We speak to Neighbours actress Rebekah Elmaloglou, whose character, Terese Willis, has just received a breast cancer diagnosis in the popular weekday soap. Rebekah lets us know how she prepared for the storyline and why research into breast cancer is important to her.
How did you prepare for Terese’s breast cancer storyline?
As my mother Teresa was diagnosed with breast cancer over 12 months ago, my research really came about by default – probably not the way any of us would want it to. I had many conversations with Mum throughout her treatment, with her every step of the way through chemo, radiation, and hormone replacement, and obviously at the beginning had the lumpectomy so I was very familiar with the terminology.
Why do you think research into breast cancer is important?
I’m not sure of the statistics, however breast cancer is one of the biggest killers of women in Australia. Just tragic and it’s indiscriminate. It’s funny, the producers were really hesitant when they presented the idea to me because my mother’s experience was so fresh, and were a little taken aback by how enthusiastic I was about exploring the issue – particularly because my character is under 45 and the focus in terms of testing is still more focused on women over 50.
I also thought it was very important that the character questioned the initial diagnosis that she didn’t have breast cancer. She listened to her own instincts and body, and that’s so important. It’s easy to be a little intimidated by doctors and specialists, and you hear the same story over and over again. Women really have to take ownership of their health.
Terese keeps her breast cancer a secret when she first receives her diagnosis. Do you think she will open up to Steph Scully (who herself faced her own breast cancer experience in Neighbours after being diagnosed in 2003)?
Not in this case and maybe she should have but as I mentioned, Terese trusted her own instincts and that’s the sort of person she is, quite independent.
What’s your favourite thing about working on Neighbours?
Definitely the cast and crew. You couldn’t find a more fun, eclectic group of people – everyone is incredibly professional but if there is an opportunity to have a laugh, everyone is in on the joke. From an acting perspective, it’s the diversity of the storylines. We tackle the serious issues like breast cancer, however this is balanced out with the more light-hearted stories – it makes it very rewarding.
Can you share anything that’s coming up on the show?
Well, I can’t say too much but Terese does have a big event coming up and in true Neighbours style, things don’t go to plan. We also have a fabulous ‘whodunnit’ plot coming up which involves a lot of the characters, including Terese which I think viewers are going to really enjoy.
Find out about breast cancer statistics in the UK
Read about how breast cancer is diagnosed