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Pam Willis arrives in Erinsborough

We chat to Sue Jones about returning to Neighbours after the death of her on screen husband Doug

What’s it like being back on the Neighbours set after all these years?

It’s wonderful actually because I was here for a couple of weeks last year but I was a little nervous. I don’t know why I was nervous, I guess it was just coming back from all that time away from the show. This time however, I’ve found I’ve been able to relax and enjoy it.

How’s it been acting with the recast Brad - Kip Gamblin?


Kip is fabulous, he just has so much energy, humour and humanity that I think comes across on screen. He’s just been a joy to work with! It’s been such a long time from when Brad was last on screen, Brad really could’ve evolved into any sort of human being in many ways. The fact that Brad was initially a bit of a surfer, I’m sure Kip could’ve been that boy as a young man.

Pam

How does Pam feel about coming back under these circumstances, was it a challenging storyline?

It’s a double death so it’s tricky for Pam, she’s trying to fill in the gaps of where she was away. I’m sure there’s been more contact with the grandchildren than what we’ve seen on screen, I’m sure they’ve come up to Darwin to visit. But it was a shock to Pam to hear of both deaths, it’s a very difficult situation for both the parents and siblings. In terms of the storyline, in many ways it doesn’t matter what the storylines are they’re all difficult. Even if it’s the most simple storyline it can be challenging because everything is done so quickly. When there’s a death involved it just brings up your own personal emotions which has its difficulty but also its rewards because they’re really meaty storylines. When you’re just popping in for a minute you can handle the meaty storylines, when you’re at Neighbours for a long time it’s nice to have a break from that!

You appeared in Neighbours during the 90's, do people still recognise you as Pam Willis?

Not a week goes by where someone from the general public doesn’t bring it up, 20 years later. I don’t know whether that’s something to do with repeats being on but I’m always amazed. It’s also flattering, I think to myself I mustn’t have aged that much!

How has Neighbours changed since you started on the show?


Apart from the cast, of which is entirely different - the only person who was here when I was here last is Lou (Tom Oliver) and he’s away at the moment! But everyone’s been incredibly welcoming and what has been good is to see that a lot of the crew are still the same. On a technical level what I’ve found is nice coming back is that the director now sits on the floor of the studio which makes it a lot easier to communicate with each other. Previously the director used to be upstairs in a booth and it used to be a bit of a disembodied voice heard down in the studio.

What’s been your highlight from your time on Neighbours?

I don’t necessarily think I have a single highlight. I think the highlight of the job for me has been the ability to do it everyday, to keep ‘oiled’ which is so important for an actor. There aren’t many jobs where you’re just doing it everyday every week so much so that it becomes second nature and the fear dissipates a little bit. I haven’t done anything as long as Neighbours since so there’s a wonderful sense of relaxation that comes after a while that you can just do it - cry now, laugh now - all those things that you’re able to wrap your mind around when it’s on going. You begin to feel more comfortable with the character, cast and crew. Whoever is playing your family really begins to feel like your real family because you spend so much time with them.

Pam and Doug
 

Are you still in touch with any of your former co-stars?

I do see a few people yes on a regular and irregular basis.

So as well as acting, you’ve directed theatre. How did you get into that field?

It was an accident that I started directing, they were two plays that were in a very small theatre at La Mama in Carlton. Though I’m not sure I’d be able to coralle a big cast I did enjoy it when I tried it. Having the opportunity to direct helps you as an actor as you start to understand the problems of a director.