|Portrayed by||Bruce Samazan|
|First appearance||13 August 1993|
|Last appearance||29 November 1995|
|Introduced by||Alan Coleman|
|Occupation||Head chef at Lassiter's Hotel (1993–95)
Owner of The Holy Roll (1995)
Mark Gottlieb is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Bruce Samazan. He made his first screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 13 August 1993. He departed on 29 November 1995.
Actor Bruce Samazan joined the cast of Neighbours as Mark, shortly after the cancellation of rival soap E Street in which he starred as Max Simmons. Samazan told Shelli-Anne Couch of The Sydney Morning Herald that he hoped a stint on Neighbours would help him further his aspirations of becoming a popular Australian actor. Samazan initially signed a six month contract, but he wanted to extend it to make it a year and then decide whether he would continue in the role or look for a new acting job. Joining Neighbours meant Samazan had to relocate to Melbourne from Sydney for filming.
Speaking to Brett Thomas from The Sun-Herald, Samazan admitted that he was "a little bit rusty" because he had not worked for two months after E Street, but thought it was a good thing as the nerves helped him to get his lines right. He continued, "That's the best way to get rid of cobwebs. I'm almost nervous and that makes for a better performance because you're really thinking – you're thinking all the time. It makes it more of a challenge when you've got to adjust to a new situation." Samazan made his debut screen appearance on 13 August 1993.
Introduction and characterisation
Upon his introduction, Mark assumed a French persona as part of a ruse. Samazan had to act with a French accent that he developed with the help of real life experiences. He told Thomas, "A lot of the accent is from just listening to my father – he has such a rich French accent, even after 15 years of living here and people still have trouble understanding him. So I know how a Frenchman is going to say an English word." It was not long before Mark's real identity was revealed and it emerged that he had come to Erinsborough to reconcile with his brother Stephen (Lochie Daddo). The brothers had fallen out when Mark spiked Stephen's drink, so he was incapable of driving himself and his fiancee Libby home. Libby took a taxi instead, but it crashed and Libby was killed. Stephen blamed Mark for causing Libby's death. While talking about their days living with their parents in a hippy commune, where Mark was called Cosmic, the brothers realised that they had lots in common and finally made up.
Samazan had to change his appearance for the role to distinguish Mark from his E Street character. Mark wore "a trendy and expensive European wardrobe" and a Caesar cut, which initially shocked Samazan. He called the look "very old European", but pointed out the short hair was appropriate for Mark's job as a chef. Thomas thought Samazan might have been reluctant to change his look and the actor admitted that it had to be done, as he did not want viewers to confuse Mark with Max. An Inside Soap columnist described Mark as being "down-to-earth" and keen to settle down. He resented his parents for his upbringing and their "backwards ways". After moving into Number 30 Ramsay Street, Mark took over the lease of the Coffee Shop and ran a successful business.
Relationship with Annalise Hartman
Mark soon found himself torn between two women – Gaby Willis (Rachel Blakely) and Annalise Hartman (Kimberley Davies). Mark felt that he had a lot to offer Annalise and that was why he fell for her over Gaby, who was looking for a long-term relationship. Mark saw past Annalise's flirty persona and fell in love with her. Samazan said Mark loved the attention he got from both women, especially when they argued over him. Samazan told Mary Fletcher from Woman's Own, "It was great for Mark's ego – and it didn't do mine any harm either!" Mark comforted Annalise when her affair with her boss ended and they grew closer when Mark learned more about Annalise's upbringing. Samazan explained "Her own mother was a gold-digger who brought her up to think of men as paycheques. When Mark finds out, he starts to think differently about her and they end up setting up home together." Samazan added that because Neighbours was a family show, there would not be any actual sex scenes between Mark and Annalise, but he thought the audience would know what the couple were up to by their various displays of affection and comments.
Despite his relationship with Annalise, Mark continued to attract admirers. First, teenager Danni Stark (Eliza Szonert) developed a crush on Mark and then charity fundraiser Katerina Torelli (Josephine Mitchell) saw Mark out driving with Annalise and also developed a crush on him. Mark and Katerina flirted with each other and Katerina dedicated songs to him on radio, which made Annalise jealous. When Annalise went away, Mark ended up kissing Katerina. Upon Annalise's return, Katerina told her what happened and she was shocked that Mark could cheat on her. Mark and Annalise stayed together, but began arguing more. Mark also became broody and wanted to settle down, but Annalise did not feel the same way. Samazan thought that Mark was looking for stability in his life, following his upbringing with his hippy parents. He also believed that Mark's mother's death "hit him very hard" and it made him think more about where his life and relationship with Annalise was heading.
A few months later, Mark proposed to Annalise and she accepted. In the lead up to the wedding, Annalise pressured Mark into going to church and be baptised. As a result, Mark realised that he wanted "bigger and better things" and fell in love with God. During the wedding, Mark suddenly announced to a devastated Annalise that he wanted to dedicate his life to God and become a priest. Samazan told Arnold that he was happy to get the script, as it meant that there would be more to come from Mark and Annalise's relationship. He said "When I realised there was going to be a bit more longevity for both our characters I was thrilled. I was worried that Mark and Annalise would get written into a corner but there's lots of juicy stuff to come."
