changing experience.
“When the people came out of the operations with their sight restored, it was such a big moment,” he says. “They were hugging me and all I was saying was ‘Well, I haven’t really done anything.’”
When Andrew returned to Neighbours, his entire perspective had changed. “When I came back to the studios, I found myself sitting in the green room and listening to people worrying about what they were going to wear in their next photo shoot – that was the big stress of the day,” he says. “It suddenly struck me that it’s not that important. There are much more serious things happening out there. I feel lucky and don’t take things for granted any more, and I try not to be greedy about things.” As for those two might say that being a Christian isn’t cool, Andrew begs to differ. However, he does admit that “We could really use some good Christian musicians!”
While viewers will have to wait a couple of weeks to find out exactly how Lance departs from Erinsborough, Andrew is more than happy to talk about his plans for the future. He’s currently enrolled in drama school, but says he wouldn’t mind a career behind the cameras after he finishes his course.
“I would like to keep acting and have a career on the stage, but that’s not that the be-all and end-all,” he says. “I’d also love to work behind the scenes. I’d probably choose to be a director, because that’s where the power is. When you think about it, actors are at the bottom of the pile!”
Despite this, he has absolutely no regrets about his time on Neighbours. “I will always remember my time there, because it was my first proper job and I’ve made lots of great friends,” he says. “You don’t forget an experience like that very easily.”
This article originally appeared in Inside Soap magazine, dated April 13th 2001, and was written by Jason Herbison