How did this come about? Did you have to audition for the role?
Hundred percent, the same process as everyone else goes through. I hit up the powers that be at good old Neighbours, flew down for a casting, did a screen test, and they were like, ‘We really like you, now we just have to wait for the right part to come up’.
And I had to wait for like, three months. I thought I must have bombed it. Then all of a sudden a brief comes through saying they’d like to offer me the role of Derek Meeps.
First and foremost, what a name. Derek Meeps. Part of me was going, is this a prank? But no, Derek’s a real guy.
So what’s Derek like?
Derek’s in his early 30s, he’s from Sydney, he’s very wealthy, he runs a prestige car sales business.
He’s a bit of a nasty guy. He’s a charmer, a bit of a womaniser, and yes, he usually gets what he wants, old Derek.
Is this your first acting role?
More or less. Well look, I did kids TV for four years and the presenting on that is probably closer to acting than it was to being a normal host.
Now I’m playing with it, doing these classes, which are pretty intense, but they get you ready for whatever you can do.
What was filming on the Neighbours set like?
It was awesome. It’s such a cool set, big space, there’s a lot of cast and crew that work on that show. Much bigger than any of the shows I’ve worked on before. There’s a cool energy in the place, I was really loving it.
But also, I knew I had to work hard because they don’t muck around on that show. They’ve got so much to get through every day, so many scenes. They are seriously hard workers.
Did anyone take you under their wing?
It’s a really supportive environment. All of my scenes are with Elly, played by Jodi Anasta, and she helped me out a lot. Also Collette Mann, who plays Sheila, I picked her brain for about an hour. She does acting coaching as well, outside of Neighbours. I sat down with her and we ran through my scripts, over and over, and she told me things like, ‘Let it breathe in this area, go harder in this area.’ She was really helpful.
Are you a fan of the show? Is this a lifelong dream come true?
Look, I’ve got two older sisters so I grew up watching Neighbours and other soaps. I never imagined myself being on one, but this was amazing. Hopefully Derek can cause more drama on Ramsay Street – he’s a bit of a stirrer.
So Derek’s arrival signals trouble?
As soon as Derek’s on camera, there’s going to be trouble. I’m sure he can come back and do a lot more damage.
Were there any similarities between yourself and Derek?
I suppose my cheeky personality was coming through. There are similarities there.
I think the way he and I treat women is very different. I’ve always had long-term girlfriends, so I’m not much of a player. But I was definitely channelling mates that I know that, you know, like to have a few different girlfriends.
But the best direction I got was from the director on the day. The director was like – ‘Look, you’ve gotta imagine that in your head, as Derek, you don’t see that you’re doing anything wrong. It’s fine to go in there and behave atrociously because in your head, you’re a hundred percent right in yourself. The audience, they’re going to hate you’.
And I was like – ‘I can do that!’
Was there anything about the experience that really surprised you?
How quiet the set is. And how quick it was. Before you knew it, we were done. It was just like, bang, this is what it is, there you go, thanks for coming. And I was like – ‘That’s it? Can I do some more?’
It’s good fun. Fingers crossed I can get heaps of mates and people to watch it and there’s a spike in the ratings that night and they’re like – you know what? Derek should come back.