|Portrayed by||Morgana O'Reilly|
|First appearance||25 March 2014|
|Introduced by||Richard Jasek|
|Home||26 Ramsay Street|
Naomi Canning is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Morgana O'Reilly. The character was introduced as the daughter of established character Sheila Canning (Colette Mann), after producers decided they wanted to explore her background further. O'Reilly filmed her first audition in her garden in Sydney, before flying to Melbourne to audition in the studio. She was up against five other actresses for the part, but she believed that she was meant to get the role as Naomi is her middle name. A week after the second audition, O'Reilly's agent informed her that she had won the role. O'Reilly then relocated to Melbourne and began filming her first scenes in November 2013. She made her first screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 25 March 2014.
Naomi is portrayed as being "a lot of fun", sophisticated, quirky and caring. Although she is spoilt and some of her actions were questionable, O'Reilly did not think Naomi was a bad person. O'Reilly worked closely with the producers, costume and make-up departments to find the right look for Naomi, whose style she described as sassy and "quite sexual". Naomi's early storylines focused on her reconciliation with her mother, after they fell out over her affair with a married man. Naomi then tested one of the show's established marriages after she developed feelings for Toadfish Rebecchi (Ryan Moloney). Naomi exploited the problems in his marriage and kissed him. Not long after, Naomi began a casual relationship with her much younger neighbour Josh Willis (Harley Bonner). Naomi and her storylines have received mostly positive attention.
Creation and casting
In October 2013, cast member Colette Mann, who plays Sheila Canning, revealed that her character's daughter was going to be introduced. Producers decided to bring in another member of Sheila's family as they wanted to explore her background further. The producers were also keen to introduce a character similar to Izzy Hoyland (Natalie Bassingthwaighte), who would stir things up and get viewers talking. Mann added that the role was in the process of being cast and the character would arrive the following year. On 30 December 2013, it was announced that New Zealand actress Morgana O'Reilly had been cast as Naomi. O'Reilly attended two rounds of auditions before being cast. She and her husband filmed her first audition in their garden in Sydney, before O'Reilly flew to Melbourne to audition in the studio, alongside Mann and Stefan Dennis (Paul Robinson).
She was up against five other actresses for the part, but she believed that the role was meant to be hers, as Naomi is both her grandmother's name and her middle name. She also said, "When I got the scripts, I really loved how Naomi works on lots of levels at all times. That is extremely satisfying to play as an actor." A week after the second audition, O'Reilly's agent informed her that she had won the role. She and her husband then relocated to Melbourne from Sydney to be closer to the studios. O'Reilly began filming her first scenes in November 2013 and she made her screen debut as Naomi on 25 March 2014. In July, O'Reilly took two months off from filming in order to perform her one-woman show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The break was agreed upon when O'Reilly got the part and she was thankful to the producers for giving her the time off.
Before her arrival, O'Reilly said Naomi was "a lot of fun", but she would be hiding some secrets and it would be interesting to see the lengths she would go to in order to keep them hidden, particularly from her mother. O'Reilly described Naomi as having a good heart, but when it came to getting what she wants, some of her actions were "questionable". She also said Naomi was good at turning a situation to her advantage, and likened her to a cat, as she enjoys the "finer things in life". The actress continued, "On top of all that, she is her mother's daughter. She has the Canning straight up, strength and vulgarity that her genes and upbringing have given her in spades. She's quirky but sophisticated, and at times petulant and silly. All in all, she is very, very fun to play." O'Reilly did not think Naomi was a bad person, but she was spoilt and always tried to get her own way. However, underneath the surface, she was kind and caring. When asked whether viewers would like Naomi, O'Reilly believed that she could turn out to be a "character everyone loves to hate".
O'Reilly explained that Naomi's style was harder to get right and she worked with the producers, costume and make-up departments to find the right look. The actress said, "she has to have a sense of sass and sexuality about her, but she's not cheap and she has worked very hard to shake off her trashy past. What we've come up with is amazing. Some days I put my costume on for a scene and think, 'Oh Naomi, you're outrageous! I could never wear this! Oh well. Go get 'em girl!'" O'Reilly thought some of Naomi's outfits complimented her "quite sexual" nature, especially the six-inch heels and small tops. O'Reilly admitted that she did not have too much in common with Naomi, but they could both be "goofy and funny". She thought Naomi was definitely not as level-headed as she was in real life. She also said that she enjoyed playing a character who was different from herself. Executive producer Jason Herbison told Sarah Ellis from Inside Soap that he thought Naomi's type of character – a "classic, troublemaking vixen, who underneath it all is just deeply insecure" – had been missing from Neighbours for a few years.
