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Interviews > Isabella Dunwill

Between 1998 and 2001, Libby Kennedy's life was regularly turned upside-down by the fleeting appearances of her arch-nemisis, journalist Geri Hallett. Here, actress Isabella Dunwill reflects on her role as a Ramsay Street bad girl...

Where had your career taken you before your first Neighbours appearance in 1998?
Before Neighbours I played some small parts in various Australian TV shows including Frontline, and was very involved in music and drama at school.

How did the role of Geri come about?
She was originally written as a two-episode role. The producers kept extending her.

Did you enjoy playing her? How would you describe Geri?
I loved playing her! I would describe Geri as a focused, independent young woman, her mind set firmly on goals, and fairly oblivious to the small tornadoes she could create.

Geri then came and went several times between 1998 and 2001. Was there ever any discussion about making her a permanent fixture? Would you have been willing to join full-time?
I’m not sure if there was talk or not. I ended up being accepted into NIDA (The National Institute of Dramatic Art), which is pretty hard to get into, so I made the decision to move to Sydney to study. If I’d been asked to join full-time, it would’ve been something I would have considered, for sure.

Were there any cast members who you particularly enjoyed working with? How did it feel to be working alongside such an established cast?
I particularly enjoyed working with Kym Valentine and Ryan Maloney - both very generous people. It was surreal. Double takes all over the place. “Did I just see?.... aha, yep that’s HIIIIIIM”!

Would you ever consider a return to the series?
Absolutely, I’d consider it.

Are you a viewer of the series yourself?
Of course! It’s impossible to live in Australia and not have watched Neighbours at some point.

Having worked on other Australian dramas, such as Stingers and The Secret Life Of Us, how does Neighbours compare?
Neighbours is unique in that it is so well established - being one of the few shows around for 20 years. It has its own style and approach. New shows aren’t necessarily so sure about what their ‘thing’ is, but with Neighbours, you come on set and you fit into a well established routine.

Do you ever find yourself running into familiar faces from your Neighbours days, either through work or socially?
Absolutely. Melbourne is quite a small city, especially the acting circles. If you’re an actor and you live in Melbourne, chances of meeting another Melbourne actor who’s worked on Neighbours are incredibly high. Funnily enough, I know many people who were on it before or are on it now, but not necessarily from the time I was on it. Hehe.

What have you been doing since your final guest stint in early 2001?
I went to NIDA for three years and on graduating, went into a production of What The Butler Saw at Belvoir Theatre in Sydney, directed by Rocky Horror god, Jim Sharman (that was fun!). I’ve done a few other plays in Melbourne and Sydney, a feature film called WIL. Most recently I have been working on a TV show called Thank God You’re Here (trivia for the day: this show was made in the same building as Neighbours, so that was nostalgic!) and am the lead voice for a new 52 part animation series called Sea Princesses. Along the way I have been studying a Masters degree in business and I’m about to start a six-month tour with the Bell Shakespeare Company.

With Neighbours about to begin its 23rd season on Australian screens, what do you think is behind its huge success?
International sales. Bright colours. Youthful faces. Stories that focus on the small conflicts of fencelines and wheelie bins. The ‘PG’ rating also lends itself to a humorous, gentle observation of life that defines this world, I think. Who hasn’t laughed at some of the inventive words the scriptwriters come up with to replace good old expletives? Some of them are verrrrry funny, you must admit, and the show just wouldn’t be the same without them!

Interview by Steve. Added on 6th January 2007