Neighbours: “Izzy’s back to cause trouble!” – Natalie Bassingthwaighte interview

The star promises drama, secrets and showdowns as Izzy returns to Ramsay Street…

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Neighbours gets a blast from the past next week when scheming Izzy Hoyland returns to Ramsay Street, literally crashing into the action as she’s run over by old enemy Susan Kennedy!

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Isabelle is in town for Toadie Rebecchi’s 90s themed birthday party, and makes quite an entrance in a Ginger Spice costume. As Susan drives out of the bash distracted after a row with husband Karl, she hits someone – and of all the people her car could’ve clipped, it’s the woman who wrecked her marriage…

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Izzy’s reappearance opens old wounds for the Kennedys, and suspicion surrounds what brings her to Erinsborough for the first time in over a decade. For Natalie Bassingthwaighte, reprising her famous role was all a question of timing.

“I’d been asked to return before but I wanted to spread my wings and get some different roles under my belt,” she tells RadioTimes.com. “I’d just played a very calm, measured character in a drama called The Wrong Girl in Australia and I thought what better time to revisit Izzy who is not calm or measured, but instead is slightly psychotic!

“It felt right to play this intense, dangerous character again. I’m still friends with Jackie Woodburne, Alan Fletcher, Stefan Dennis and the gang after all these years and I knew we’d have a good time.”

Izzy sweeps back in the much-anticipated late-night episode airing Monday 12 February at 10pm, where it’s revealed her life has recently undergone a huge change as she she’s inherited a small fortune.

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“She’s married someone with a lot of money, but all is not as it seems,” teases Bassingthwaighte. “There’s a very interesting story behind it. Although it does mean every day there’s a new outfit for Izzy, so I’ve got new handbags, new shoes, it’s everything she ever wanted!.

Maneating, scheming minx Izzy was Neighbours’ first fully-fledged superbitch, the Erinsborough equivalent to Corrie’s Tracy Barlow or EastEnders’ Janine Butcher, but like those characters there was always a vulnerability beneath the surface, which is one of the things Bassingthwaighte enjoyed the most about playing her.

“At a heightened level she’s villainous and bitchy, but I never played her as that, there was always a sensitivity and a naivety about her. Izzy goes for what she wants but doesn’t always grasp the concept of her actions or realise she’s hurting other people. It’s rare to get the chance to play someone so complex.”

Reuniting with old mates Woodburne and Fletcher, what can the actress reveal about Izzy’s agenda towards old flame Karl? They have a long and complicated romantic history and share parenting to daughter Holly. Should Susan be worried about his former mistress’s presence?

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“She’s always had a soft spot for Karl,” she grins. “He’s the only person who’s ever really known Izzy for who she is, warts and all. I will say she’s back with an agenda and to cause trouble, but in her eyes she’s doing what is right for her and her family…

“It’s also the first time we’ve seen her as a mother on screen which is interesting. Holly is very sweet but the daughter is definitely the mother in this situation, and she’s learnt a few tricks from Izzy about survival. Basically Izzy’s not the best mum, but she is trying.”

“And as for Susan, it’s going to be fiery between them. There’s always underlying tension and that will not waver with this storyline. What Izzy has returned for doesn’t sit well with Susan…”

Sounds like the sins of Izzy’s past are set to be outshone by her future. “I wondered how the writers would top Izzy’s old storylines but my expectations have been exceeded!” laughs Bassingthwaighte. “Izzy regrets some of the things she’s done though, she is sorry – but that doesn’t stop her coming back and being very similar. If not worse! She’s not learnt any lessons.”

Unlike Izzy, Bassingthwaighte herself admits she learnt a great deal from her Neighbours stint, from 2003 to 2007. The soap proved to be a big break for the performer, who enjoyed international success with her pop band Rogue Traders who had a UK hit with their single Voodoo Child in 2006.

In the ten years since leaving Ramsay Street, Bassingthwaighte has enjoyed huge success in her native Australia and carved an impressively varied stage and screen career, as a presenter on So You Think You Can Dance, a judge on The X Factor, a finalist on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! as well as musical theatre roles, award-winning solo music and numerous TV drama appearances.

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“When I left Neighbours, initially I felt like you close one door and another one opens, which is perhaps why I haven’t gone back until now. But I’ve ticked off a lot of boxes I wanted to tick in my career since then, plus I’ve had two children in that time.

“Neighbours was a great opportunity to learn my craft and work with really experienced actors. It taught me to have a good work ethic, it’s so fast-paced you can’t just rock up and wing it.

“I’ve had a ball being back. I can’t wait for the reaction from the UK as I remember it being so huge there. We filmed in London in 2006, Izzy actually gave birth to Holly on a boat on the Thames, as you do!

“One fun memory I have is when Jackie Woodburne and I went to see Wicked in the west end while we were there – people could not believe Izzy and Susan were hanging out together!”

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Izzy returns in Neighbours’ special extra episode ‘Hit and Run’ airing in a late-night slot on Monday 12 February at 10pm on Channel 5, and the show continues weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm.