Welcome to Erinsborough! How did it feel being cast as Piper Willis?
Amazing! At the time I was living in Sydney studying media at university. When I got the first audition and read her character breakdown I had a clear vision of the character she was going to be. I loved her and felt like I knew the psyche of Piper before I even walked into the room. When I got cast, after three rounds of auditions, my agent said “don’t get too excited but it went well” – then when I was finally offered the role it didn’t feel real. It hasn’t really felt real until last week when my first episode aired!
What is it about the role that interested you?
I saw this as a massive opportunity, one which excited me as an actor. As soon as I first read her profile she really spoke to me as a product of her generation. It’s great to play a character that a lot of teenagers can relate to and identify with. She talks about a lot of issues I’m sure many teenagers feel.
Also she’s just really fun; she has this cool approach to life with her wit and dry sense of humour - she’s such an intelligent teenager. She’s like a social commentator, for example, in a social situation where everyone would have a running commentary going in their head, Piper would just say it out loud. I wish I was like Piper when I was 16! I’ve always respected and admired people who can be themselves unapologetically and she can. Playing Piper is a blessing and I feel like I’m gradually growing up to be more like her.
Have you always wanted to pursue acting as a career?
Yes I have. It’s a bit of a cliché but I’ve always known it I guess. As a kid we all play make believe and create other identities for ourselves. However when you reach a certain age society tells you that you can’t pretend any more. That upset me, I feel privileged that acting is a respected, sanctioned career that allows me to continue to pretend!
In terms of inspiration - when I was younger it was very much Johnny Depp, but when I reached 15-16 I discovered Ezra Miller. He’s just an incredible, intelligent actor for only being 22. The truth in Ezra is so profound – he changed my acting style completely. In every role he is himself as that character. As soon as I did that I got more feedback from casting agents and it opened up a new side of acting for me that was a lot truer.
What’s it like having three on screen sisters in Ariel Kaplan, Jenna Rosenow and Olympia Valance?
It’s awesome. I was so nervous coming into Neighbours, but coming into an onscreen family made it a lot easier. I come from a family of four siblings and we’re all very close, so on Neighbours it’s not dissimilar. The love and support on screen has translated off as well. Olympia, Ari and Jenna - they’re all gorgeous, lovely and talented. I couldn’t speak any higher of them or anyone else from the cast!
Do you think Piper will take sides with Brad or Terese?
Piper is very much a mediator and she prides herself on viewing things objectively. So coming into a domestic that compares to Jerry Springer, she’s like Josh the sense that she doesn’t want to pick sides. She has always been more inclined towards her dad because he’s a bit more laidback. However in saying that, there are still lots of soft and tender moments with Terese coming up. She wants to be Switzerland or at least a Swiss embassy!
Are there any similarities between yourself and Piper?
Piper isn’t one to judge, I identify with that and feel it’s something I have. She’s really a ‘seeker’ - she’s always searching and she values intrinsic experiences which I feel I do as well. She’s really witty and sarcastic which is my sense of humour to a tee! She’s also open-minded and liberal in her approach; I try and want to be like that.
Where has Piper actually been all this time?
Piper‘s been in Canada, studying in Vancouver staying with a host family. She left Perth basically because she was always in the shadows of Josh and Imogen and didn’t feel as though she had an identity. So through her school the opportunity came up to study abroad and Piper jumped at it. She felt it was a bit of an escape and that was a very big thing with Piper – she tends to run away from situations when she can’t process or handle them. She likes to think she’s very mature but she has a very childish approach when it comes to her emotions.
Do you think it will be hard for her to settle in to Ramsay St?
Yes and no. She’s in the Willis family, a really popular and loved family in Erinsborough – despite their flaws! She meets Ben and Tyler in her second day there and Ben really takes her under his wing. At the same time it will be a struggle for her to settle in as she’s very different and doesn’t like to be associated with a specific group of people - she chooses to be an outsider. She doesn’t even know where she stands with her family and doesn’t have a strong anchor at home. It’s this detached feeling that’s kind of magnified when she’s out mixing with the community.
How have you found working on a soap opera?
So this was the first proper series that I’ve been cast in and the biggest thing that strikes me is the turnaround. I had no idea what went into getting five episodes out a week, I know we film in advance but it’s been an experience actually being a part of the process. It’s really hectic and crazy, but all round good. There’s no down time so you’re always working and honing in on your skills.
Can you give us any clues as to what’s in store for Piper?
Piper’s friendship with Ben will be pivotal; they’ll do things to impress each other which will lead to some very irresponsible behaviour. There’s lots of mischief, some deceit and guilt in store for Piper. But I can’t give too much away, you’ll have to tune in and watch what happens!