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Reference > Erinsborough News > Why Elaine Smith Is Leaving Neighbours

The popular star is sad to leave the series, but plans a tour of Europe to regain her vitality and visit her relatives in Scotland. When she gets back, she’ll return to acting on the stage…

For Elaine Smith, two and a half years in one show is long enough. She is leaving Neighbours with regrets, but a determination to succeed as a stage and screen actress.

“As an actress, I’m in the business to play a variety of roles,” she said. “When you’re limited to one role it’s hard, even though Daphne developed extremely well. There’s a desire to get out and do other things. My instinct tells me I don’t think I could take the character any further. From the beginning there have been a lot of different facets to her character. She started off being brash and arrogant. Then she came into the street, settled down a bit, gave up being a stripper, opened a coffee shop, had some romances, and now she’s a wife with a baby. There’s not a great deal more Daphne could move into unless she got divorced.”

“I’ve had a fantastic time in the show. I’m lucky to have been in it this long. It’s done a lot for me. It’s given me an amount of exposure and more confidence.”

Many people have told her sad tidings of how tough the entertainment business is right now. But Elaine is not deterred, although she admits she gets passing pangs of insecurity. Fortunately, she has an open invitation to return to the popular TV show at any time.

“I don’t know what will happen to Daphne – no-one knows how she is being written out – but I do know she won’t be killed off, which is lovely.”

At the moment Elaine has no intention of coming back. “I feel I’ve done my time in Neighbours. Oh,” she adds with a giggle, “that does sound like a prison sentence, but it’s not meant to. I’ve loved the show and I know that I’ll miss the people. Sure, you close the door in one sense and that can be a bit sad, but the times have been great and the prospect of going on to new things, starting out again, can be very exciting.”

When Elaine landed the role of Daphne – one of the show’s original characters – she had just arrived in Melbourne from her home town, Perth. “I was very innocent, a raw recruit.” Behind her was a BA in literature and drama from the WA Institute of Technology, and a year touring schools with Theatre In Education.

Now she’s out to show that her success has not been a fluke. And she’s chosen to work primarily in the hardest medium of all: the stage. Already she’s had an offer of a comedy in Perth, and there’s also been talk of a feature film part. But until something definite comes along, she’s planning an extended holiday to put back the bounce and vitality she lost under the pressure of rigorous and often exhausting filming schedules. Four days after she finishes Neighbours, she’s booked to fly to Europe. In preparation, she had been taking French classes once a week for four months.

“I travelled a lot with my family as a child, but I haven’t done any on my own and I’m really itching to,” she said. “Maybe it’s something instilled in me from my childhood. My father liked to get up and go – move and see things. I was born in Scotland but we travelled to Australia a couple of times and lives in South Africa for five or six years before heading back to Britain. Dad could never really settle down until I was 13, when we settled in Perth. It was a terrific education for me and my younger brother. We saw a lot. Now this is my chance. I long to go back to Scotland, which I haven’t seen since I was 11. It’s funny, because all my relatives know me – they get Neighbours there.”

Elaine will be away for three months, returning early only for work. Before heading into another acting role she wants to spend some time pampering herself. “Acting in a regular TV show doesn’t give you much opportunity to do a hell of a lot for yourself,” she said. “Just something like making an appointment with the dentist becomes a major planning exercise. The work schedule is very heavy. You have to cut down on your social life, too – not that I’ve ever been a great one for discos and parties. I’m more of a homebody. But when you go home, you don’t have a meal and watch TV like everyone else – you’ve got scripts to learn for the next day. If you’re sick with the flu you’ve got to go on. Everyone in the cast has gone through various illnesses. Unless you can’t physically move, or it’s a life-threatening situation, you’ve got to perform, no matter how dreadful you feel.”

“You get used to it, but you do get exhausted. Before the show, I was doing jazz ballet regularly to keep fit. I had to cut that out. Last year I made a concerted effort and did a six-month course of tai chi. It helped, but there wasn’t enough time to practice properly. You feel you really are working on the show 100 per cent of the time. When you go out to the shops or the markets, people come up to you asking about the characters. I don’t mind that, but there’s no escape from it. To everyone who watches the show, I’m Daphne. Now it will be nice to just be me for a while – to be Elaine again, and do the few things I want to do. In the morning I’d like to sleep in – that’s a luxury – and then go to long lunches with friends. And I love to cook. Taureans love their food.”

“I dream one day of opening up my own little restaurant in the country somewhere. That’s a long way off and it probably wouldn’t be the most lucrative business to go into, but it would make me happy.”

Despite rumours of a romantic involvement with Peter O’Brien, a former Neighbours star and now TV’s Outback pilot on The Flying Doctors, Elaine says she’s not even thinking of marriage at the moment.

At 25, she feels she has a lot more to achieve before settling down to wedded bliss and babies. “Peter and I have our careers to think about,” she said. “That’s the big thing for both of us at the moment. We’re both very independent people and we respect each other for that. Peter and I are just very good friends. A career is an important part of a person’s individuality – it makes for a stronger person. I know it’s very important to me.”

This article originally appeared in Womans' Day magazine, dated September 1987, and was written by Julie Kusko

Article submitted by Steve


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