Blair McDonough has had to prove himself to his castmates, reports Dan
THE needle slides by and doesn't bite, but Blair McDonough winces and rubs
his arm as he has a mock vaccination in the Erinsborough surgery of Dr Karl
Kennedy (Alan Fletcher).
It's late afternoon, the cast and crew of Neighbours are behind schedule and
things aren't quite firing. First, McDonough forgets his line and calls for
assistance. Moments later, when Fletcher fluffs his response, the exchange
breaks down and the take is officially dead.
As the crew reorganises, Fletcher looks rueful: ``That was a complete
nonsequitur," he tells McDonough.
``Nonwhat?" is the perplexed reply.
But as the experienced Fletcher explains the term - ``something that doesn't
follow" - McDonough nods silently and commits it to memory. He'll never need to
Twentyyearold McDonough is on a steep learning curve, but he's paying
attention and taking it all in.
It's almost a year since he started appearing on Neighbours, as goodnatured
country boy Stuart ``Chooka" Parker.
``It's been awesome, unreal," he says of his 12 months in Ramsay Street. ``I
don't get the opportunity to look back on it that often - you're more worried
about what's coming up next."
McDonough was a highprofile recruit for a show that is known for growing its
own stars. So perhaps it's understandable that his introduction - at the height
of Big Brother mania - met with scepticism. McDonough admits he worked hard to
make friends with his Neighbours castmates.
``You've gotta come in and prove your worth and do your stuff . . . you've
got to show that you're working before people will take a shine to you," he
Neighbours' producer Peter Dodds says McDonough quickly dispelled any
concerns that he was a professional celebrity.
``He came on as a personality but when we interviewed him, first and foremost
he was genuine about wanting to act . . . he auditioned for us and he was
The transition from suburban hopeful to TV soapstar has been swift, although
McDonough admits he has struggled at times to cope with his high profile. ``I've
had points where it's a bit of a downer and you just want to crawl into a
hole," he says. ``You're not allowed to be down . . . and I'm not the type of
person to be up all the time."
Now McDonough has taken charge of his life, and Dodds, who has introduced
dozens of young actors during more than a decade at Neighbours, says the show's
production team has been impressed by his progress.
``We had to make sure that he was comfortable with his progression as an
actor so we eased him into the workload," Dodds says.
``When we saw what we were getting, we were encouraged to write more and
more. Now we can throw absolutely anything at him."
Coming episodes will see McDonough test his range as the romance between
Stuart and Felicity (played by Holly Valance) heats up. It's all part of his
development as a performer, and, though still inexperienced, he has ambitions
for his acting.
``Everyone wants to play a psychopath or something that gives you a
challenge, but the challenge for now is to get the work out consistently," he
If the scrutiny of this very public apprenticeship was not enough, McDonough
has recently ensured it will intensify, starting a relationship with his
17yearold costar Delta Goodrem, who plays Nina.
``We just have fun," he says. ``The celebrity couple thing is a bit naff -
we're just a couple. Just a boy and a girl having a great time."
Meanwhile, the wild ride continues. In a few weeks he boards a plane for
London, retracing the flight of countless Ramsay Street regulars as he dons the
tights for a season of pantomime. It's a punishing twoshowsaday schedule, but
one the young actor is eagerly awaiting.
``You are working your arse off but you're having fun and you're in another
Neighbours screens weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel Ten.