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Soaps Interview

Tom Oliver (Lou Carpenter, 'Neighbours')

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Tom Oliver (Lou Carpenter, 'Neighbours')
First appearing on Ramsay Street in 1988 and returning full time in January 1992, Lou Carpenter became one of Erinsborough's most distinguished residents after years spent running the general store with best mate Harold Bishop. Along the way, he's flogged cheap vodka, knit-infested Russian hats and is now teaching those Apprentice-winning entrepreneurial skills to the younger generations. We caught up with actor Tom Oliver to find out how Lou is coping after Harold's departure and what we can expect from him next.

The big storyline at the moment is Harold's departure. That must be sad for Lou?
"Oh yes, definitely, but the old rascals keep in touch all the time. It was a sad farewell. Not just in character, but for me and Ian [Smith] too. We worked together for so long and were both on the same wavelength. We had as much fun off camera as we did on. He was a great actor to work with and it has left a great hole there - particularly comedy wise."

They were quite a double act weren't they?
"Some reviewers said we were like Laurel & Hardy or a cross between the two Grumpy Old Men and The Odd Couple. That just about sums us up on a good day I suppose!"

You started out as rivals at the start though?
"Yes, we had always been bitter rivals because Madge, Harold and Lou had all been at school together. Lou arrived in Ramsay Street to stop Harold from marrying her, but he won the day and Lou returned to Queensland. He came back four years later after Harold had disappeared and finished up living with her. He'd always had this huge crush on her."

Mickey and Lou do seem to have a very strong bond. How is that to act?
"We handle it carefully, because you know what that sort of question could lead to from some idiots about old men and young boys. I've made it very clear with the scriptwriters that nothing must have any hint of that sort of suggestions. Not that they would have done that to Lou in the first place, don't get me wrong. I do some work for an organisation called ChildWise and travel a lot to Thailand and Vietnam and am very strong on that score."

Lou seems to have been really taken in by the Parkers of late...
"Well he needed somewhere to live and was in a caravan outside their house. After they bought the house Steve told Miranda that they should invite Lou as he was always there anyway. It does seem like a bit of a fall from grace sometimes, but that's soap opera for you. At once stage I owned the garage, the pub, two houses in the street and I was mayor of Erinsborough, then they twist and turn it and suddenly one day I'm living in a caravan in the street."

Lou's always had very vivacious ladies. Any chance of him settling down?
"I don't think so. Deborah Kennedy, who plays Mischka, is doing very well in theatre at the moment. Legally, Lou is still married to Trixie Ticker, but she is in Hong Kong living off her Hello Dolly money, which is one of the reasons that Lou started going broke!"

What can we expect from Lou over the coming year?
"Well, I'm going to be taking a three-month break, so Lou will be off your screens for a bit. But when he comes back the Parkers will have gone, so who knows where Lou will even live. So long as it's not that bloody caravan!"

Would Paul Robinson put him up?
"Oh no, Lou would punch him in the nose any day of the week! It was rough when they made Paul a goody-goody after his brain damage. He's much better when he's evil. I came up with a joke storyline the other day where Lou injects woodworm into Paul's false leg when he is asleep, so when he runs for a bus he falls over. I think they thought that was even a bit too much - even for Neighbours."

A lot of characters seem to move to Bendigo, Colack and Perth after Neighbours. Where would Lou go?
"Yeah, Bendigo seems to be choice number one, some couples have gone to Perth too. I don't think Lou will ever retire. Just for fun I wrote half a dozen ideas of how Lou could leave the show. Choice number six was that he drops dead of a heart attack in the general store, holding a beer with a beautiful woman on his knee and a smile on his face. That would be Lou's perfect exit!"

Neighbours airs weekdays on Five at 5.30pm. It is repeated on Fiver at 7pm. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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