Neighbours star recalls stint on rival soap Home and Away – and reveals who took her under their wing

Rebekah Elmaloglou swapped Summer Bay for Ramsay Street

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She’s played power-suited powerhouse Terese Willis in Neighbours since 2013, but soap fans of a certain age may remember Rebekah Elmaloglou found fame in rival Aussie drama Home and Away back in the early 1990s as schoolgirl Sophie Simpson, one of the many teenagers from the wrong side of the tracks fostered by kindly couple Tom and Pippa Fletcher.

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Even though she was just 15 at the time, she was already an established child star in her native Australia having scored numerous TV and film roles, including Mel Gibson blockbuster Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. But her stint as Soph threw her into the fast-paced world of soap which the actress admits was a learning curve.

“To me it was just another job but the pace is so different to weekly dramas, film and theatre which I’d already done by that stage,” she told RadioTimes.com while on location in London to film a future Neighbours storyline involving guest star Denise Van Outen. “You learn a lot and work quickly, it’s very intense. We get some very experienced actors on our show and some struggle with the sheer turnaround, they’re used to workshopping a scene with a director for two hours on set which doesn’t happen on soaps!

“I don’t think every actor is cut out for the genre, to be honest,” she admitted. “I much prefer the faster pace. You feed off the adrenaline. It can be stressful but personally I love it.”

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With a wealth of industry experience behind her, Elmaloglou is now called upon to mentor the younger cast members who are cutting their teeth on the relentless five-episode-a-week filming schedule where she learnt her craft. “If you’re young and relatively inexperienced it’s a work environment where you have to pick things up fast – us older ones, like myself and Stefan Dennis (aka Paul) have the responsibility of leading them in the right direction. We put them at ease as it’s daunting when you’re first starting out.”

Who was Rebekah Elmalolgou’s first scene with on Home and Away?

Now 45, Elmaloglou reflected on who mentored her in the Home and Away days, and a few cast members left a big impression on the actress. “People like Ray Meagher (stalwart Alf Stewart) were great, and I remember very clearly my first scene was with Emily Symons (Marilyn Chambers). I was so nervous but she took me under her wing and it was a lovely experience. I also remember there was a work social event we had to attend and she picked me up, she was really lovely.”

Sweet Sophie became a hugely popular character and was at the centre of a number of high-profile storylines during her original stint from 1990-1993 (she made a few brief comebacks between 2002-2005), most memorably falling pregnant by older lover David Croft, played by a post-Neighbours/pre-Hollywood Guy Pearce.

Strangely there were a number of links to Neighbours years before Elmaloglou arrived in Erinsborough – as well as working with Pearce, Terence Donovan (real life father of Ramsay Street royalty Jason Donovan) played Sophie’s dad Al Simpson, and was later Terese’s father-in-law Doug Willis, while Debra Lawrance played Sophie’s foster mum Pippa and now has a recurring role in Neighbours as Susan Kennedy’s troubled sister Liz Conway.

It really is a small world when it comes to Australian soaps…

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