“People would say ‘He’s a soap star, he’s not really an actor.'”

When Bruce Samazan played police constable Max Simmons in E-Street from 1990 – 1993 he was a superstar.

Magazine covers, nightclubs, shopping centres, fan mail. It took him just 18 months to go from a six week crash course in acting to winning a Silver Logie as the Most Popular Actor on Australian television.

He would go on to success in Neighbours and laterĀ Home and Away.

But after a decade of popularity, Samazan found he had been stereotyped and struggled to get work. Soap had become a stigma.

“I wish I’d had the chance to go to WAAPA or NIDA because of the credibility that gives you as an actor,” he tells TV Tonight.

“People would say ‘He’s a soap star, he’s not really an actor and he doesn’t really have any training.’

“In the 90s it was the elephant in the room. People wouldn’t necessarily be honest with me.

“I was asking for feedback from my agent and they would say ‘The producer thought you were a little bit too commercial.’ I just thought if that’s really the feedback, I needed to start thinking about another career.”

“I should actually think about getting some sort career that I could fall back on”

Samazan pursued a career in the real estate business in Helensburgh before 11 years in digital marketing with realestate.com.au. He is now based in Noosa working for downsizing.com which specialises in retirement villages.

“I had to say to myself, ‘I should actually think about getting some sort career that I could fall back on.’ Real estate proved to be a good choice.”

At the height of his career Samazan was in demand, even releasing a rap single (“One of A Kind -and that’s exactly what it is!”). He admits to partying until dawn regularly at Rogues nightclub on Oxford Street in the 1990s. He was living the life as an E-Street heartthrob.

“One time we did an E-Street cast event at Darling Harbour there was 10,000 people”

“I had just turned 19 and I was being flown around the country doing night club appearances, shopping centres. I remember one time we did an E-Street cast event at Darling Harbour and there was 10,000 people on the dockside. We were there for six hours signing autographs,” he recalls.

“Some shopping centre appearances had to be shut down because people were potentially going to fall off the balconies.

“I would travel with two security guys, which Channel 10 funded, who ended up becoming my very good friends.

“But it wasn’t just the attention I was getting from the girls, there would always be their (angry) boyfriends….”

“I’d have pigeon holes full of fan mail”

Yet Samazan, now 49, insists he was still a hard-worker, devoting much time to responding to thousands of fans.

“I’d have pigeon holes full of fan mail, and I would spend hours signing fan cards.

“I was happy to stay back that extra half an hour to try and sign every single possible autograph, if possible. I think that helped my personal marketing, in regards to getting the popularity that I did, as well as through the character.”

When E-Street was axed in 1993 viewers never got a resolution to a wedding proposal Max made to Bonnie (Melissa Bell) but he soon moved to Neighbours for a two year role as chef Mark Gottlieb. Friends on and off screen, both would reunite in Ramsay Street, when Bell returned as Lucy Robinson. But he was paired largely with Annalise Hartman (Kimberley Davies),

“He was a bit of a playboy,” Samazan continues. “At one stage he was even having a little fling with Annalise’s sister. It was all a bit weird. But that’s what happens in this world!”

Mark would eventually be sent off to soap’s equivalent to ’90s lifestlye show, Healthy, Wealthy & Wise.

Fun, Fit and Food!” he laughs. “So basically, he left to become a celebrity chef. He moved to Sydney and apparently did that quite successfully.”

Having made his mark in Erinsborough, Samazan was repeatedly invited to make guest returns but commitments prevented. Until the show’s 35th anniversary celebrations.

As luck would have it Melissa Bell is also back.

“This year the stars aligned, which is pretty exciting,” he explains.

“The moment they see each other sparks start flying”

“Mark bumps into Lucy Robinson who’s in town from the US, organising a big wedding expo and a Mardi Gras event at Lassiters. The moment they see each other sparks start flying.

“One thing leads to another and there’s a bit of courting going on to the point that they get it on.”

Trivia addicts may finally get some closure to unfinished soapie business.

“I must admit that I had a few butterflies”

Samazan’s three week stint marks his first return to Neighbours in over 25 years, but he’s hoping it may spark a second career phase. He’s open to offers.

“The first day I arrived it was a bit surreal,” he recalls.

“I must admit that I had a few butterflies, because I haven’t worked for quite some time. But once I knocked the first one off, it was ‘You know what you’re doing!’

“Now I’m just going to see what happens. I’m going back to my beautiful little part of the world to see my beautiful family and just resume my everyday normal activities.

“I’ve been in a holding pattern for for quite some time and I’m curious, as are probably some other people, to see what sort of reaction it gets.”

Bruce Samazan returns to Neighbours 6:30pm Thursday February 27 on 10 Peach.

10 Comments:

  1. I don’t usually watch Neighbours, but I came across some encore eps on the weekend, and had a look for old times sake. I was very disappointed with Annie Jones’s acting in a scene with a character I’m not familiar with. They were sitting in a cafe or pub, and honestly the dialogue and delivery reminded me of one of those Funeral/Life Insurance ads. Just woeful !!!

  2. As a massive fan of nostalgia, I’m loving ‘Neighbours’ at the moment. I still get a kick out of Rebekah Elmaloglou all grown up. I’ve mentioned before, but gee it would be great for the networks to replay a lot of their back catalogue of Aussie dramas, even if it’s on their digital channels. ‘Family & Friends’, ‘E Street’, ‘Pacific Drive’, ‘Paradise Beach’ even re-runs of old ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home & Away’ would be great.

    • Yes, its been really well written how they have integrated the returning characters with the regular cast. Seeing Rebekah and Melissa together, reminded me that they were both guest stars on Paradise Beach, brought in to improve it’s ratings. And seeing Bruce Samazan again, wow. He was such a cutie back in the day, now he’s just an ordinary Joe, but it happens to a lot of us.

  3. Get him back on Neighbours with Mel Bell as well if she is open to it, even in recurring guest roles if they have other commitments. They would make a great team together!

  4. I worked in a theatre bar in the late 90’s and Bruce was in a play where he was required to run through the audience in his underwear. I had to open the door for him. It was a good night.

    Or it may have been a fever dream.

    • Would have been fun. I used to do voiceovers for male stripper shows, and Jamie Durie was one of them, before the Manpower days. I had to run on stage when he was finished and gather up all his discarded pieces of clothing ?

    • I remember meeting Bruce in Gladstone Qld in late 1990s etc when he was doing a comedy play and I think it may of being same play. I idolised him and he was awesome to meet. Him and many tv actors toured in plays especially comedies at that time.

  5. In the 1980s there was a points system operating and each network had to have a major Australian drama in prime time. In 1988 TEN’s was Richmond Hill, a police drama which never took off. It was axed and in 1989 E-Street was commissioned. The marketing of Bruce Samazan was similar to the way TEN marketed Kylie Minogue when they bought Neighbours from Seven. There was a lot of knocking of Bruce, but like the way that there was a backlash against Kylie then a backlash against the backlash and she became popular again, so too did Bruce survive in the industry. It was a great period for TEN. They had The Simpsons and the other FOX shows as well as E-Street. You could argue that it was television’s last hurrah before the Internet came along.

  6. E Street was my fav soap from that era. An had a huge crush on Bruce?. I remember the serial killer story line was a ripper and all the music from the show!

  7. This is going back quite a while, but I recall seeing him on a short stint of an actual lifestyle program, possibly Bright Ideas. I might be wrong as my memory is vague, but it wouldn’t have been the Neighbours equivalent that I’m thinking of.

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