The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Close Up - – Zoe Nau­man

When Kate Ken­dall walks on to Ram­say Street next month, view­ers of long-run­ning soap Neigh­bours will do a dou­ble take.

The ac­tor, who was last seen in po­lice drama Stingers, is back on screen as Lau­ren Car­pen­ter, who left the show in 1994. Lou’s daugh­ter was orig­i­nally played by Sarah Van­den­bergh.

Ken­dall ad­mits some view­ers may have to ad­just to Lau­ren’s new look.

“It’s a bit bizarre and a bit of a stretch of the imag­i­na­tion,” she says. “I did some re­search and she is a very down-to-earth char­ac­ter – she loves her horses.

“I was really ex­cited about get­ting the job and I hadn’t done a long-run­ning drama for a while – cer­tainly not in this for­mat, shoot­ing six episodes a week.

“The dif­fer­ence in in­ten­sity is fan­tas­tic. It’s very chal­leng­ing. It takes a good cou­ple of months to get into the groove of it and find your niche. You do find your­self fol­low­ing your in­stincts a lot.”

Ken­dall has been work­ing in the­atre, in­clud­ing a stint last au­tumn in Syd­ney in An Of­fi­cer And A Gen­tle­man, but hun­gered for work with “a bit of a rou­tine in it”. “I have a young son and know­ing you will be home at nights, even though you do work when you get home, it was some­thing that would fit into my life with the fam­ily and not be­ing tired,” she says.

Neigh­bours re­turns for 2013 this week, but Ken­dall’s first ap­pear­ance on the show won’t be un­til early next month. Lau­ren ar­rives back on Ram­say Street with her hus­band Matt Turner (Josef Brown) and their teenage chil­dren Ma­son ( Tay­lor Glock­ner), Am­ber (Jenna Rosenow) and Bai­ley ( Calen Macken­zie). Thanks to the won­ders of soap, Ken­dall’s char­ac­ter has man­aged to con­ceive de­spite be­ing di­ag­nosed with pelvic in­flam­ma­tory disease in her last in­car­na­tion, and be­ing told she had a 10 per cent chance of hav­ing a fam­ily.

Her char­ac­ter is a far cry from the heart­breaker who left Ram­say Street, caus­ing Brad Wil­lis ( Scott Michael­son) and Beth Bren­nan ( Natalie Im­bruglia) to call off their wed­ding.

Ken­dall says: “She’s a very ma­ter­nal per­son with her kids. She is the hearth of the house. She has al­ways had a pretty solid re­la­tion­ship with Matt, and a pretty good re­la­tion­ship with her dad.”

Ken­dall used her own fam­ily of four step- chil­dren and her own son as a tem­plate on which to build her char­ac­ter. “When I have played characters that have had chil­dren be­fore – be­fore I had my own kids bi­o­log­i­cal or step-kids – it wasn’t the same as I didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence to draw from,” she says.

Ken­dall, who is mar­ried to former Carl­ton AFL player Wayne John­ston, says her first day on set was strange. “The first scene was in Ram­say Street – that was weird. It is ex­actly how it looks on screen and it’s sur­real. We had lots of fun.”

Ken­dall also knows the pres­sure is on to do a good job be­cause of Neigh­bours’ loyal fan base. “Peo­ple ab­so­lutely adore this show and will say: ‘That’s not right. She (the old Lau­ren) wouldn’t have done that’,” she says.

“But they have es­sen­tially cre­ated an­other new char­ac­ter, so we have just tried to go with that rather than make it fit in with some­one else’s cre­ation.”

•Week­days, 6.30pm, ELEVEN

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