|Portrayed by||Rebekah Elmaloglou|
|First appearance||14 May 2013|
|Introduced by||Richard Jasek|
|Home||22 Ramsay Street|
Terese Willis is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Rebekah Elmaloglou. The actress was cast in the role after attending an audition in late 2012. Before she began filming her first scenes in early February 2013, Elmaloglou had to ask the producers to change the pronunciation of her character's name. Elmaloglou'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 the episode broadcast on 14 May 2013.
Terese is portrayed as being ambitious, organised, hard-working and a good mother. Elmaloglou said she admired Terese and that while they shared some similarities, but they did not have much in common. Terese was introduced as the manager of Lassiter's Hotel, which is owned by Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis). Terese and Paul share a love/hate relationship, but despite the tension between them, they work well together. Terese's other storylines have often revolved around her marriage to Brad Willis (Kip Gamblin) and their family. Terese has struggled to accept that her husband has a daughter with his ex-girlfriend and her friend, Lauren Turner (Kate Kendall).
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 and their teenage twins; Josh (Harley Bonner) and Imogen (Ariel Kaplan).
Actress Rebekah Elmaloglou was cast in the role of Terese, the matriarch of the Willis family. Elmaloglou's agent asked her to audition for the role in late 2012 and she thought appearing in Neighbours would be something "interesting to do", especially as she had previously appeared in rival soap opera Home and Away. Elmaloglou won the role and she and her family relocated to Melbourne where the Neighbours studios are based. The actress thought it was an exciting time to join the show and did not feel under any pressure. She also said the production style was similar to Home and Away, but Neighbours was fast paced because they shoot an extra episode a week.
Before she began filming, Elmaloglou asked the producers to change the pronunciation of her character's name. Elmaloglou was initially happy with her character's name, as it was a deviation of her mother's name, Theresa. However, she was concerned about the pronunciation chosen by the producers, explaining "At first I thought, 'That's nice, I'll always have mum close to me' - until I realised it's pronounced exactly how mum hates it! I knew she would cringe every time she watched me on Neighbours." The producers agreed to change the pronunciation shortly before Terese was mentioned on-screen. Elmaloglou started filming her scenes two weeks after the casting announcement. Elmaloglou made her first screen appearance as Terese on 14 May 2013.
Elmaloglou described Terese as being "ambitious, organised and extremely capable when it comes to her job". She thought her character would appear to be "a tough nut", but she displays a softer side when it comes to her family. Elmaloglou liked that Terese's personality was changeable as it made her interesting. She did not think Terese had a devious side, but she often riled people when she made decisions on their behalf. A writer for the show's official website called Terese "a devoted wife, loving mother and hard working career woman." They also agreed that she was ambitious and had put in the hard work to achieve her dreams.
Elmaloglou said "Terese is a good mum, but she's also very career-orientated too. I think Terese worries about it a little bit more than she should." Elmaloglou thought Terese was the kind of person she would be friends with, branding her an "all-rounder". She explained that she admires Terese and is quite similar to her in terms of how organised they both were. However, Elmaloglou thought Terese was more businesslike than her and she was unsure if she could be the mother of three children. She later commented that she and Terese did not really have anything in common and that she was much naughtier than Terese was.
Marriage to Brad Willis and family
Terese married Brad Willis (Gamblin) when she was 21. They have three children; twins Josh and Imogen, and Piper. Gamblin explained that Brad and Terese met and married very quickly. Terese has some issues with Brad's ex-wife Beth (Natalie Imbruglia) because of their history and Gamblin called the situation "a bit messy". Gamblin added that Brad and Terese's marriage was pretty strong. Elmaloglou agreed, calling the marriage "absolutely solid" and saying that although Brad and Terese are different, they work well together. Prior to relocating to Erinsborough, Terese had become the breadwinner and was running the family, as Brad was busy coaching Josh, who was a competitive swimmer. Shortly after her arrival, Terese was introduced to Brad's ex-girlfriend Lauren (Kate Kendall). Elmaloglou explained that Terese was aware of Brad's past and she was fairly relaxed about it. As Terese felt secure in her marriage, she got on well with Lauren and their respective husbands became rivals instead.
Elmaloglou was initially shocked that she was cast as the mother of three teenagers and told a New Idea writer that she liked to think Terese was a very young mother. After Imogen was diagnosed with an eating disorder, Elmaloglou said Terese and Brad would feel guilty for not noticing, as they had been too focused on Josh and his swimming. The actress said the situation wakes them up and makes them realise that they had been neglecting their daughter. Elmaloglou commented "There is an element of regret that they weren't more in tune with Imogen and her problems." Imogen found it hard to accept that her parents knew about her condition and their reaction was just added pressure. In an effort to help Imogen, Terese opened up to her about her own eating disorder she had suffered with 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.
