Being Liz: A Conversation with Neighbours Newcomer Debbie Lawrance who plays Liz Conway
It’s a TV institution, an essential part of student life, and responsible for launching the careers of some of Australia’s greatest exports: Neighbours brings you a daily slice of suburbia and a guilt-free excuse to twitch the curtains on some of the hottest names in soapland.
In our interview, The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali spoke to Debra Lawrance about her new role of Liz Conway in Neighbours. We talk about working with Jackie Woodburne who plays her on screen sister Susan and joining the cast of Neighbours…
Note: Interview took place in early July and contains information of storylines that wrapped up in early August.
So I’ll just start off with the easy one. How does it feel to be joining such a well established series?
Fabulous, really good because I’ve got a lot of friends working on it and it’s only 20 minutes from my house.
Right okay great. Obviously you’re joining as Liz Conway, am I right in thinking she’s the matriarch of Elly’s family?
Yeah that’s right, she’s Elly’s mum and Susan’s sister and she’s Bea’s mum as well Ellie’s sister.
So how’s it feel to be joining an already established family dynamic in that sense?
Well I’m an actor, it’s my job to make that work obviously, but also, I mean I know all the actors really well and I know the routines because of my work in Home & Away so it all feels very familiar it’s all been great and Jackie Woodburne has always been a very dear and close friend of mine so it’s just a joy to be able to work with her.
Great. Obviously there’s going to be quite a few harrowing storylines coming up, especially with Finn, Bea and Elly, is there anything that you’re allowed to talk about how you fit into all of that?
Yeah because Liz is such a narcissist like she is really self involved and ego-centric so she doesn’t really think before acting, so she does something really horrendously bad, which I won’t give away because I want the audience to be surprised, it’s like it’s really shocking (laughs), it takes the cake in terms of sort of the worst thing you could do to people really.
But I try to play it as sympathetically because basically she’s walked into a situation where she’s tried to make amends with the girls, they’re quite hostile towards her because of the way she’s treated Bea but then she veers of course a bit and she ends up doing something that alienates them even further so it’ll be really interesting, really good TV.
With joining the Kennedy/Conway family, what’s the atmosphere been like on the street?
Yeah it’s terrific it’s great, because I do a bit of coaching, voice coaching, with the young ones so I know them all really really well and, as I said, I know Jackie really really well and I know Alan Fletcher, because our industry is very small here so you end up knowing absolutely everybody and Colette I’ve work with Colette on Prisoner, and I’ve worked with most of the crew and I’ve worked with all of the producers and all of the directors, so it’s great, it’s like putting on a nice pair of slippers.
How did you get started in your career?
I went to NIDA which is the National Institute of Dramatic Arts which is a RADA equivalent I guess, graduated in 1977, 40 years ago, and once you do that back in those days, well still they are, you’d end up getting a really good agent and I’ve not really stopped working since, I’ve been very lucky and I’ve worked with some amazing people over the 40 year.
Okay. And like swapping the sun of Summer Bay with Ramsay Street has that been a cultural shock for you at all?
No not really, it’s a long time since I was in Summer Bay, I’ve done a lot of other stuff in-between so this is basically going back to the same rapid fire way of shooting so that’s very familiar to me and I know everybody so there’s not much different really it’s just, as I said to someone before there’s no beaches and bikini’s in this one, although there is bikini’s there’s just no beaches.
Because a lot of the residents have a pool in the backyard.
Great well I look forward to it. Is there anyone in particular on Ramsey Street you’re looking forward to working with?
Yeah always Jackie Woodburne because she was at the birth of both my children, that’s the sort of close friendship it is, because I was tucked away in Home & Away and she was in Neighbours we never ever got the chance to work together except for in Prisoner in 85, so more than anything I was looking forward to working opposite her because she’s such an incredible actress and of course I love her dearly, so it ticked all the boxes really.
Anyone else on the street that you’ve not had a relationship with before that you’re really looking forward to working with?
Well I worked with Jodie very briefly on Home & Away so it was great to reconnect with her but the one one I really really enjoyed working with was Bonnie who plays Bea she’s just a stunning little pocket rocket she’s so talented and she’s a really talented singer as well, she’s like a triple quadruple threat, she’s amazing I just loved everything I did with her and she’s just got so much energy and talent she’s inspiring to be around.
Brilliant. Well I look forward to it. I’ll leave it there but thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me this morning, it must be either really late for you or really early.
Oh no it’s about 6:30 but it’s freezing cold by Australian standards, it’s like 10 degrees.
Right. We’ve been having a bit of a heatwave in the UK in London.
Yeah I’ve heard that. I told someone before it was 42 out in our place in the summer. There’s a heatwave and there’s a heatwave. (laughs) It’s not a competition though.
(laughs) it’s been a pleasure I can’t wait to see you back on our screens. Thanks very much take care.
Neighbours airs Monday to Friday at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5. Catch up NOW on My5