|Portrayed by||Ariel Kaplan|
|First appearance||20 May 2013|
|Introduced by||Richard Jasek|
Garden nursery worker
|Home||22 Ramsay Street|
Imogen Willis is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Ariel Kaplan. The actress was cast in the role after a quick process, in which she auditioned once and attended a screen test. She began filming her first scenes in early February 2013. Kaplan's character and her family were created and introduced to Neighbours, as part of an ongoing overhaul of the show's cast and renewed focus on family units within the show. She made her first screen appearance during "Episode 6646", which was first broadcast on 20 May 2013.
Imogen is portrayed as being "intelligent", "creative" and "confident". Kaplan thought her character was a good role model for female viewers because she does not feel she has to impress anyone. Imogen often tried to hide her insecurities and resentment at being sidelined by her family due to her brother's swimming career. Due to a lack of attention, Imogen developed bulimia nervosa. The storyline was the first to portray the issues of eating disorders in Neighbours for six years. Both Kaplan and the producers worked closely with the Butterfly Foundation during their research. Imogen's other storylines have often revolved around her on-off relationship with neighbour Mason Turner (Taylor Glockner).
Creation and casting
On 7 February 2013, it was announced that the four-strong Willis family would be introduced to Neighbours, as part of an ongoing overhaul of the show's cast and renewed focus on family units. News of the Willis family's introduction came shortly after producers decided to also bring in the five-strong Turner family. Executive producer Richard Jasek commented "As viewers will find out shortly, the Turners are a family of secrets, and the unique backstory of the Willis family is just as compelling." The character of Brad Willis (Kip Gamblin) was reintroduced to the show, along with his wife Terese (Rebekah Elmaloglou) and two children Josh (Harley Bonner) and Imogen.
Actress Ariel Kaplan was cast as Josh's twin sister Imogen following an audition process. Kaplan called the process one of the quickest that she had attended. She auditioned once and was then asked to do a screen test with Bonner, Elmaloglou, and Gamblin to see if they had the right "family dynamic". Kaplan said that she and the other actors bonded well and a few days later, while she was studying at the 16th Street Actors Studio, her agent called to tell her she had won the role. She and the other actors began filming their first scenes two weeks after the family's casting announcement. Kaplan made her first screen appearance as Imogen on 20 May 2013.
Imogen has been described as being "beautiful, intelligent and creative" by a writer for the serial's website. They asserted that Imogen often hid her insecurities from her family and resented the fact that she was sidelined because of Josh's swimming career. Comparing the two siblings, Gamblin said Imogen was definitely not sporty like Josh. He called her academic, nerdy and quirky. He later stated that Imogen had always been the "easier" child to parent, as she is "an A-grade student, she's intelligent, she's smart". Kaplan believed Imogen was a good role model for younger female viewers, saying "I love the character, she is outwardly confident and very comfortable in her own skin, and doesn't feel she has to impress anyone by doing things she might regret." Bonner observed that Josh and Imogen had a "love-hate" relationship, explaining "It's never that intense that we hate each other, but Imogen really likes to niggle him and tell him how things should be done."
Imogen befriended Amber Turner (Jenna Rosenow) shortly after her arrival. Rosenow liked having another actress playing a 16-year-old girl on-set, and said that it helped her and Kaplan to get back into the "teenage stage". A few months after her introduction, Kaplan decided to change her image and had her long hair cut short. The Neighbours wardrobe department took the opportunity to freshen up Imogen's style, as Kaplan's long hair had often covered up Imogen's outfits. Imogen was given a more edgy look and Kaplan commented that the wardrobe team were also working on a monochrome look for the character. In November 2013, Bonner thought that the revelation of Imogen's eating disorder had changed the Willis family dynamic. He also believed that Imogen was not neglected because the family wanted to help Josh achieve his goal. He continued "If Imogen had the goal, they would be putting in just as much effort with her. It wasn't neglect."
A few months after her arrival on-screen, it emerged that Imogen was suffering from bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder that is characterised by binge eating and purging. Imogen's storyline was the first to portray the issues of eating disorders in the show for six years, with the last one featuring male character Ringo Brown (Sam Clark). Kaplan was told about the storyline a couple of months ahead of filming and in order to do it justice, she began researching the condition. She commented "It's such an important issue that people are dealing with more and more these days. I contacted an organisation over here called the Butterfly Foundation, which is a support network for people with eating disorders. They helped with the scripts and gave me plenty of information." Kaplan thought it was an honour to be given the storyline. The producers also worked closely with the Butterfly Foundation to develop the scripts and made sure they portrayed an accurate representation of the condition. The foundation's CEO, Christine Morgan, stated that they were "grateful" for the way the producers developed the storyline and hoped it would increase awareness of eating disorders.