Elmaloglou hoped that Brad and Terese's youngest daughter, Piper, would be introduced at some point, especially after the character's began talking about her more during storylines. Elmaloglou thought Piper's introduction would add another dynamic to the family because of her young age. In early 2014, Lauren told Brad that she had given birth to his daughter twenty years ago. Lauren had believed that their daughter died soon after birth, but she had actually been adopted out. Terese did not take the revelation well and Elmaloglou said it was definitely a shock and not something she had ever prepared for. She explained that Terese had been fine with the fact that Lauren and Brad had dated, but she struggled with the new situation and she worried about her own family and how the news would affect them. When asked what advice she would give Terese, Elmaloglou replied "My advice to Terese would be to think before reacting and while it's a huge ask, try to put herself in Lauren's shoes... And watch Lauren like a hawk!"
In April 2014, Terence Donovan returned to Neighbours as Doug Willis, Brad's father. Donovan had previously played Elmaloglou's on-screen father in Home and Away. The actress was pleased to be reunited with Donovan "as father and daughter-in-law after all these years." On-screen, Terese expressed her fears that Doug preferred Brad's ex-wife Beth to her. As Doug was "old school", he was not keen on Terese balancing her career and family. He was also not used to Terese's feisty side. Elmaloglou thought Terese was being a little paranoid and said the fact was Doug and his wife, Pam (Sue Jones), had spent more time with Beth. During Doug's visit, Terese was "bemused" when she found the television remote in the fridge and assumed Doug was getting a little forgetful due to his old age. Doug continued to have memory lapses, but Brad refused to listen to Terese's assumptions that it might be more serious, insisting that Doug was fine. However, Doug was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Elmaloglou added that the diagnosis would affect the family and she hoped Donovan and Jones would return to explore the storyline further, as it is a common disease.
Lassiter's Hotel and Paul Robinson
Terese was introduced as the new manager of Lassiter's Hotel, which is owned by Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis). Terese decided to visit Erinsborough alone to check out the hotel and meet with Paul. Elmaloglou told an Inside Soap reporter, "This is the perfect chance for Terese to see things at the hotel as they really are, before Paul can cover anything up!" Paul believed he was conducting an interview for the manager's job, so he was surprised when Terese let slip that his sister, Lucy (Melissa Bell), had already offered her the job without consulting him. Elmaloglou said Terese was keen to get on with things and it would not take her long to get the measure of Paul. Elmaloglou said Terese and Paul were "fantastic foils for each other" and believed Terese was capable of holding her own with Paul. Dennis pointed out that Terese and Paul shared a love/hate relationship and said Paul respected Terese for her business skills and the way she stands up to him. He added that while there was a tension between them, they did work well together.
In January 2014, Terese and Paul's working relationship became very strained when Paul tried to make things intolerable for Terese at Lassiter's. Dennis told John Burfitt from TV Soap that Paul wanted to make Terese as uncomfortable as possible in order to get rid of her from the hotel. He explained "I actually don't think he genuinely dislikes her, but he has decided to dislike her as he had no control in her being there and being such a control freak, he didn't like Lucy coming in and telling him who was going to work there. He then decided to buck back against the decision and push her out in every way he can." After Paul pushed Terese too far, she quit her job with immediate effect. Lucy was "furious" as she was aware that Terese was a great employee and she threatened to remove the hotel from the Lassiter's chain to make Paul see sense. Neither Elmaloglou or Dennis thought Terese and Paul would have an affair in the immediate future. Elmaloglou doubted it would happen as Terese's marriage to Brad was very solid. She did think with all the tension between Terese and Paul, there could be an underlying attraction there though.
Terese is offered the job of general manager of Lassiter's Hotel Erinsborough by Lucy Robinson. She decides to fly to Erinsborough to meet the hotel's owner, Paul Robinson, and take a tour of the area. Terese realises that Paul does not know she has already accepted the job and goes along with his interview. Terese eventually confesses that she has already been offered the job, she just wanted to make sure they would work well together. The following week, Terese, Brad and their twins Imogen and Josh move into Number 22 Ramsay Street. Terese learns that Brad's ex-girlfriend, Lauren Turner, is living across the street, but is fine with it and she befriends Lauren. Paul and Terese fall out when he tries to advertise his apartments in the hotel's reception and Terese then clashes with receptionist Caroline Perkins (Alinta Chidzey). Terese fires Caroline when she sees how lazy and rude she is. Caroline sues the hotel, claiming that Paul sexually harassed her. Terese arranges for Caroline to be paid off and it emerges that she had once been in a similar position with her old boss. Terese nearly took things too far with him, believing that it would advance her career, and the incident caused Brad and Terese to briefly separate.
