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Interviews > Esme Melville

Esme Melville has guest-starred in Neighbours in the 80s, 90s and, for the past few years, in the recurring role of Rose Belker. Here, she shares her thoughts on her various appearances and chats about her career.

Can you tell us a little about your career prior to your first appearance in Neighbours back in 1986?
Just after World War 2 I did 12 years of musical comedy productions until there came a time when they just became too expensive to produce. This being the case, I had to go into straight acting roles. I was seen in a play by a television representative and went on to do shows such as, Consider Your Verdict, Homicide, Division 4, Matlock as a guest performer.

You played Mrs York back in 1986, just after Neighbours debuted on Channel Ten. What do you remember about that experience?
As Mrs York, I very much enjoyed working with the young people and Anne Charleston, who was an old friend. Well, after Mrs York died, I was doing another TV show -'live to air', when a young voice called out from the audience - "That's Mrs York!"

What were your first impressions of the programme?
My first impression of Neighbours were the story lines were just that - neighbours caring about each other.

You returned in 1992 as Jean Halliday and again in 1994 as Pam Willises mother, Moina Beresford. Do you remember anything about playing those roles?
I can't remember what Jean Halliday got up to do, but Moina Beresford got a beautiful bunch of flowers from the production office.

For the last few years, youíve played the recurring role of Rose Belker. Do you enjoy the role? Would you be interested in a more permanent place in the cast if the opportunity arose?
I'm very fond of Rose Belker. She can be a nutter, a hypocondriac, a nuisance, or anything to break up two dramatic scenes. Tony, one of the directors and I decided Rose should be hard of hearing, but won't admit to it. In regard to being a more permanent cast member, I prefer to be a guest artist, which leaves me free to work in other areas of the industry, such as voice-overs, comedy or dramatic work to always keep stretching myself professionally.

Youíve been in the fairly unique position of being a part of the cast for each of the three decades itís been screened in. How do you think itís changed during that time, both on-screen and behind the scenes?
Sometimes I've thought there was too much concentration on particular characters' love lives and then it got back on track, neighbours caring about each other once again. Behind the scenes, there is always a nice family feeling.

Having acted in many other Australian dramas seriesí over the years, how does Neighbours compare?
Neighbours compares very well with other series I have worked on and all of the cast have received many, many letters from all over the world which makes us all very proud.

Is there anyone in the Neighbours cast that youíve particularly enjoyed working with?
Yes, the very naughty Stefan Dennis, Anne Charleston, Ian Smith and all the lovely youngsters.

Have you ever been a Neighbours viewer yourself?
Yes, I only miss Neighbours when I'm not home by 6.30pm.

Which have been your favourite roles to play over the years, both in Neighbours and in general?
As I have mentioned, I'm very fond of Rose, along with the Moina Beresford role during my years with Neighours. Ive also enjoyed playing "Serita" in Waiting In The Wings, "Mrs Grey" in The Secretary Bird and "Mrs Bedwin" in Oliver.

Apart from the role as Rose Belker, where has your career taken you in recent years?
Since 1998 I have been in three feature films, Siam Sunset, Crackerjack and Dalkeith. Lots of student films, for the Victorian College Of The Arts. Numerous Voice Overs, "In-training" films, The Royal Childrens Hospital Appeal and some independant short films. At 87 years of age, I don't plan my future, but if any producer would like to plan for me, that would be nice.

What do you think accounts for the huge success of Neighbours over the past 20 years?
Lots of things go towards Neighbours' success, the United Kingdom loves our colourful, always sunshine image. It is a great training ground for all of the young performers coming through, as it exudes a very warm and caring feeling.

Interview by Steve. Added on 17th December 2005