Mavournee Hazel opens up about her decision to walk away from Neighbours

“Why I had to leave!”
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Sitting down with TV WEEK, Mavournee Hazel knows how often Neighbours stars have said that working on the show has been like spending time with family.

Even so, the star, who plays fiercely independent Piper Willis, can’t help but join in.

“Everyone says that,” Mavournee, 23, says. “And it’s such a cliché, but it is a family.”

For three-and-a-half years, the Adelaide-born actress has made the iconic Australian soap her second home. But now, Mavournee says the next step in her career requires her to leave Erinsborough.

“There was a small part of me that was like, ‘Oh, my God – am I only good at acting because I’m comfortable on set? And can I even act?'” she recalls asking herself.

“I felt I’d learnt so much from my time in Neighbours. I was craving inspiration and to be challenged in a new role and environment.”

Mavournee Hazel is saying goodbye to Neighbours.

When Mavournee joined the cast in 2015, Piper was just a schoolgirl returning home from a stay in Canada. Smart, witty and unafraid to stand out from the crowd, Piper was best known for her turbulent relationship with Tyler Brennan (Travis Burns).

The romance gave Piper a reason to leave Erinsborough – to meet up with Tyler once again – when she decided she wanted a fresh start.

Mavournee also wants to separate herself from the character that made her famous because, she says, the two had almost become one and the same.

“You get to transform into another role as a character, breathe someone else’s life,” the actress explains. “Over time, I kind of was playing myself.

“Other than her decisions,” she adds with a laugh. “A lot of her decisions I wouldn’t make, personally! I was just kind of ready to leave her at the door, find myself and be someone else.”

Mavournee joined Neighbours in 2015.

While many Neighbours alumni have left for the bright lights of Los Angeles and the promise of making it big, Mavournee says she wants to pursue local projects first.

“I want to be taken seriously as an actress before I think about going overseas,” she says. “Leaving the show, I still have a lot to prove to myself – and, almost, to Australia.”

That doesn’t mean Mavournee won’t eventually make her way to Hollywood.

“I’m planning to go over at some point this year for meetings,” she says. “But I feel very strongly that I want to stay and work here for a bit longer.”

With her status as one to watch, Mavournee uses her profile to advocate acceptance and self-love, recently taking part in fashion brand Sportsgirl’s “Be That Girl” campaign.

“I was really honoured to be part of that,” she says. “I was nervous about it coming out, because I spoke about a lot of things I haven’t spoken about before.”

Mavournee is leaving Piper behind to pursue new projects.

Mavournee, an advocate for young women being true to themselves, used the campaign to open up about identifying as “demisexual” – a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction unless they form an emotional connection first.

“I always wanted to be completely transparent,” she explains. “The response from that [campaign] was so rewarding and overwhelming.”

Like beloved Piper, Mavournee hopes she can make even the smallest difference to the lives of her fans.

“I didn’t grow up with a role model in that sort of way,” she recalls. “So even if one kid out there is like, ‘Yes, finally!’, that makes me so happy.”

Neighbours airs weeknights, 6.30pm, on 10 Peach.

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