TV

"It was my responsibility" Neighbours' Colette Mann opens up about working with co-star Lilly Van der Meer

'We share a special bond.'

By Clare Rigden

There's a 50-year age gap between Colette Mann and co-star Lilly Van der Meer. But that hasn't stopped the two becoming close.

Colette, an Aussie stage and screen icon, took Lilly under her wing when she started on the show at age 15 as Xanthe.

"It was my first big gig, and Colette said to my mum, 'Don't worry, I'll look after your daughter and show her how it's done,'" Lilly, 18, says.

"That made me feel more comfortable, because it was all so nerve-racking."

Lilly is in awe of Colette's experience.
Lilly is in awe of Colette's experience.

Colette, who plays Sheila, has starred in a host of big-name Aussie shows, including Prisoner. She was determined Lilly would learn the right way to do things on set.

"I love kids like her who are open, know what they want and put their head down and get it, without any bitchiness or arrogance," Colette, 68, explains.

"Lilly always wanted to learn the correct way to do everything, rather than the shortcut. I'm not a shortcut kind of a person."

"I love kids like her who are open...and put their head down and get on with it," Colette says.
"I love kids like her who are open...and put their head down and get on with it," Colette says.

The veteran performer also taught Lilly a few fail-safe rules she's learnt over the years.

"On her very first day, I told her, 'You never carry your phone on the set – it stays in your bag in the green room,'" she says.

"And to this day, I've never seen her with her phone on the set. And she never takes her script – though I'm an old lady and sometimes I need mine because I forget my lines!" [Laughs]

Colette is protective of Lilly – and immensely proud.

"I feel that Lilly could now walk on to a film set anywhere in the world and not feel intimidated," she enthuses.

"When I was 18, I was still doing theatre and not much television. I didn't get to her position, with TV and film skills, until Prisoner, when I was 28."

Colette sees a bright young future for her young co-star.
Colette sees a bright young future for her young co-star.

While on Prisoner, Colette was taken under the wing of co-star Sheila Florance (who played Lizzie Birdsworth).

She felt a duty to repay the favour with Lilly.

"I felt – particularly because I liked Lilly – that it was my responsibility," Colette explains.

"And now, when she leaves here, she'll be prepared and stand up on her own two feet. She can do it already!"

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