James's gay pride for Neighbours

James Mason feels honoured to be the first regular character in Neighbours who is out and proud, and reveals what could be in store for Chris Pappas.

James Mason as Chris Pappas in Neighbours

James Mason is delighted his character Chris Pappas has been made a full-time member of the Neighbours cast. As the first prominent gay character on Ramsay Street he is proud to be flying the rainbow flag for Australia's gay community, and tells us what might be in store for Chris on the show.

How do you feel about becoming a full-time cast member?

I love it. The more time I spend on Neighbours, the more I feel part of the show. And I'm learning all the time. The thing about this industry is it's very hard to find stable work, so to have stability, I'm extremely grateful.

Are we going to see any romance for Chris?

I know the writers do have that on their radar; we'll just have to wait and see.

Last time we interviewed you, you said the early time slot meant there were restrictions about portraying certain things on the show when it comes to romance. Is this frustrating?

Not at all. I knew when I signed on that Neighbours is a programme that the whole family, all ages, can sit down and watch together. I think the writers do a great job in pushing the boundaries but still maintain that family element. The fact there is a gay character as part of the regular cast is a major achievement.

Your character is the first prominent male gay character in Neighbours' 25-year history. What kind of a reception have you had from fans? Has it been all positive?

Yes, absolutely. I've had a lot of mail from people who have had similar experiences and really appreciating what the show is doing. It seems to have hit a chord with a lot of viewers.

What's interesting is that a lot of feedback has been about the fact the character's coming out wasn't a "warm and fuzzy" experience, that there were rough spots. They appreciated the authenticity of the story, and I think that comes from the character and storylines being based on other people's real life experiences.

What's the weirdest piece of fan mail you've had and strangest thing a fan has said to you on the street?

Nothing really weird, just the usually request for photos. People will approach you anywhere which sometimes that can be a little embarrassing.

What kind of research have you done into the portrayal of Chris?

Lots of discussion with the writers, who based the character on real-life experiences, sometimes their own. Also people I know who have been through this themselves.

How do you feel about all the people who are leaving Neighbours at the moment, like Janet Andrewartha and Scott McGregor?

You never like to see someone leave, but you know it's to go onto other projects and do different things. And I guess the upside of someone leaving is that there will always be someone new joining.

Who was hardest to say goodbye to?

To be honest, it's not really that hard because you know you're going to see them again either socially or on other projects.

Who do you get on with best on the show?

I can't really single out one person as we all get along, which is what's so great about Neighbours.

Who has been the most helpful cast member to you?

Gee, everyone is very supportive. The cast members that have been in the industry the longest like Stefan, Alan, Jackie, Scott and Ryan are always very generous with their time and advice. I've learnt so much just from them.

What's been your funniest moment on set?

I had to dance in a scene to no music and without a rhythm to follow. I don't know what I was doing, but it looked ridiculous, and it seems to be the one episode most of my friends managed to watch.