Naomi first storyline focused on her unexpected arrival in Erinsborough and her reconciliation with her mother Sheila (Mann), who she had not spoken to in five years. They fell out when Sheila discovered Naomi's affair with a married man and told his wife, which Naomi had never forgiven her for. Naomi's first scenes saw her meeting and flirting with Paul Robinson (Dennis), who was later surprised to learn that she was Sheila's daughter. She then reunited with her mother and her nephew Kyle (Chris Milligan). While Sheila was pleased to see her daughter, she was suspicious of her motives and sudden urge to see her. Mann commented, "Sheila has learned the hard way that there is always an agenda with Naomi. Nothing is ever as it seems." When Sheila found a discarded SIM card, she hoped to find some clues as to why her daughter has reappeared in her life. After seeing a lot of number and messages stored on the card, Sheila believed Naomi was having another affair. She then accused Naomi of repeating her past mistakes and "a fierce war of words" erupted between the two, which resulted in Naomi deciding to leave. Sheila then promised not to interfere in her life and "reluctantly" offered Naomi a place to stay, until she got back on her feet.
In order to pay off her debts, Naomi sold a valuable painting to Paul. However, the painting was given to her by Charles Tranner (David Whiteley), the married man she had an affair with, and his wife, Polly (Michelle O'Grady), soon turned up to reclaim the artwork. O'Reilly explained that as Charles was away on business, there was definite answer as to who the painting belonged to. She continued, "Naomi says it was a gift, and belongs to her – but Polly argues that Charles used family money to buy it, so she is the owner." Polly and Naomi later ended up in a scrag fight, which had to be broken up the police. O'Reilly enjoyed filming the fight, saying she had "a great time". The police eventually confiscated the painting and Paul demanded his money back. When Naomi was unable to pay him back, Paul asked her to spend the night with him and he would forget the debt. O'Reilly said Naomi was not amused, but part of her admired Paul's tenacity.
Shortly before Naomi's first scenes were broadcast, Daniel Kilkelly from Digital Spy reported that she would test one of the show's established relationships by setting her sights on a married man. Cast member Ryan Moloney, who plays Toadfish Rebecchi, previously hinted that his character might be tempted by another woman and it was later confirmed that Naomi would develop feelings for Toadie. The storyline began shortly after Toadie hired Naomi to be his new personal assistant at his law office. While Naomi ran the office well, Toadie's wife, Sonya (Eve Morey) did not fully trust her, even after she helped Sonya out with a business problem. Naomi later convinced Toadie that Sonya would be a liability if she attended a meeting with some important clients with him, and then made sure that Sonya was busy when the meeting took place. Sheila, noticing her daughter's "intimate" celebrations with Toadie at the office, then accused her of trying to seduce another married man. This prompted Naomi to arrange a romantic evening for Toadie and Sonya, while she had dinner with Paul to throw Sheila off the scent.
Naomi later signed up for an internet dating website and used it to drive a wedge between Sonya and Toadie. Naomi found a guy she thought would be perfect for Sonya and then asked her and Toadie to come on the date for moral support. Naomi's date ended up having an argument with Sonya, causing Toadie to apologise to Naomi for ruining her date and comforting her. Naomi continued to cause problems for Sonya and Toadie's marriage and when Sonya went away, Naomi decided to make her move. She invited herself over to Toadie's house, where they enjoyed watching DVDs together. Moloney explained that it was all innocent to begin with, but when they began trying out wrestling moves, Toadie should have realised that it was not a good idea. However, Toadie did not stop Naomi and she pinned him to the floor and kissed him. Moloney admitted that Toadie was "mortified" by the kiss, but it made him realise that he has no emotional investment in Naomi at all. Sheila then told Toadie that Naomi had been trying to seduce him for weeks and Toadie felt "duped." Moloney said "He trusted Naomi and appreciated their friendship, and now he's been blindsided. He feels utterly betrayed when he discovers the whole situation was premeditated."
When Sonya returned home and discovered what Naomi had done, she was furious with her for lying and trying to undermine her marriage. When Naomi and Sonya came face-to-face, Naomi provoked Sonya and blamed her for the troubles in her marriage, causing Sonya to "impulsively" slap her. Morey admitted that she was uncomfortable about having to film the slapping scene, as she "adores" O'Reilly. Sonya eventually apologised to Naomi, but told her to stay away from her family and Morey called it a "pretty satisfying" moment. When asked whether the tension between Sonya and Naomi would continue to be explored, O'Reilly replied that things between them would remain awkward for quite some time. But she hoped that the characters would become friends, as she wanted to share more scenes with Morey. O'Reilly also thought that Sonya was right to trust Toadie when he re-hired Naomi, but stated that it would be harder for Naomi, as she knows that she cannot have Toadie.
