BECOMING Izzy Hoyland in Neighbours after an 11-year break was like putting on a pair of old slippers for Natalie Bassingthwaighte (aka Nat Bass).
In something rarely seen for a soap opera, she's brought back the character of Izzy this week with the help of other Neighbours alumni including Blair McDonough (Stu Parker), Andrew Bibby (Lance Wilkinson), Anthony Engelman (Kevin "Stonefish" Rebecchi) and Marisa Warrington (Sindi Watts).
"Yes, it's been 11 years away from the show and so much has happened in that time," Natalie tells The Guide.
"When I left the show over the years they kept asking me to come back, but it never felt like the right time.
"I'm good friends with Alan Fletcher (Karl) and Jackie Woodburne (Susan) and over the last two years they kept saying 'come on, we've got some great storylines' each time we'd get together.
"But I really wanted to explore other characters and have new challenges in my life."
Working on two shows for Ten gave Natalie a new confidence which made her feel like now was the time to return to Ramsay Street.
"I didn't want to be known just as Izzy from Neighbours," she says. "So coming off playing a real-life character in the mini-series Brock then Gillian in The Wrong Girl, to get the opportunity to put those shoes back on as Izzy seemed the right time. I found I was inspired after them, and that in my heart of hearts this is what I'm supposed to be doing."
Being the villain on a show is something that can be a double edged sword, but as an actor, it's always good to play someone so unlike your real self.
"Playing that kind of heightened character is fun…I won't lie. You look at the script and you go 'What… this is outrageous, how am I going to make this believable, but you know that people have interesting and crazy lives, as reality TV has shown us," Natalie says.
"It's so much fun to be that person as an actor. I love playing Izzy.
"As an actress you don't get many opportunities to play a…well, I use the term 'psychotic' loosely… but she does get labelled a bitch, or a villain. There is a lot of depth to the character. Walking on set was kind of like putting on a pair of old slippers… although I wasn't sure at first if I knew who Izzy was, and if I could do her justice. So I went on set, said my dialogue, looked at Alan and Jackie then we all burst into laughter and I said 'there she is… she's back!' It was a very surreal experience. I put on the outfit, get on set, and she's alive!"
The character has been nominated four times by Inside Soap Magazine for the Best Bitch Award. Reminded of that, Natalie bursts out laughing.
"I might put that on my resume, does that mean I'm doing a good job?"
Natalie admits that she will be watching another show she's been a part of, but in a bit more luxury.
"I was dying to watch I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! this year as I hadn't seen the show much before I went in. I'd only seen some clips on you tube," she says.
"It's a real eye-opener. It's so different watching it with a glass of wine in my hand and yummy food. I feel sorry for them all. I enjoy my luxuries."
Neighbours airs Monday to Friday at 6.30pm on ELEVEN.
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