Jan Russ

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Jan Russ
OccupationCasting director, actor

Jan Russ is an Australian casting director and actor best known for her work on the soap opera Neighbours from the show's beginning in 1985 to her departure in 2009. Russ was also the casting director on Prisoner until the show's cancellation. In 2009, Russ made a guest appearance in City Homicide, the first time she had acted since 1982.

Early and personal life[edit]

Russ was a member of the Maribyrnong Youth Club when she was younger.[1] In 1956, Russ, along with her drama group, won the Victorian Association of Youth Club's drama championship. Russ played Alice in an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass.[1] She later worked in professional theatre shows such as Oliver!, Fiddler on the Roof and Godspell.[2] Russ lived in New Zealand while she worked in musical theatre and appeared on television shows.[2] She later decided to move behind the camera and worked as a Production Assistant and Floor Manager, which made her the first female to do so.[2]

During the 1960s, Russ gave birth to a daughter.[3] She was forced to give the child up for adoption as she was young and unwed.[3] Russ's story was later turned into a play, The Show Must Go On, which was written by Robyn Bishop and directed by Mike Bishop.[3] Russ's son Samuel Hammington is an actor and comedian.[4]

In September 2014 Russ was featured in The Past Is A Foreign Country, a two part episode of the ABC documentary series Australian Story.[5][6]

Casting career[edit]

When Russ moved back to Australia, she began working as the casting assistant for Crawford Productions.[2] In the early 1980s, Ian Smith called Russ and asked if she would like to meet with the Producer at Grundy Television, Russ met the producer and was offered the job of casting director on the television show Prisoner.[2] Russ worked on the show for eighteen months until its cancellation.[7][8]

Russ cast Guy Pearce as Mike Young in Neighbours in 1986. She said that he was "the one to watch".[9]

Russ began working as the casting director on Neighbours in 1985 and she cast the regular and guest cast roles throughout her time with the show.[10] She is credited with discovering many of the show's stars who have gone on to forge international careers, including Delta Goodrem, Natalie Imbruglia, Guy Pearce and Jesse Spencer.[11] In 1986, she cast Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan in their famous roles of Charlene Mitchell and Scott Robinson.[12] Russ' casting talent has led her to be called "Australia's most enduring star-maker" and she later became the show's associate producer.[9][13]

In 2006, Russ was responsible for choosing the winners of Dolly magazine's search for Neighbours' next big stars competition.[14] She had to go through seven thousand taped entries over several weeks, before starting live auditions.[14] Adelaide Kane (Lolly Allen) and Sam Clark (Ringo Brown) were eventually chosen and given a three-month contract with the show.[15] The Dolly competition ran again in 2008 and Russ handpicked Mauricio Merino Jr. and Chelsea Jones to star as Simon and Tegan Freeman, respectively.[16]

In March 2009, Russ' future with Neighbours was called into question following a backstage "shakeup".[11] It was announced that FremantleMedia, the show's makers, were planning to bring in an external casting agency.[11] Fremantle's spokesman said "The casting role is critical to the show, it is an enormous job and it continues to grow by the day. We continue to discuss with Jan her role with the show, as her skill and talents are incredible".[11] Two months later, it was announced that Russ was in discussions about her future with the show and about her involvement in the Dolly magazine competition and the 25th Anniversary.[8] Russ worked as casting director for Grundy Television and FremantleMedia for a total of twenty-five years.[7]

In 2010, it was revealed that Russ would be casting a new television project, created and developed by the McMahon Entertainment Group.[10]


Russ has had acting roles in Division 4, Homicide and The Clinic.[17] Russ had a guest role as Mrs Daniels on Prisoner before she became the casting director.[2]

Russ appeared at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2009 and in September of that year, she made a guest appearance in City Homicide alongside Daniel MacPherson, whom she cast in Neighbours in 1998 when he was 16 years old.[18] Russ had not performed on television since Prisoner in 1982.[18] Her character was Robyn Turner, a community volunteer.[18] Russ said she received an email from the City Homicide casting team, which said there was a role they wanted to see her for and would she be interested in auditioning.[18] Russ call her audition "bizarre" and "strange".[18]


  1. ^ a b "Youth Club's Drama Win By Maribyrnong". The Age. Australia: Fairfax Media. 20 August 1956. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Rhys (31 May 2003). "Interview – Jan Russ". Perfectblend. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Cuthbert, Denise (2009). "Performing the Adoption Story" (pdf). Australian Journal of Adoption. National Library of Australia. 1 (No. 2). Retrieved 15 September 2010 – via www.nla.gov.au.
  4. ^ Kim, Joy (9 May 2013). "Sam Hammington speaks full story of himself in MBC variety show". BNT News. Korea Economic Daily. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  5. ^ "The Past Is A Foreign Country - Part One". Australian Story. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2014. (video here)
  6. ^ "The Past Is A Foreign Country - Part Two". Australian Story. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2014. (video here)
  7. ^ a b "Teachers". The Australian Film and Television Academy. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  8. ^ a b Rowe, Darren (6 May 2009). "'Neighbours' casting exec's future in doubt". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi (UK) Ltd. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  9. ^ a b Houston, Melinda (5 June 2004). "A town and its players". The Age. Australia: Fairfax Media. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  10. ^ a b "The Team – Jan Russ". Film & Television Studio International. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  11. ^ a b c d Rowe, Darren (25 March 2009). "'Neighbours' longtime casting director axed?". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi (UK) Ltd. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  12. ^ "Neighbours party". The Age. Australia: Fairfax Media. 25 July 2005. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  13. ^ Adair, Tom (6 December 2007). "The neighbourhood ain't what it was". The Age. Australia: Fairfax Media. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  14. ^ a b Carlin, Amanda (16 July 2006). "Girl next door makes Neighbours finals". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  15. ^ Nicholson, Sarah (6 February 2007). "What Girls Want". Courier Mail. News Limited. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  16. ^ "Check out our Dolly winners!!". Neighbours.com. Australia: Network Ten. 2 December 2008. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  17. ^ "Jan Russ". Internet Movie Database. Amazon.com. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  18. ^ a b c d e Knox, David (23 September 2009). "Jan Russ crosses the camera". TV Tonight. Retrieved 11 September 2010.

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