Some of the biggest Australian stars in Hollywood – Russell Crowe, Margot Robbie and Guy Pearce, to name a few – have called Ramsay Street home at some time or another. That track record has earned Neighbours the reputation of being a wonderful platform for talented actors.
Despite preparing to head to Los Angeles in the footsteps of those famous alumni, Lilly Van der Meer never saw the Aussie drama as just a stepping stone in her career.
"People say, 'Oh, Neighbours, it's a great starting ground before going off to do other things'," Lilly, 19, tells TV WEEK. "But I think it's a place you could stay for a very long time."
Having grown up on Queensland's Gold Coast, Lilly made the move to Melbourne after auditioning for the show when she was just 15. The fresh-faced teen landed the role of Xanthe Canning and began filming just after her 16th birthday.
"I kind of had my pivotal growth years on the show," Lilly says.
"The Neighbours cast and crew have basically been my on-set parents for the past three years."
Even so, Lilly says she's at an age when she's ready to explore the world beyond Erinsborough.
"There was so much I learnt on set and so much more I could have learnt," she explains. "I've taken away all these skills and knowledge from the show and now I'm free to venture out on my own."
Never having visited Los Angeles before, Lilly decided to spend six weeks discovering what the city had to offer.
"It made me realise that's the kind of place I wanted to be," Lilly says. "There's so much competition, so much happening, so much in the works and so much art being made there and I want to be a part of that."
Being away from home was made easier thanks to fellow Neighbours co-stars and friends Travis Burns and Emma Lane already living in LA.
"They really helped me settle in," Lilly says. "They've shown me all the cool and fun places, which has been nice to help me adjust to the leisure life rather than the work life."
Having fallen in love with the City Of Angels, Lilly's been preparing to relocate for good.
"I'll be heading over permanently in time for the start of pilot season," she says.
Pilot season is infamous in the industry, drawing in ambitious actors from around the globe as they compete for roles in what they hope will be the next big hit. It's a notoriously fast-paced and gruelling time, but Lilly welcomes the challenge.
"I'm so excited," she says. "I love intensity and I think pilot season is perfect for me. With Neighbours, you can sometimes work up to 12 or 13 hours a day. It's a quick turnaround and I'm used to being on my feet."
With a taste for edge-of-your-seat thrillers such as Silence Of The Lambs and Charlize Theron's 2003 film Monster, Lilly is eager to explore intense roles.
"You never know what those kind of characters are going to do next," she says. "Are they the enemy? Are they really a friend? Are they psychotic?
"I have an amazing team I work with," she adds. "We're all very passionate about my future and the kind of projects we're focusing on. I'm just ready and excited!"
Neighbours airs weeknights, 6.30pm, on 10 Peach.
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