Kaplan explained that Imogen had been keeping her eating disorder a secret from her family and that it stemmed from a lack of attention, as she was often overshadowed by her brother's swimming career. Imogen school principal Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburne) was the one who first noticed Imogen's condition, after seeing the family dynamic and how "disregarded" Imogen was. When Susan realised that Imogen had eaten a whole box of cupcakes, she recognised the signs and tried to find out if Imogen had an eating disorder. Although Imogen denied she had a problem with food, Susan became more suspicious. Once Imogen was alone, she began binge eating. Kaplan told Jackie Brygel from TV Week, "Imogen is a smart girl, so she's scared to be seen as vulnerable and weak. Having an eating disorder scares her. So, the immediate reaction is to deny it. It's a defence mechanism." The actress pointed out that for Imogen, it was not "a superficial thing", but actually about control.
The truth about Imogen's eating disorder was revealed when her father found her collapsed in the garden and coughing up blood. After she was rushed to the hospital, Imogen's parents were informed that she had a ruptured oesophagus, caused by excessive vomiting. Doctor Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher) then informed them that Imogen had bulimia. Kaplan said it was hard for Imogen to accept that her secret was out and her parent's reaction was just added pressure. Trying to help Imogen, Terese opened up to her about the eating disorder she suffered as a teenager. Kaplan called the moment "really powerful" and thought it would bring Imogen and Terese closer together, as well as help Imogen to come to terms with her own condition.
Imogen briefly dated her neighbour Mason Turner (Taylor Glockner), following the end of his relationship with her teacher Kate Ramsay (Ashleigh Brewer). Imogen used her fledging romance with Mason to get her family to notice her. She tried to "stir up some controversy" by kissing Mason in front of her mother, who did not notice them. However, they were spotted by Josh instead, who tried to warn Mason off. While Imogen ignored her brother's disapproval of her relationship, she quickly realised Mason still had feelings for Kate and not wanting to be second best, Imogen ended their brief romance. Glockner said Imogen was just a distraction for Mason and even though he thought she was "a pretty cool girl" and very self-assured, he was not over Kate. A few months later, Imogen continued to harbour a crush on Mason and her friend, Amber (Jenna Rosenow), encouraged her to tell him. Kaplan explained that Imogen was not one to show her vulnerability, but she got the courage to open up to Mason about her feelings for him.
Before she could speak with Mason, Imogen caught him kissing Rhiannon Bates (Teressa Liane). Kaplan said "Imogen is heartbroken. She feels as if she is always an afterthought to Mason. It makes her feel like she's never good enough." After having her confidence knocked, Imogen skipped her counselling session and considered binge eating. Kaplan commented that binging seemed like the only option to Imogen when she felt inadequate. In January 2014, Isaac Woods (Josh Burton), a new love interest for Imogen, was introduced to the show. Isaac was "handsome, charming and a university law student". Kaplan stated that Imogen liked Isaac because he was older and made her feel more mature. They were both "a bit nerdy" and had an interest in the law. While Isaac and Imogen bonded over shared interests, they were spotted by a jealous Mason at the lake.
Mason told Isaac that Imogen was still in high school, something that she had been keeping quiet. However, Isaac was not bothered by Imogen's age, causing Mason to confess to Imogen that he wanted to be with her. Imogen was "deeply flattered" by Mason's declaration, but was wary about reuniting with him. Kaplan commented "Imogen's incredibly happy that he feels this way, but she's also scared because she feels Kate will always be in the background." Mason tried to win Imogen over by appearing more intellectual, which Kaplan said was fun to film. However, Imogen was not impressed and believed Mason was only doing it, so she would break up with Isaac. Kaplan told an Inside Soap reporter that there would be a rough road ahead for Imogen and Mason when a "major crisis" impacts on their families. Mason and Imogen began a secret romance and Kaplan said that there was "something really fun" about their relationship, adding that the fact it was forbidden was enticing.
Imogen moves to Erinsborough with her family, when her mother becomes manager of Lassiter's Hotel. Imogen befriends Amber and tries to discourage her crush on Josh. Imogen develops a crush of her own on Amber's older brother, Mason. They go out on a date, but Imogen realises Mason still has feelings for Kate Ramsay and she breaks up with him. Feeling sidelined by her family, Imogen buys a car, as a small act of rebellion. Mason offers to fix the car, which Imogen names Hermione, in exchange for joint ownership. Imogen continues to feel ignored by her parents and Susan Kennedy notices that Imogen has developed unhealthy eating habits as a coping mechanism. Imogen denies this, but at home she begins binge eating. Imogen finds Robbo Slade (Aaron Jakubenko) unconscious, after he was involved in a hit-and-run. She calls an ambulance and flees the scene. Imogen later learns her car was used in the hit-and-run and she and Mason try to cover it up. When Robbo dies and Imogen receives a bad grade at school, the stress becomes too much and she collapses. Brad finds her coughing up blood and she is rushed to hospital, where it emerges that she has an inflamed oesophagus from excessive vomiting. Imogen is diagnosed with bulimia.
