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The Girl We Love To Hate

By Colin Irwin

Star Talk, Teletext - May 24, 2001

Every time she appears on screen you want to boo and hiss and throw rotten tomatoes at the telly.

She's a liar and a troublemaker who's already got that nice Mrs Kennedy suspended from her job as head teacher after complaining she'd struck her.

What will the evil Jess do next in Neighbours? And can Elisha Gazdowicz, the 19-year-old actress who plays her, take the pressure? We find out...

"It's amazing," says Elisha Gazdowicz. "I landed in the UK after a 40-hour flight from Australia and this woman started yelling at me.

"She just started going on about how horrible I was...I had no idea you took Neighbours so seriously here!"

It's obviously scary stuff playing bad girl Jess. "Yeah, I dare not go on a train on my own and I try to keep a low profile."

She's tried to bomb her school, hit her teacher and got her suspended, and made a play for every boy in Ramsay Street. Jess isn't a nice girl...

"She's a juicy character, a real vixen!" laughs Elisha Gazdowicz, the 19-year-old actress who plays her.

"You haven't seen it yet but she does get nicer. She falls in love..." Uh oh. Not with Tad? ", I mean, you will just have to wait and see, ha!"

Landing the part of Jess in Neighbours was Elisha Gazdowicz's first professional role.

"I did acting classes, then I went to uni and did applied science but decided I wanted to act and got an agent. Two weeks later I got the role of Jess."

She had a dramatic year in Neighbours that included the death of Madge ("it was sad, we were all choked up") before moving on to the drama Blue Heelers.

After a year as Neighbours' bad girl Jess, Elisha Gazdowicz is trying her luck in the UK.

"I got homesick before I even reached the airport," says Elisha, who left three younger brothers back home in Melbourne.

"I enjoyed Neighbours and it was great training but I wanted to get more experiences and do stage and film work, as well as TV."

Elisha Gazdowicz says her most difficult scene in Neighbours was when she had to punch teacher Susan Kennedy.

"It was really tough to build up the anger. Jackie, who plays Susan, is so tiny I was afraid of hurting her.

"But she was great. She told me to forget about anything else and just be Jess and go for it. In the end it was great. They're a great team. I really miss Jonathan who plays Tad"

After quitting Neighbours, Elisha Gazdowicz - "very definitely single, guys" - has moved to Britain.

She's joining a touring production of Shakespeare's Macbeth and The Taming Of The Shrew and is also lining up her first movie role in South Africa.

Any plans to make a record? "That's the No 1 question people ask me! I can sing but there'll be no records - I love acting too much." Phew, what a relief.