Rebekah Elmaloglou – Rekindling The PassionWhere are you originally from?
I’m originally from the Jungo.
Yep. Years ago they changed it to Queens Park, but no one would believe you. You’d say, “I’m from Queens Park” and people would go, “Where?” And you’d go, “Well it’s actually sort of part of Bondi Junction” and they’re like, “So you’re from the Jungo?” Finally, years later, they gave it its own suburb and postcode.
Where is the name ‘Elmaloglou’ from?
It’s Greek Turk. Dad’s Greek but he was born and raised in France, in Lyon.
When did he come to Australia?
When he was a teenager. He’s 80 now.
You’ve moved down to Melbourne for your role in Neighbours; were you still living in the Queens Park area up until the move
Yeah. When I was 19 bought an apartment just around the corner from Mum and Dad’s place…
That’s very Greek of you…
Yeah, I know, it’s really Greek. I’ve been living there on and off over the years since I was about 19, so that was over 20 years ago.
What do you love about life in the Eastern Suburbs?
When you’re brought up there, you don’t know any different. I’ve always loved the beaches, but then I’ve got a love/hate relationship with the beaches too because in summer you just can’t get anywhere near them with the parking. I love the Eastern Suburbs though; I love how central we are to everything and I think that’s probably the main thing. From where I’ve always lived in the Queens Park area, it’s so close to the beaches, so close to the city, and so close to the Junction and public transport. It’s always been a great place to live.
Is there anything that gets your goat about the Eastern Suburbs, besides parking then having to get a bus to the beach?
Not really. Like all communities, suburbs and townships, they evolve and change over time. I probably would have visited Bondi a lot more 15 or 20 years ago when it was a bit quieter than I would now on the weekend, only because it’s a bit crazier. The beaches are really special though, and you really miss them, especially when you’re living in somewhere like Melbourne.
What was it like growing up in the Junction?
I loved the Jungo. I used to go up there almost every day. I think it’s great. Eastgate was always our shopping centre. I still go to the Coles there nowadays – that’s my Coles and I know it inside out and back to front. I think a couple of years ago, just before I moved to Melbourne, they decided to renovate it and it really threw me because they changed all the aisles around.
Do you have any favourite local haunts?
Bondi has changed and the Eastern Suburbs has changed so much literally in the last two years. The Bondi Tratt has always a good one. We used to do Sunday sessions at the Beach Road Hotel too. We used to call it ‘Sunday school’. I don’t know if anyone else used to call it that, but it was a frequent watering hole of mine. The good old North Bondi RSL used to be one of my old haunts too. Before we went to Melbourne, we started going around the corner to a little café on Bronte Road that has been there for years and years; it’s a beautiful family run cafe called The Heart of Europe. They do amazing food and it’s lovely. It had been there all these years and we’d never really been there, and then we started going there in the last 12 months leading up to leaving.
Was acting something you were encouraged to pursue by your family?
No, not particularly. I come from a very musical background; both of my parents are musicians so the arts influence was always there. It was something that I really got myself into. Obviously my parents were very supportive. It was something that I sort of fell into and stuck to and continued with. I have just always done it.
Did you ever consider a stage name, or a nom de plume, because Rebekah Elmaloglou can be difficult to spell and pronounce?
Never, never, never. I’m very proud of my background and my family name, and I would never have done that to my dad. In saying that, now that I’m a married woman I do tend in my personal life to go under the surname Baker. I’m Rebecca Baker, but my stage name is still Elmaloglou.
Is it true that Judi Dench is your cousin?
How much interaction have you had with her over the years and has she been an influence on your career?
She’s an English cousin on my mum’s side. I’m actually closer with her daughter, Finty, who I actually caught up with recently in London when I was there not that long ago doing some publicity. To be honest, Judi hasn’t really influenced me, but I love her work and I’m very proud to call her a part of my family, definitely. I think everything she does is absolutely phenomenal and amazing, and I think everyone agrees with me on that. She’s such a talented woman.
You got the gig as Sophie Simpson on ‘Home and Away’ back in 1989; was that your first acting gig?
