Neighbours star Eve Morey is having another big year of storylines on the soap, but she is also making an impact behind the scenes after encouraging producers to tackle the issue of eating disorders.
As we reported earlier this week, show chiefs have been busy working on two storylines which explore the topic after the actress made the suggestion on set.
Digital Spy recently caught up with Eve to hear how the idea came about and what's coming up for her character Sonya Rebecchi.
What inspired you to make this suggestion to the Neighbours producers?
"I'd been observing a lot of things in the media, particularly representations of women. I also watched an amazing American documentary called Misrepresentation, which looked at how women tend to be quite disempowered by how sexualised and objectified they are in the media. We're an equal society at the end of the day, but the media doesn't necessarily support that.
"From my own experience of being a woman in the media and observing friends and colleagues, I really thought that this was an important issue, especially as so many of our audience are teenagers. I felt that it'd be an interesting topic to explore and when I suggested it, the script department agreed and went with it.
"I also told the Neighbours production team about The Butterfly Foundation, an Australian organisation which raises awareness of body image issues. The writers worked with them to make sure the storyline was as realistic as possible and included all of the relevant points."
Is it unusual for a cast member to suggest a storyline, or does it happen more often than we think?
"The writing team are pretty open to ideas. They're aware that we know our characters really well, and if we're really passionate about something, they're more than happy to cover it on screen if it works within the framework of the show. It's not something we do every five minutes, but there are discussions between us and the writers about our characters and where they're going.
"With this storyline I wasn't aware that my character would be involved in it, but they decided to have me playing a role in the story on screen too."
What can you tell us about the storyline?
"Well, when I first spoke to the writers, they were already starting a storyline with the character of Imogen, which sees her struggling with an eating disorder. That story involves the idea of control, as she uses her eating as a means of control when she has so much stress going on with her family.
"But there's actually a second story which comes months later, and this is the one that I'm more involved in. You'll see that Callum's friend Josie [played by Madison Daniel] has a big crush on him, and she comes into the show as quite a confident character.
"However, when Josie finds out that Callum actually has a crush on Imogen, she decides that she should change herself by emulating what's been going on with Imogen. She starts to change the way she looks, she starts dieting and she does strenuous exercise. Sonya observes this and tries to intervene.
"People may be surprised that we're doing two eating disorder storylines in quick succession, but I think they've both been handled really well and they both explore completely different aspects of quite a complex issue. It also shows a perpetual cycle which is quite realistic, as Josie is influenced by Imogen's behaviour."
We've heard that you're doing a postgraduate degree in psychology at the moment. How do you fit it in with Neighbours?
"I'm doing it part time at the moment, studying two pre-requisite subjects before I get into the bulk of it next year. It actually fits in really well - psychology and acting are quite complementary as they both involve investigation of character and the human condition. I've only been doing it for a month, but a lot of the stuff I've been learning has been really interesting. I really enjoy applying it to my characterisation on screen, so it's really good."
Sonya's had quite a few emotional storylines recently. What have those stories been like to film?
"The recent Walter storyline was particularly full-on to film. Sonya is a pretty emotional character anyway, but she really reached breaking point at that stage. It was interesting to film that and map it all out, but it was also quite exhausting - especially going into the Robbo story straight afterwards. It's one thing after another for Sonya! Not since the Callum story has Sonya experienced such an intensity of emotion, but it's really interesting to explore."
Are Sonya and Toadie on stable ground for now when it comes to their marriage?
"I think they are! What Ryan [Moloney] and I have tried to do is show that people do have issues in relationships, but there doesn't necessarily have to be a fear that they're going to break up.
"From what I've just heard on the grapevine, the relationship is definitely going to be tested in the future, but I don't think there's going to be any worry that they'll split over it. The two characters love and respect each other. They're independent people with their own values and opinions, but it's interesting to address that!"
You're up for 'Best Daytime Star' at the Inside Soap Awards this year. How does it feel to be in the running?
"I've only just found this out! It's so incredibly humbling. We film our show in Nunawading, Victoria in the middle of suburbia and we can't quite believe that it gets taken out across the world. To think that people are watching it and enjoying what you're doing is pretty awesome."
With Neighbours up for 'Best Daytime Soap', why should fans be voting for it?
"I'd say because we have a lovely balance between being dramatic and relevant, but then also having a comic element to it. You can have a really heavy story with the teenagers but then flip back to Karl and Susan with a funny storyline. The transition on screen is seamless, and I think that's more so than on other soaps which can be quite heavy all of the time."
The last time we spoke, it was for the Neighbours explosion which turned out to be the highest-rated episode in the UK for years and even had a late-night screening. Were you aware of the attention it had over here?
"I still can't fathom it! We had memos on our boards for all that kind of stuff, and I even saw the promo that Ryan filmed when he was in the UK. I was like, 'Whoa! Neighbours is a proper show over there!' That may sound silly, but it's so lovely that the UK audience are behind us and so invested in it."
Scott Major (Lucas) recently left the show and we know he's one of your closest friends from the cast. How did you feel about saying goodbye to him?
"It was really difficult, especially because we're friends on screen and off. The only saving grace was Scott coming back to direct. He is the number one person for coming in, having a positive attitude and being happy. Scott's always saying, 'It's happy Monday!', or 'It's happy Wednesday!' - every week, every day! It was quite funny coming in and not having that.
"But then the other day he came in and it was 'Happy Thursday', so I was like, 'Ah, he's back!' It's also nice for him to explore another part of the show and himself.
"It was actually a double whammy because Alin Sumarwata (Vanessa), who's a very close friend of mine, also left. It was a very emotional time for Sonya and myself!"
Will Sonya and Lucas have more friendship scenes before he leaves the street?
"Definitely! There's a lot to happen before Lucas and Vanessa go anywhere. Lucas has got quite a crazy and dark story to go through. Sonya and Lucas's friendship really gets pushed. Scott and Alin did some amazing work before they left, which I think people will really enjoy.
"What's also nice is that down the track, once the character of Lucas leaves, Sonya will go through something which is directly related to the fact that she's missing Lucas and their friendship. It's nice to have that, because sometimes characters can leave without much impact on the show."
Are you planning any more trips to the UK?
"I would be there in a heartbeat! As soon as people want me to come back, I'll be there! I had such a wonderful time when I came over last time. I keep asking Ryan, 'Can't you go over and do something over there so they'll want me to come over too?' He's my meal ticket!"
Would you like Sonya to be a long-stay character for the show, or do you have other ambitions?
"It's been four and a half years now and I'm not planning to go anywhere soon, so hopefully yes! I just want Toadie and Sonya to be together forever, so hopefully that'll all work out. Acting-wise, I'm happy in Ramsay Street and plugging away at my degree at the same time. I'm very, very lucky."
> Read more 'Neighbours' spoilers and news
Neighbours airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5 in the UK, and weekdays at 6.30pm on Eleven in Australia.
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