Nicola Charles has claimed she was “bullied” on the set of Neighbours and says two of her castmates even tried to get her deported from the country.
Charles played Sarah Beaumont in the soap opera from 1996 to 1999 and again in 2013 and 2016.
Her character was best known for having an affair with Dr Karl Kennedy (played by Alan Fletcher).
Charles has just penned a memoir called Soap Star which is set to be released this Friday.
In it, she details the appalling treatment she received at the hands of some of her co-stars on the show.
“I was what the other actors, the young female actors, described as an ‘MTA’”, Charles told news.com.au. “They would say under their breath, ‘fu**ing MTA’ behind my back and as I walked past after scenes.
“For a long time I didn’t know what ‘MTA’ meant … finally I found out it was ‘model turned actor’.
“That’s when I started thinking, ‘OK, they don’t see me a real actor even though I did go to drama school in the UK.’”
Charles admits she did land a role on Neighbours by accident. After moving from London to Melbourne with her then partner, Scott Michaelson, Charles went in to audition to be a model for The Price is Right.
Instead, she was spotted by one of the bosses from Neighbours who cast her in the show and specifically wrote the role of Sarah Beaumont for her.
Charles was given a six-month probation on the show before bosses had to make the decision whether to extend her contract.
“I never screwed up in that first six months and I just worked on developing the character,” Charles told news.com.au. “I went through my six-month probation and I think they (female castmates) genuinely thought I wouldn’t be staying.
“When I did make it through probation, the atmosphere on set really changed,” Charles said.
How her castmates tried to get her sacked
After having her contract extended, Charles claims some of her co-stars upped their bad behaviour.
“When I was stood on the other side of the wobbly sets with other actresses waiting for my turn and my cue to go in, they would say and do things to try and throw the scene for me,” Charles recalled.
“I remember once being pushed through the door of the pub prematurely before my cue while the cameras were rolling which of course made everyone roll their eyes like, ‘she’s an idiot and she doesn’t know what she’s doing.’
“This was stuff that went on a lot,” Charles said.
But the worst was yet to come.
“After my six-month probation, I went for a meeting with the producer … he said to me that there’d been a little bit of resistance to me staying on the show from some of the other cast members,” Charles told news.com.au.
“Within about two weeks I got a call from my immigration lawyer … he said, ‘two of your castmates have made an official complaint to the immigration department asking why a British actress has been given full-time employment on an Australian soap opera, therefore removing a job from an Australian actor.’
“I was just floored,” Charles said. “I actually got really scared. I started shaking. It was bullying. I thought, ‘Oh my god, this isn’t just pushing me through the doors of the set, this isn’t just saying fu**ing MTA under your breath, this is serious! They’re trying to lose me my job.’”
Charles said she was told who the castmates were but wouldn’t reveal them to news.com.au, simply saying they no longer appear on Neighbours.
“For me, Neighbours started to feel a bit like high school, a bit like Mean Girls,” Charles said. “When I was making the decision to leave (in 1999) … mostly because I’d just done a movie and I thought it was best to pursue a movie career, I did think, ‘well at least I don’t have to face the bitches anymore!’”
Nicola Charles reacts to recent claims on racism on Neighbours set
Neighbours stars Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt recently detailed shocking racist incidents they say they experienced on the set of the iconic show.
Clanton shared a lengthy post on Instagram revealing she has sought counselling following her time on the “highly problematic” show.
The Wongatha, Yamatji and Noongar, Gitja woman wrote: “Struggling to post anything positive about the months I endured on @neighbours after multiple racist traumas and navigating ongoing counselling from this highly problematic show. It’s been lonely, triggering and traumatising to work in such a culturally unsafe space.”
When asked what she thought of the claims, Charles told news.com.au: “The machine of Neighbours … I know absolutely is accepting of everything. There’s no racism, there’s no homophobia, nothing, that I’ve experienced. They promote all walks of life. But I haven’t been on the show since 2016 so I can’t speak to someone else’s experience.”
Sarah’s affair with Karl
Charles also spoke to news.com.au about her character’s scandalous affair with Dr Karl, a storyline that provoked a strong reaction from fans.
“The kiss between Karl and Sarah … it only took 20 minutes to film and it has coloured my life ever since,” she said. “It’s defined who I am as an actress but it also seems to have defined who I am in real life as Nicola Charles.
“I talk in the book, Soap Star, about how particularly in the UK I found with fans that they did find it quite difficult to differentiate between me and the character. I was on the receiving end of quite a lot of insults when I was out shopping. They’d yell. ‘Leave Susan alone!’ Someone even spat on my foot.
“On the one hand, I felt really good as a performer because I thought I must have done such a great job because these people absolutely believed I was Sarah Beaumont. And on the other hand I was a bit concerned, firstly that they couldn’t differentiate between me and the character, but also that Sarah was single when the affair took place and Karl was the married one and yet once again it was the female who was copping the flak for it.
“He’s still squeaky clean, he’s teflon Karl, he gets away with anything!”
Nicola Charles’ book Soap Star will be released this Friday on 27,000 sites worldwide including Amazon, Dymocks and Booktopia. You can follow her on Twitter here.