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Brooke Satchwell article

Shock for Brooke shortly after joining cast...

Struck Down By Sudden Illness

The Weekly News February 28th 1998

When elfin-faced Brooke Satchwell joined the Neighbours' cast, she knew she'd become the envy of most teenage girls. As newcomer Anne Wilkinson, she'd be playing Billy Kennedy's first serious girlfriend.

Brooke, 17, was understandably nervous. After all, it was her first big acting job and she'd be joining a well established and experienced cast.

Even more frightening was the realisation that she'd have to do romantic love scenes with heart-throb actor Jesse Spencer, who plays Billy.

New girl

"I was terrified," said Brooke. "I've never really had a proper boyfriend in real life and here I was, about to do kissing scenes with a guy I'd never met and who's regarded as a major pin-up. No wonder I had butterflies."

Brooke couldn't have forseen it, but fate was about to step in and save her from embarrassment. For within weeks of doing her first scenes as the new girl in Ramsay Street, she was struck down by glandular fever.

She wasn't ill enough to stop work altogether, but the storylines had to be hastily rewritten so that she wouldn't pass the infection to Jesse.

"Luckily, the fever only made me feel tired most of the time, so I only needed to have a bit of time off here and there," said Brooke.

"But the writers had to postpone any kissing scenes until I was better, which saved me from having to kiss Jesse when I barely knew him. I didn't like being ill, but at the same time I breathed a sign of relief.


"When we finally did a proper kiss, Jesse and I knew each other really well, so it seemed perfectly natural. I felt really comfortable about it.

"In fact, we were so relaxed Jesse and I were able to have a giggle about it."

Was the kiss worth waiting for? "All the girls who fancy Jesse shouldn't get too jealous," Brooke said with a grin. "Believe me when you do a kiss for the cameras, it's too technical to feel real!"

Rumours that the on-screen relationship has spilled over into real life started when Brooke and Jesse both got matching his-and-hers navel rings.

But Brooke said that was just a coincidence. "When I wanted to get my belly button pierced, I got cold feet so Jesse came along to lend moral support," she said. "After I had mine done, he decided to have a navel ring, too.

"I can understand why people keep getting the wrong idea because we do have a lot in common and you'll often see us together.

"We have the same sense of humour and we make each other laugh. But we're not dating. Besides, I know all Jesse's bad habits! And both of us believe it's not a good idea to go out with a work colleague."

Brooke's mum Jane is a teacher and dad Andrew a real estate agent. She has an 11-year-old sister Catherine and grew up in the countryside outside Melbourne.

Like many young actors, she did her first professional work in TV commercials.

She recalled, "When I was 14, I did a TV commercial for a kids' clothing company, but there were so many people involved you couldn't make me out in the crowd.


"It didn't matter to me because I had such a great time filming.

"All day, they fed you on sandwiched, chips and chocolate! I decided if this was what work was about, I'd like more!"

With three hours' drive to and from her home to the Neighbours' set to face each day, Brooke sometimes has to leave at 4am and doesn't get back until 10pm. Because she's missing out on so much school, she's given lesson during breaks in filming by the show's tutor in a specially-equipped schoolroom at the studio.

"Working so hard means I have virtually no social life, because I save weekends just to relax," said Brooke.

"But so far, I'm managing to juggle my work and my school work without falling behind the rest of the kids in my class.

"I hardly ever manage actually to go to school these days, but I keep in touch with my teachers by fax and phone. Fingers crossed, the system's working okay so far!"

But it wasn't easy at first. "Everyone in the cast's so experienced and talented, I felt really self-conscious at the beginning," said Brooke.


"There were a few times when I burst into tears because I didn't think I was doing well enough.

"Ailsa Piper, who plays my mother Ruth, gave me a lot of help and put me at my ease. Jesse's been great and so has Andrew Bibby, who plays my brother Lance. Now, I'm having a marvellous time."

But just to be on the safe side, Brooke's being particularly careful about her health.

"Getting glandular fever gave me a scare," she said.

"Now I'm on a really healthy diet, I see a naturopath and I make sure that when I'm not working, I get plenty of rest."