Minor Spoilers: She was a Gold Logie nominee twice for her role in McLeod’s Daughters, but then she almost disappeared.
Tonight Simmone Jade MacKinnon joins Neighbours in a 3 month role as ‘Zoe Alexander.’
“She’s a PR consultant who has been brought on by Paul Robinson (Stefan Denis), who needs some serious work done on his image. He’s got quite the bad profile so she’s come in and if anybody can resurrect his image then she can,” she explains.
“It starts as a work relationship but then there’s a little bit too much going on for them so they end up love interests as well. But she forms a really lovely bond with Sophie, and Sophie is quite attached to her because she doesn’t have a mother figure around. And Zoe, who doesn’t have kids, takes to it really well.”
Since finishing McLeod’s, MacKinnon appeared in The Cut for ABC1, Random Acts of Kindness, Rescue Special Ops and City Homicide, but for two years she has been off our screens.
“It has been a while!” she admits.
“After I finished McLeod’s I went back home to Coff’s Harbour because my Dad was really sick. I did a couple of guest roles in 2009 and hosting and what not, then I fell pregnant. So I’ve been blissfully happy being a mum. My son just turned 2 so I’ve had a great two years with him.
“As any mum would say it’s been the best job in the world. I’m a single mum but it’s been two amazing years with him and there was really no job that would have been able to entice me away from that. It was a special time and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“I did a little guest spot on City Homicide when he was three months old and as much as I enjoyed it and going to work it broke my heart.
“I was just in a whole world of happiness. It didn’t bother me to be away from it at all. I’m very happy being ‘mum.’”
MacKinnon has previously had a taste of American television with roles in The Lost World, Attila, Deep Shock, Dark Waters and Submission -plus one more famous production…
“I ended up on Baywatch. I had a partner over there and that was kind of the reason I stayed. It wasn’t really my dream. The Hollywood dream wasn’t really my dream. I would much prefer to be out here working in Australia and supporting our industry,” she says.
“But I take my hat off to the ones that do and the ones that make it because it’s really hard. Us Aussies are tough and that’s why they do so well over there.”
Now working on Neighbours she admits to being surprised by the working regime of the ELEVEN soap.
“They do 6 episodes a week and they’re shooting episodes from the next week when they’re on location,” she says.
“The mind boggles at how quickly these guys work and how much they squeeze into a week. It’s a machine! You’ve got to jump on with both feet and just go for it.
“I think it’s the hardest gig I’ve done.”
Australian soaps have been attracting big names of late including John Wood and Georgie Parker. MacKinnon is pragmatic about work and relaxed about work opportunities.
“Having worked on this I would never look down on a gig like this. I take my hat off to them and respect so much the amount of work they do in the time they have to do it. And that’s everyone from crew, writers, directors, actors, the runners. It’s really hard,” she admits.
“Oh my god. The first couple of weeks it was really hard. The first day there was a Bachelor Auction I was running and there was something like 35-40 pages of dialogue all done back to back –one scene after another. By the end of the day I had no idea what I was saying anymore!
“We worked on a quicker pace on McLeod’s than anything I shot in the States, but now that seems like such a luxury. McLeod’s was fast compared to movies, but this doesn’t seem possible! But they’ve been doing it for 27 years so they’re doing something right.”
But with her three months at an end, MacKinnon is keen to return to a regular role.
“Now that I’ve had a taste my hand is back up. So I’ll be on the look-out,” she says.
“Guests spots flying in and out is not an ideal lifestyle but a new series to relocate somewhere where I can set up a stable environment is appealing.
“I’m happy being Mum so I’m really looking forward to going home. No offense to Melbourne, because I love Melbourne and I would come back here in a heartbeat. But the weather in Coff’s Harbour is great.”
Neighbours airs 6:30pm weeknights on ELEVEN.