During a recent visit to the UK, we caught up with Neighbours star Tom Oliver to find out why he still loves playing Lou Carpenter after all these years, and talked to him about his charity work and how he’d love to see Delta Goodrem return to Ramsay Street!
Hello, Tom! Is it true that you were originally born in Britain?
“Yes, I’m a boy from Fareham in Hampshire. But I left England when I was 16, and I’m 74 now. So that was a long time ago! London has changed a lot in that time.”
Where do you call home these days?
“I live about 35km outside of Melbourne. It’s leafy and very quiet. I’ve got a big garden, about a quarter of an acre and 14 different species of wild bird come in to the garden, which I hand-feed. I love it.”
You’ve played Lou for 24 years now. What keeps you interested in the role after all this time?
“At my age it’s good to keep working. There are fewer roles out there for a man of my age. I like working on Neighbours. I like the cast and crew. Some of the crew, I worked with their dads years ago. Sometimes I feel as much at home on a TV set as I do my own home.”
How has Neighbours changed over the years?
“The sets are far more solid now! You used to slam a door and all the walls would shake! The whole production values have changed, too. We went digital two years ago, and of course cast members have changed a lot over the years.”
We miss Harold Bishop! Why do you think Harold and Lou’s on-screen friendship worked so well?
“You know, we were once described by one TV critic as the Laurel and Hardy of Australia! I think it worked so well because Ian Smith, who played Harold, and I thought on the same wave-length. We bounced off each other a lot and still do when we see each other socially.”
Will we ever see Harold return to Ramsay Street?
“No. Ian is loving his retirement now. He has to watch his health too and take it easy.”
Which other cast members have you most enjoyed working with?
“Delta Goodrem, who played Lou’s step-daughter, Nina. I adore her. She is a sweetheart and an enormous singing talent. So I’d love to see her come back and make an appearance. I think she was a darn-good actor as well.”
Would you like to see any of Lou’s own family return to Ramsay Street?
“There is a possibility in the near future that Lou’s daughter, Lauren, will be coming back. But I don’t think the character will be played by the original actress, Sarah Vanderbergh. She’s now happily married and living overseas. I’d also love to see Lou’s adopted daughter, Lolly, back as an adult. Jiordan Anna Tolli played that part for seven years, before she left to focus on her schooling. But about a year ago, her mum brought Jiordan into the studio to say hello. She’s a stunning young woman now, and is taller than me!”
We hear that your charity work is very close to your heart? What can you tell us about it?
“I am abassador for an Australian charity, Connecting Hands, which works in partnership with AFESIP in Cambodia, which assists women in distressing circumstances, including fighting human trafficking and child sex labouring. I often fly over from Australia to Cambodia with donated gifts for these rescue kids, many of whom have been rescued from having to work in brothels. They are great kids and I think of them as my little stepdaughters. They gave me a surprise birthday party last year.”
Finally, what was it like when you starred in ABBA The Movie in 1977?
“ABBA were wonderful to work with! I played their bodyguard during their tour of Australia. So all the real tour footage was used in the movie. I was on stage with them a few times. There wasn’t really a script for the actual storyline, but it was all good fun. When Benny and Bjorn came to Melbourne for the premiere of Mamma Mia a few years ago I tried to get in touch. But I’m not sure they ever got the message. Either that or they thought I was a mad fan!”
Watch Neighbours on Channel 5, weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm
To find out more about Connecting Hands, visit www.facebook.com/connectinghands