Casual relationship with Josh Willis
In July 2014, Susan Hill from the Daily Star reported that Naomi would begin a casual relationship with her much younger neighbour Josh Willis (Harley Bonner). Josh was trying to get over his long-term relationship with Amber Turner (Jenna Rosenow), which ended when she left him for another guy and he turned to Naomi for comfort. As there was a large age gap between Josh and Naomi, they decided to keep their fling a secret. O'Reilly told Mark James Lowe from All About Soap that the relationship came out of the blue for Naomi and she definitely did not plan for it to happen. The actress also told Lowe that she was not surprised when she received the storyline and compared Naomi's life to "a really trashy novel." After Josh started showing interest in her, Naomi decided to "take the bull by the horns and go for it!" Josh and Naomi have sex in a hotel elevator and O'Reilly said the scenes were not awkward to film, as Bonner's sense of humour made the shoot fun. She also said that Naomi was not worried about taking advantage of Josh, as she was more worried about Sheila's reaction if she found out. Naomi was trying to get her life back under control and she did not want to ruin her relationship with her mother again. The relationship was almost discovered by Sheila when she returned home unexpectedly and interrupted Naomi and Josh. Naomi forced Josh to hide outside in the garden wearing nothing but his underwear.
Naomi comes to Erinsborough to reconcile with her mother Sheila. Naomi tells Sheila that as she is between jobs and the lease on her apartment has run out, she thought it was a good time to catch up. Sheila asks her to stay, but Naomi makes it clear that she will not tolerate her mother interfering in her life, and Sheila agrees to back off. Naomi finds a job as Toadfish Rebecchi's personal assistant. Sheila becomes suspicions about Naomi's intentions towards Toadie, especially when Naomi makes herself indispensable to him. She engineers things so Toadie's wife, Sonya, is unable to attend a dinner with some clients and Naomi takes her place. Naomi enjoys Toadie's company and develops feelings for him. Sheila finds an expensive painting among Naomi's things and Naomi explains that it was given to her by her ex-lover Charles Tranner. Naomi sells the painting to Paul Robinson, but shortly afterwards the police seize it when Charles' wife, Polly, claims it belongs to her family. After exchanging insults, Polly and Naomi get into a fight.
Charles turns up and Naomi asks him to sign a document saying he gave her the painting. When she learns that Charles flirted with Georgia Brooks (Saskia Hampele), she realises that he will not change and has no intention of signing the document. Naomi asks Toadie for his help and he gets the theft charges against her dropped, but the Tranners take back the painting, leaving Naomi in debt to Paul. Naomi invents a stalker to get Toadie's attention. She then hires Lee Barnes (James O'Connell) to pretend to be her stalker, but when the police become involved, Lee demands more money. Naomi briefly contemplates selling Georgia's engagement ring. Instead, she takes Paul's car keys and gives them to Lee. She later shows Lee some photos she has taken of him stealing Paul's car, forcing him to stop the blackmail. When she notices Toadie and Sonya are having marriage problems, Naomi suggests Sonya goes away for a few days on her own. Naomi spends the evening with Toadie and she kisses him. Toadie rejects Naomi and fires her.
Sheila is angry with Naomi and during an argument, she blames Naomi for causing her father's fatal heart attack. Naomi then moves into Number 24. When Sonya returns, she confronts Naomi and slaps her. Sheila remains angry with Naomi, causing her nephew, Kyle to ban her from his upcoming wedding to Georgia. Naomi realises that she has to be honest, and she tells Georgia, Kyle and Chris Pappas (James Mason) about the kiss with Toadie. Naomi and Sheila also make amends. After bonding with Josh Willis, Naomi has sex with him in the Lassiter's Hotel lift and they begin a casual relationship. When Sonya asks her if she will return to work for Toadie, Naomi agrees.
Naomi and her storylines have received mostly positive attention from critics. Ahead of Naomi's on-screen introduction, TV Week's Rebecca Lake said it was about time the show got "a new vixen" and thought she looked like quite a "sexy character". Daniel Kilkelly (Digital Spy) believed Naomi was "bound to stir up trouble" following her arrival. Ben Pobjie from The Sydney Morning Herald commented that Naomi acted like "an idiot" during the painting storyline. While a reporter for What's on TV branded the character "Naughty Naomi" and thought she got "the slap she so richly deserved from Sonya" after she kissed Toadie.
O'Reilly's co-star Eve Morey observed, "Naomi is a femme fatale. She's opportunistic and manipulative." Bridget Jones from New Idea stated that Naomi was "sweet-at-heart". In August 2014, Inside Soap's Michael Cregan expressed his love for the character, commenting "We love Neighbours' Naomi and her flirty ways." Cregan also thought the storyline involving Josh was "saucy stuff". While Stephen Downie from TV Week quipped, "The romance between Josh and Naomi has a use-by date but, much like the couple, we're willing to enjoy this ride while it lasts."
During a feature on what storylines were working and not working for the show, a Soap World columnist praised the character, saying "Naomi Canning has been perhaps the best new character of the last few years. Her cougar/cub sex fling with Josh is pure hotness and tends towards the controversial, thus providing good watercooler moments for fans." The columnist also enjoyed Naomi's feud with her mother, as it led to some strong scenes between the two women. However, they criticised Naomi's attempts to seduce Toadie, believing that it was not well executed and for a character "designed to be a husband-stealing minx" her pursuit was "tepid at best".
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- Naomi Canning at the Official AU Neighbours website
- Naomi Canning at the Official UK Neighbours website