No, I’ve been acting since I was about seven or eight. I had done quite a lot of work before that. I was about 15 and I’d left school to go to Greece to do a children’s series. On my return I had the audition for Home and Away and I got it. I started working on Home and Away and I was there from the age of 15 to 19, or something like that.
Was it pretty crazy at the time, because everyone was mad for the show back in its early days?
Yeah, Home and Away was really popular. It was crazy. It’s hard to remember because it was over 20 years ago. I do have to say that I’m really enjoying working on Neighbours now as an adult having had all the experiences that I had as a younger actor. I’ve started my family, had time out and had time to do other things. Coming back into a show like Neighbours, I pinch myself every day at how lucky I am to be an actor in full time work, because it’s so hard to come by regular roles. I was very lucky to be given another opportunity.
You’ve commented before that after Home and Away you found it tough finding regular work…
Yeah, I have worked throughout the years on and off. I have managed to do quite a lot of work that is more low-key, independent sort of work, not so much the commercial ‘networky’ sort of stuff. It was difficult because you do get very much branded doing shows like Home and Away and Neighbours. But you know what? Now I don’t care. I’m 40 and I’m so grateful to have a job.
Is it true that three of your brothers have also appeared on Home and Away?
They all have. My eldest brother was an extra on it a couple of times, and he was terrible. He once interrupted me in the middle of a scene when I had to wait at the jukebox at the back of the diner, waiting for Craig McLachlan to come up to talk to me. My brother didn’t know that I was actually waiting to do a few lines. He came up and goes, “Sis, what’s going on?” And I’m like, “Get away from me!” That was Peter. My other brother, Dominic, had a large guest role on it years after I left, I think. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t on the show at the time. And my youngest brother, Sebastian, was a regular on it for about four or five years not that long ago. He now works in the art department at Home and Away.
Do you ever watch the show these days?
Sometimes if I’m scrolling through the channels, but Neighbours is obviously more the priority nowadays. My son likes to watch mummy on TV, so we do tend to watch Neighbours more.
Did you initially leave Home and Away thinking you would go on to do bigger and better things?
No, no at all. I had no inclination, no urges and no ambitions to do the Hollywood thing at all. In fact, I’ve never been to America. My first time will actually be next February. My husband and I are going to New York for two weeks and that’s all we’re doing. I’ve got no ambition to do any of that sort of thing, especially now at my age. I’ve got a family now. I did go to London for quite a long time though. I did some stuff in London, but I just wanted to be a working actor. Hollywood doesn’t interest me now and never really has.
What did you get up to when the acting work dried up?
Oh my gosh, I’ve done so much. I’ve done everything from nannying to working in shops to house cleaning to waitressing. I’ve been out there; I know what’s going on out there.
Was there any fall back plan?
There was no fall back plan at all, so thank god I’m back in regular work.
For younger actors and actresses, would you recommend having some sort of back-up plan or do you reckon you’ve just got to go for it?
No, you’ve just got to go for it. Think about the back-up plan later.
Did you ever lose your passion for acting?
I did for quite a few years. I think that was a big aspect in my 30s; I just needed a bit of a break from it, just to stop. I think because being in the limelight for years and years, you kind of forget why you’re actually doing it in the first place and it gets a little bit hazy. I did lose my passion for it and it wasn’t until I had my son and he was about two or three that I really started to miss acting. I started getting the passion back, but it was really difficult to get back into the industry. There are so many people out there your age, with your looks and your talent, so it was a struggle. I worked hard.
How did the Neighbours gig come about?
I got an amazing agent about a year before Neighbours came up and I did quite a few workshops with casting directors, and went to boot camp to get into shape. I really focused on getting back in there. I started getting back into the auditions and getting casting agents to go, “Oh, Bek, she’s back, let’s do something with this.” Neighbours happened to come up and I actually auditioned for another role originally. They had even flown me down to Melbourne, but I didn’t get it. The reason I didn’t get it was because they knew this other role, as Terese Willis, was coming up and they knew that I’d be much more suited to it.
Are you loving working on the show?
Yeah, totally; I’m loving it. It’s a great role, a great cast and a great crew. It’s a popular show, it’s huge in the UK and people love it.
