Jan Russ 1984-
Actor, Cameo & Crew Profiles
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Roles: Casting Director, Assistant Producer
Arguably the most recogniseable member of the Neighbours crew, Jan Russ was born in Maribyrnong, Melbourne. She attended the suburb's local primary school and later the Footscray Girls High School. Jan recalls her early interest in the world of performing, saying that she was 'always interested in writing plays, dancing and all those things girls love to do; I loved to put on plays in the back garden at home!' Upon leaving school, Jan attended the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to study a secretarial course. Although she never pursued an office career, the course gave her useful skills that she was able to implement in her roles within the entertainment industry. Along with these general skills Jan also attended youth drama groups under the guidance of a tutor from RADA. Her interest in showbusiness was realised not long after and she performed in amateur theatre productions and later moved into professional theatre. Appearances in Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof and a Godspell tour of Australia and New Zealand are among her most notable credits. Television and film followed, with various roles in the Homicide series, The Les Deverett Variety Hour and The Clinic to name a few. She worked alongside other respected Australian actors, including some she would later cast in Prisoner, including Jane Clifton, Betty Bobbit and Gerda Nicolson. Jan's involvement and interest in other aspects of the industry enabled her to become the first female to gain the positions of both production assistant and floor manager in New Zealand.
On her return to Australia and the birth of her son, Jan decided to concentrate on work behind the camera - although she did take the guest part of 'Mrs Daniels', screen mother to Maxine Daniels, in Prisoner. Jan then joined the legendary production house, Crawfords, as casting assistant with Bunney Brooke. However, after only a year with the company she was contacted by rival producers, the Grundy Organisation. Ian Smith, who was associate producer on Prisoner at the time, famously enticed Jan with the offer of a free lunch to be a guest with him and producer Lex van Oss. Following a successful appointment Jan accepted the offer of the job of casting director on Prisoner, overseeing that aspect of the production until the show was retired a few years later.
Work on a new Grundy serial called Neighbours began at the tail end of 1984, although Prisoner continued in production until 1986, meaning that Jan also took over the casting for the original characters in the newer show. Now that Neighbours has long since passed its twenty year anniversary, it makes it Australia's longest running series and Jan's longest time spent in any one job. In June 2003, cast and crew out at the Nunawading studios surprised her with a celebratory gathering in honour of her twenty years with Grundy's, before she was taken out to lunch by the programme's senior producers. August 2003 saw another unique event when Jan flew over to the UK to host special casting workshops in various large cities, similar to those she has held for many years in Australia.
Due to the astounding success of some of Jan's success stories on Neighbours, including Kylie and Jason, Delta Goodrem and Guy Pearce, she is often cited in biographical works about those actors who went on to greater things. Likewise, her eminence in the casting industry and Australian television means that she is often invited to speak on the craft at events all over Australia. Jan's huge passion for Neighbours means she also has an intrumental hand in acting as an ambassador for the show, almost always chosen to contribute to documentaries, books, newspaper articles and press releases about the series and its actors.
Until a drastic re-working of Neighbours' closing credits in 2008, Jan also held the honour of being credited in every single closing sequence since the first episode, bar Helen's death episode which did not feature a credits scroll. The only other people who attained this were Reg Watson, Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent.
www.janruss.com (relaunching soon)
Perfect Blend Interview (2003)
Gallery (click on an image to enlarge)
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Special thanks to Alan Fletcher for the image from Jan's 20th anniversary party
Profile by Rhys