When Terese and Paul stay at work all night to prepare for an inspection, Brad gets the wrong idea and accuses Paul of trying to take advantage of his wife in front of the inspector, costing the hotel it's five star rating. Terese assures Brad that nothing it going on with Paul. Brad and Terese are not impressed when Imogen spends her savings on a car, but fail to realise that it is a cry for attention. When Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburne) voices her concerns about Imogen having an eating disorder, Terese refuses to believe her and sends her away. However, when Imogen is later rushed to hospital with a torn oesophagus, Terese and Brad are told that Imogen is suffering from bulimia. Terese tells Imogen that she suffered an eating disorder when her parents divorced, hoping to get Imogen to open up to her. Terese later finds Imogen after a food binge and Imogen breaks down in Terese's arms, saying she did not know how to stop. Terese then finds a her daughter a counsellor. Paul offers Terese the job of Head of Operations for the Lassiter's complex and then installs paid parking for the complex, angering the business owners Terese realises Paul set her up, so she increases the maintenance rates for the apartment tenants, meaning that she can scrap the paid parking.
Relations between Paul and Terese continue to deteriorate and when Paul berates her for losing a potential client, Terese quits her job. Paul threatens to sue her for breach of contract, but Terese counter-sues him for defamation. Lucy returns and convinces Paul to get Terese to come back. When Josh is badly injured in an abseiling accident that ends his swimming career, Brad blames Mason Turner (Taylor Glockner) and sues him, causing tension between the Willis and Turner families. Terese tries to persuade Mason to leave Erinsborough for a job in Darwin, but when Lauren finds out she is furious and accuses Terese of wanting to get rid of her son. Lauren tells Brad that she gave birth to his daughter twenty years ago. She had long believed that the baby died, but Lauren's mother Kathy (Tina Bursill) revealed that the baby was adopted out. Terese struggles to cope with the situation and asks the Turners not to tell Imogen and Josh straight away. The Turner and Willis families agree to join forces to find Brad and Lauren's daughter by hiring a private investigator. However, a false lead makes Lauren re-evaluate her emotional strength needed for the search. When Brad's father, Doug, visits, Terese believes that he prefers Brad's first wife, Beth, to her, but they rebuild their relationship when Doug is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Brad's mother, Pam, soon arrives in Erinsborough after Doug's diagnosis and Terese helps her see that Doug needs her support, resulting in their reconciliation.
Terese begins seeing Imogen's counsellor as a way of coping with all the stress in her life. Terese learns from Imogen that Brad has hired a private investigator to continue the search for his daughter, and she confronts him. Brad admits what he is doing and Terese feels betrayed. He explains that he has a lead on his daughter and Terese urges him to tell Lauren. Brad and Lauren then fly out to Adelaide. Brad stays in Adelaide longer than planned, further estranging him from Terese. When he returns, Terese questions the strength of their marriage but ultimately they reconcile.
A TVTimes reporter reckoned that Elmaloglou's casting proved that there was still a shortage of actors in Australia. When Terese stated that she and Paul would make a good team, the reporter commented "You live and learn, love." Daniel Kilkelly from Digital Spy observed that Terese had received a lot of positive feedback and Elmaloglou was pleased that viewers were loving her character. A New Idea columnist thought Terese was "tough" and branded her a "feisty mum". A Sunday Mail reporter noticed "The fued between Terese and Paul shows no sign of abating as we move in to the New Year."
A writer for The Sun newspaper's TV Magazine noticed that Terese was left "frustrated and helpless" during Imogen's eating disorder storyline. In February 2014, another writer for the publication stated that everyone wanted Terese to get her job back, explaining "Without her at the helm, Lassiter's is falling apart." After Lauren revealed that she and Brad had a daughter, Laura Morgan from All About Soap said she was "pretty sure possessive Terese won't be happy about her hubby spending time with his former flame." Morgan then speculated as to whether Terese would turn to Matt for comfort, saying it would be "a brilliant twist to the tale!"
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- Terese Willis at the Official AU Neighbours website
- Terese Willis at the Official UK Neighbours website