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 later 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.