Mark took his new found faith so seriously that he managed to alienate his friends when he tried to dictate how they should lead their lives. Samazan described his character as "pretty fanatical" and thought he should be talking to his friends, instead of ramming his beliefs down their throats. Mark's faith was tested when he started to feel shut out and Annalise found love with someone else. Mark soon started causing trouble for his sister, Serendipity (Raelee Hill), and the other Ramsay Street residents with his new found religious views. However, it came to an end when he suffered an accident that put him in a coma. As Mark laid in his hospital bed, Serendipity became "increasingly distraught" as it seemed that no one else cared about her brother. Luke Handley (Bernard Curry) lent her a shoulder to cry on and Mark's accident brought them closer together. Mark eventually came to his senses and returned to his usual self.
After arriving in Erinsborough, Mark assumes the identity of Marcel Amadieu and poses as a French chef to get a job at Lassister's Hotel. Annalise Hartman soon uncovers the ruse and Mark asks her to keep quiet, explaining that he has come to reconcile with his brother Stephen. Mark spiked Stephen's drink during a party, leaving him unable to drive his fiancée, Libby, home. Libby took a taxi, which crashed and killed her. Stephen blames Mark for the accident. When Mark visits Stephen at his home in Ramsay Street, he is shocked to find him in a wheelchair following an explosion at the local pub. Stephen suffers a relapse triggered by Mark's arrival. Mark wants to make amends, but Stephen's wife, Phoebe (Simone Robertson) and friend Wayne Duncan (Jonathon Sammy-Lee) want him to stay away from Stephen. Mark perseveres and eventually Stephen forgives him.
After Stephen and Phoebe move to Ansons Corner, Mark moves into the house with Beth Brennan (Natalie Imbruglia). Several local women develop crushes on Mark, including Annalise, Gaby Willis and Lucy Robinson (Melissa Bell). Mark pursues Annalise and woos her with grand gestures. Mark and Annalise soon begin dating and their relationship is fraught with many arguments. Mark receives a letter from his mother, Sally (Jane Little; Helen Rollinson), who is dying of cancer and he finds this hard to take as he has not seen her or his father in a number of years. Mark visits the hippy commune where he and his siblings were raised and clashes with his father, Dave (David Murray; Ivar Kants), but soon relents and makes his peace with Sally on her deathbed. Annalise also attends and things between her and Mark are strengthened.
Mark proposes to Annalise and she accepts, but on the day of the wedding, he jilts her and decides he wants to become a priest. This decision hurts Annalise and soon Mark begins alienating his friends when he becomes serious about his new life path and becomes sanctimonious. When Mark slips and falls while cleaning Lou Carpenter's (Tom Oliver) gutters, he is left comatose for several weeks. He eventually regains consciousness, much to the relief of his sister, Serendipity (Raelee Hill) who has been by his bedside. After a brief memory loss, Mark begins having flashbacks to his pious behaviour prior to the fall and realises he had become an unlikeable person. Shortly after being released from hospital, Mark begins dating Annalise's half-sister Joanna (Emma Harrison), but he ends things with her as he feels things are too weird as he was engaged to Annalise the previous year.
After realising being a chef is what he wants to do with his life, Mark sells the coffee shop. He is then offered a job on the popular television show Healthy, Wealthy and Wise. Mark proves to be a natural in front of the camera and a rival show offers him a hosting job, which is based in Sydney. After encouragement from his house mate Cody Willis (Peta Brady), Mark accepts the job and he has one final breakfast at Number 30, before leaving for Sydney.
For his portrayal of Mark, Samazan earned a nomination for Most Popular Actor at the 1st National Television Awards. A writer for the BBC's Neighbours website said Mark's most notable moment was "Calling off his wedding to become a priest." Matthew Clifton, writing for entertainment website Heckler Spray included Mark in his list of "The Best Ever Mid-90s Neighbours Characters." Of Mark, Clifton said "Joined the soap pretending to be a French chef to get a job at the coffee shop, Marcel Amadeu 'a votre service'. Mark had a religious conversion after nearly been killed by a kitchen knife accident, and in the end jilted strumpet Annalise to become a priest. He also changed the name of the café to The Holy Roll".
During a feature on Neighbours actors turned pop stars Iain Hepburn of the Daily Record did not remember Samazan's character, saying "Bruce played Mark Gottlieb – no, we didn't immediately remember him either." Tony Squires from The Sydney Morning Herald disliked Mark's hair during his time on the show, asking him to "get rid of the Caesar haircut" and branding it "unfortunate". A Daily Mirror reporter called the character "hunky". While an Inside Soap writer quipped that Mark was "Ramsay Street's unlikely heart-throb".
A columnist for All About Soap placed Annalise and Mark's wedding at number eight on their twenty greatest soap weddings list. They said "Annalise looked more likely to make a priest renounce his vows than drive a man into the arms of the church, but that's exactly what happened when Mark ditched Neighbours' hottest babe at the altar to devote his life to God. Strange but true..."
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