Terese tries to get Imogen to open up to her, by revealing her own struggles with an eating disorder. Terese later finds Imogen binge eating and comforts her daughter when she breaks down. Imogen begins attending counselling sessions. While undergoing work experience at Toadfish Rebecchi's (Ryan Moloney) law office, Imogen learns a client, Eric Edwards (Paul O'Brien), is suing Brad over an injury he sustained at the gym. Imogen goes through Eric's file and Facebook page, where she learns that Eric is lying about when he got his injury. Toadie fires Imogen for breaching client confidentiality. Imogen develops feelings for Mason, but she is heartbroken when she sees him kissing Rhiannon Bates. She almost suffers a binging relapse, but Terese catches her in time. Imogen becomes school captain and her teacher Gemma Reeves (Kathryn Beck) threatens to reveal Imogen's bulimia secret, but Imogen tells her classmates herself. Imogen befriends Isaac Woods when she finds he is squatting at Number 24. They grow closer, causing Mason to declare his feelings for Imogen. Imogen is upset when Isaac is later arrested and he insults her. Josh is injured in an abseiling accident and while Brad blames Mason, Imogen supports him and they date in secret.
Imogen helps clear Mason's name and her family find out about their relationship. Imogen breaks up with Mason when she realises she is not as attracted to him as she had first thought. Imogen is shocked to discover she has a secret half-sister and she is initially angry with her father, but she accepts that Brad was unaware that the child existed and supports him when he begins searching for his daughter. After Kate dies, Imogen brings food to Kate's partner, Mark Brennan (Scott McGregor). When Imogen goes to Mark's home unannounced, she is briefly held hostage by Stephen Montague (Damian Hill), but Mark protects her and tackles Montague. Imogen meets Daniel Robinson (Tim Phillipps) and becomes frustrated when he refuses to stop camping at Lassiter's Lake. Imogen continues to be annoyed by Daniel, but later wonders if he has feelings for her. Mark realises Imogen has a crush on him and he tells her that nothing will happen between them. Imogen meets Ethan Smith (Matthew Little) and kisses him. When Imogen skips school to meet up with Ethan, Susan strips her of the school captaincy. Imogen ends her friendship with Amber, when Amber cheats on Josh with Daniel.
Josh and Imogen learn Paige Novak (Olympia Valance) is their half-sister and Imogen is initially okay with the revelation, until Amber shows her Paige's sketch book, which is full of insulting descriptions about her family. Tensions between Imogen and Amber do not improve and they get into a scrag fight. Josh later questions whether Imogen has feelings for Daniel, which she denies. Imogen enters a local story slam and verbally attacks Amber. She later apologises for being mean, but tells Amber that they cannot be friends, and she asks Amber to sell her share of Hermione to her.
Shortly after her introduction, Jackie Brygel and Thomas Mitchell from TV Week commented "Imogen Willis has largely flown under the radar since her family arrived in Erinsborough." Susan Hill from the Daily Star said that Imogen was "pretty". While Digital Spy's Daniel Kilkelly branded her a "stressed-out schoolgirl". While a writer for the Daily Record called Imogen a "troubled teen". A Sunday Mail reporter observed that there was tension between Imogen and Josh and stated "It seems that Imogen just wants attention from their father". A columnist for the TVTimes wrote, "When you're as slim and gorgeous as Imogen, you can have your cake and eat it, but a whole cake?" During a review of the best bits from the soaps in 2013, a writer for Inside Soap pointed out September was a bad month for Imogen when she was diagnosed with bulimia.
A TV Week columnist branded Imogen and Mason "a modern-day Romeo and Juliet." Ben Pobjie, writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, called Imogen "the Walking Aneurysm" and observed that "she just enjoys being angry at people." Pobjie later dedicated a review to Imogen skipping school and losing the captaincy, calling it "the 6.30 timeslot's equivalent of Girls Gone Wild". He also wondered, "Will Imogen's head literally explode from all the stress and uptight facial expressions?" Larissa Dubecki, from the same newspaper, said Imogen had "officially become Erinsborough High's most annoying ex-school captain".
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- Imogen Willis at the Official AU Neighbours website
- Imogen Willis at the Official UK Neighbours website