Mischa Barton found more than good friends filming Neighbours

“We’ve had quite a bit of fun!”
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She may be the last person anyone expected to appear on Neighbours, but that’s just what makes the casting of Mischa Barton a genius move for the revived Australian soap opera, which returns to screens on September 18. 

The British-born actress has generated plenty of publicity for the series, which was cancelled by Ten after 37 years on air in 2022, only to be resurrected through a co-production deal with Amazon.  

The arrival of the international star on Ramsay Street in the guest role of Reece Sinclair – and the attention she has received as a result – has also been embraced by Neighbours’ returning cast and crew.

Watch Below: Neighbours 2023 Trailer

“The thing I enjoy most about the show is the sense of family around in the people who have been doing it for so long, which is really nice,” the 37-year-old tells WHO

“Everybody has been really welcoming in that sense and we’ve had quite a bit of fun making it. I think it’s very exciting that it is getting started back up in this way.”

Attracting attention is nothing new for Barton, who has been acting since the age of 8 and achieved global fame at 17 thanks to her role as Marissa Cooper in the teen drama juggernaut The O.C.

The intense scrutiny she received thanks to The O.C. proved to be difficult for Barton to handle and her character was killed off in the show’s third season after the actress wanted out.

The British-born actress has generated plenty of publicity for the series. (Credit: Prime Video/Fremantle)

“I was 17 or 18 and it was a very specific kind of fame,” Barton recently recalled to Stellar magazine. “Most actors, they can work their whole lives and have a very normal level of notoriety or fame. But, for some reason, The O.C. was just one of those things. It was kind of an uncontrollable beast.”

In the wake of that star-making experience, Barton made choices that took her out of the glare of the spotlight. She has continued to act, but mostly in independent and left-of-centre films and in small TV roles. Recently, she has been dabbling in reality TV as a contestant on the US version of Dancing with the Stars and as cast member of The Hills: New Beginnings. 

“I don’t really live in LA anymore, so I don’t put myself under that constant scrutiny and pressure,” she told Stellar. “I’ll only dip into [the Hollywood scene] when I feel like it’s healthy and something I want to do.”

Mischa shot to stardom as Marissa Cooper The O.C. (Credit: Getty)

A trip to Australia to work on the beloved soap certainly fit in with that approach to her career – and Barton found the experience refreshing.

“[Filming on Neighbours] is slightly different to the way we do it in New York and LA,” she tells WHO. “The schedules are structured very different for the most part. In Australia, it seems there are less working hours in general, even though this is an extremely busy show and there is a lot of grind. For the most part, Australians work more limited hours. I’m used to pretty crazy schedules over in the US.”

Another thing Barton had to get used to on the Neighbours set: the slang.“They come up regularly on set,” she says about local expressions. “Sayings that I just don’t know but have to change slightly because my character is American. But then there are some things that are said to me and I’m just like, ‘What does that mean?!’ It happens all of the time; it’s very funny.”

Barton found the experience refreshing. (Credit: Prime Video/Fremantle)

That said, Barton is not a complete stranger to Australia, having visited numerous times in the past.

“I have spent a bit of time here prior to this year – the first movie I did here, I was like 15 years old,” she recalls. “The movie was called A Ring of Endless Light and it was on the Gold Coast for the Disney Channel. My character could talk to dolphins, which was very funny and sweet. We filmed at SeaWorld and in the ocean, which was fun. I’ve been back for many things – I’ve done the outback, I like to go to Sydney quite a bit and I have friends in Melbourne.”

Being able to connect with those friends was part of the appeal of her stint on Neighbours. And given how much she enjoyed working on the soap, Barton hasn’t ruled out a return to the show at some point. After all, those good Neighbours castmates have now also become good friends.

Neighbours returns on Mon., Sep. 18 at 4.30pm on Ten

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