What is it that has made Neighbours so successful over the years?
I think all the likeable characters and the not-so-likeable characters like Paul Robinson. People love him. They love to hate him and I love it because a lot of my storylines are to do with him, so it’s always exciting. It’s always fun.
Do all the cast members get on really well?
I have to say it’s probably one of the best jobs I’ve worked on in the sense of the great vibe. They are a great cast and crew.
Is it hard balancing work life and being a mum?
No, not at all. To be honest, I’m very lucky to have an amazing husband who works as well, but his hours are very different to mine. He’s able to do a lot of the stuff that I can’t do. We manage it, and the mornings that I can do – the school run and all that sort of thing – I do, and then I go to the gym before I go to work. You just manage it. You just have to pre-plan some days.
Speaking of husbands, your onscreen husband, Kip Gamblin, is a pretty good sort; how does your real life hubby stack up and does he get jealous?
I think it was hard at first, but my husband’s just as gorgeous as Kip, if not more. I’m very lucky. My husband’s very understanding. Of course it’s hard, especially when I go off all day working in an environment that he’s not that familiar with, having to kiss another man.
What does your hubby do for a crust?
He’s a tradie and a muso, a drummer. I’m very lucky to have him. He’s been amazing.
Are you still mates with any of the crew from the old Home and Away days?
Yeah, if I see Kate Ritchie, it’s awesome. Facebook’s great because you get to see what everyone’s doing. The cast changed so much over the years though. I’d probably walk on to the set these days and feel like a complete stranger.
How do you find living in Melbourne?
I’m getting used to it. It was hard at first because I’m such a Sydney girl. Moving down there was kind of a big change, especially when your whole family has got to shift down there too. It was a really big move for me. We’ve moved into Fitzroy North, which to me is what Melbourne’s really about, and it reminds me a little bit of Queens Park.
Do you get back up to Sydney much?
I try to. My parents still live here so I try to get up as much as I can.
Are you worried about being killed off on Neighbours at any time in the future?
Anything can happen, but I’m happy to stay there as long as they will have me. I’ve got a year and a half to go on the contract.
Would you do another guest spot on Home and Away if it came up?
I don’t know now that I’ve done Neighbours. I don’t know if I could. Certainly not in the next year while I’m contracted to Neighbours. That would be a complete impossibility. Never say never though; who knows what can happen down the track.
Do you see yourself as a working actress for the foreseeable future?
I definitely hope so. I love it. I’m working in a fast paced soap drama, which I love and I’m good at it. I get a rush from it. I much prefer doing this than film or even theatre. This is my niche. I really enjoy it; the adrenaline kicks in and I love the pressure.
You’ve got a six year old son; would you prefer to see him go down the acting route like you or the muso/tradie path like your hubby?
Probably the muso/tradie path!
Is he showing any tendencies either way?
Oh god, yeah. He actually got a job on a McDonald’s ad, which was hysterical. Well, it wasn’t hysterical at the time. He was amazing at the auditions, the recalls and the wardrobe calls, then he got on set with all the clients, crew and the cast, and he completely froze. I was so mortified. I’ve banned him from auditioning for anything else. I felt like a stage mother like trying to bribe him with lollies. He auditioned for it accidentally because I auditioned for the mother role and I didn’t get it, and they asked me on the day if he would like to audition. And he got it. That’s what’s so humiliating about the whole thing.
Am I allowed to mention that you turned 40 earlier this year? Has that number changed your outlook on life at all?
Not really. I just look at women who I admire who have just turned 50 and I don’t feel so bad.
Did you enjoy your 40th birthday?
Yeah, but I just wanted to get the party over and done with. Organising the party overtook the actual turning of 40, and once it was done it was a bit of a relief.
Who are your role models in the acting world?
People like Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep? And Dame Judi Dench, of course. There are a lot of amazing people out there.
Do you have any advice for youngsters looking to make a career out of acting?
Study hard, focus and just go for it. It’s a hard industry, but if you’re not ambitious enough, you will get lost in the mix.
In an ideal world, what does the future hold for Rebekah Elmaloglou?
Well, to stay 40! Oh, and to keep working as regularly as I can and spend time with my family.