Entertainment & Arts

Neighbours: Indigenous actor joins cast

Meyne Wyatt Image copyright Channel 5
Image caption Wyatt became interested in acting while at boarding school in Perth

Australian soap Neighbours has cast an indigenous actor in a leading role for the first time.

Meyne Wyatt, 24, will make his debut as Nate Kinski on 13 August. The episode will be shown on 27 August in the UK on Channel 5.

The soap has featured indigenous actors before but not in the main cast.

The show, based in a fictional suburb outside Melbourne, has been accused of not reflecting ethnic diversity during its 29-year history.

Previous indigenous actors who have appeared in the soap include Tony Briggs in the late 1980s.

He was the first Aboriginal actor to appear on the show.

In 2012, a South Asian family, called the Kapoors, moved into Ramsay Street, but they were written out of the soap a year later.

'Best people'

Actor Sachin Joab, who played Ajay Kapoor, told Digital Spy last year: "It was more of a shock to us knowing that it wasn't just one multicultural actor who was being written out, it was every single multicultural full-time actor on the show.

"All four of us were written out in the first year of our full-time contracts, which felt like a massive step backwards in terms of cultural diversity on the show.

"Australia is stuck in some sort of time capsule... For some reason when it's fiction over here, the industry chooses to exclude non-whites and include whites only. It's very unrealistic given that Australia is a very multicultural country," he added.

But speaking to the Guardian about casting Wyatt, Neighbours' series producer Jason Herbison said: "While cultural diversity is definitely important, in cases where we don't need a specific ethnic background, our brief to agents is to put forward their best people and that was the case for this character."

Born in the remote town of Kalgoolie in western Australia, Wyatt's passion for acting emerged when he attended boarding school in Perth.

He graduated from the country's National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), and was named best newcomer in the 2011 Sydney theatre awards.

He recently completed the feature film Strangerland starring Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Guy Pearce, due for release in 2015.

His Neighbours character already has a connection with two of Ramsay Street's long-term residents, Susan and Karl Kennedy. Susan was previously married to Nate's uncle.

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