It’s long been touted as one of the best training grounds for young actors in Australia.
But as 20 year old Mavournee Hazel knows only too well, that success means there is a good deal of pressure to follow the success of Neighbours graduates like Margot Robbie, Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce.
“(When I am) meeting people outside work and they find out I’m on Neighbours, they say, ‘Oh Margot Robbieeee!’” she explained.
“There is an expectation of this being a training ground for the next generation of actors overseas.
“There’s always (been) a good platform in the UK because of the show, but also in the US, so they are both very much on-par for me.”
“It’s forbidden love”
Since joining the ELEVEN soap in mid-2015 as 17 year old Piper Willis, Hazel has been considered one to watch. Her on-screen romance with 24 year old Tyler Brennan (Travis Burns) has been a hit with fans, particularly for the disapproval of Erinsborough locals.
“The audience love it. They love us being together, they are all for the ‘Typer’ relationship,” Hazel recalls.
“And Twitter is crazy for it. There are hash tags and everyone loves it.
“It’s forbidden love, but there’s definitely hope for us.”
She refers to her role as something of a black sheep, but since beginning from one character biography, her performance has shifted.
“When she first started she was this ‘feisty, fiery character.’ And because she was 16 at the time I started playing it as my ‘bio.’ But I was just coming across as too old. So there was a big shift in her character, pairing her off with Tyler -who is older as well- and we were always struggling with that dynamic: she’s mature, she’s really grounded and she’s got a good head on our shoulders,” she continued.
“I feel like she’s a kid when she’s in adult situations dealing with love and her parents. She acts on impulse and she’s like a teenager. But in teenage situations people come to her and she’s the voice of reason and she’s mature.
“I like having the balance because I get to play the bratty teen, but even so, I do feel like she’s a social commentator. She says what everyone’s thinking and half the time she’s right!”
“If I don’t get this then I’m screwed!’
Hazel got the acting bug in her hometown of Adelaide, studying with Ann Peters but it was actress Doris Younane (The Wrong Girl) who became her mentor.
“I was lucky that she really took me under her wing and she started doing her own courses in Adelaide.
“I always knew what I wanted to do and I always knew I needed to be in Sydney or Melbourne to really make it work. My agent always said ‘Once you finish Year 12 you will need to move to Sydney or Melbourne.’
“In Adelaide I working in fruit and veg shop thinking ‘What am I doing with my life?’”
Not long after enrolling in a media and communications at Sydney Uni she got the audition for Neighbours, a lengthy process that involved several trips to Melbourne for the struggling student.
“I kind of forgot about Uni and put all my time and energy and all money into getting (to Melbourne) to audition,” she recalls.
“If I didn’t get a role I probably would have had to go back to Adelaide broke.
“I thought ‘Shit if I don’t get this then I’m screwed!’
“I’m just so grateful that it paid off.”
Hazel cites colleagues such as Olympia Valance, Colette Mann and Rebekah Elmaloglou as being pivotal to learning the ropes from everything from red carpet protocol, to photography posing and styling tips.
“It’s just such a nurturing environment and you can literally go to anyone. I’ve asked Jackie (Woodburne) about things before that I wouldn’t ask Colette and I’ve asked Bek things too,” she says.
“Everyone’s (at) different ages and had different experiences.”
But her acting hero is US actor Ezra Miller who had featured in Madame Bovary, Trainwreck, and Suicide Squad -alongside Margot Robbie.
“I learned that he was himself like in every film and as soon as I adapted that form of acting I started getting better feedback from my agent, casting agents and getting more gigs. There’s just such a profound truth to his work because he is himself in every role,” she says.
“At the end of the day that’s how you get cast. You’re putting yourself into a role.”
“Before Neighbours I always saw myself working in the UK”
But she isn’t sure if the US is the next logical step for her or not. Having spent time in the UK over the break she admits to a long fascination with the Brits too.
“Before Neighbours I always saw myself working in the UK,” she admits.
I just had a gut feeling there’s something over me. And when I got Neighbours I was like ‘Oh my God, this is so funny because Neighbours and the UK go hand in hand.’
“I don’t know if I will go to the UK or do the whole pilot season US and try to follow Margot’s footsteps.”
Neighbours screens 6:30pm weeknights on ELEVEN.