|Portrayed by||Morgana O'Reilly|
|First appearance||25 March 2014|
|Last appearance||2 October 2015|
|Introduced by||Richard Jasek|
Naomi Canning is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Morgana O'Reilly. Naomi 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 competed with 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. The character departed on 2 October 2015, following O'Reilly's decision to pursue new acting roles.
Naomi is portrayed as being spoilt, sophisticated, quirky and caring. O'Reilly did not think Naomi was truly bad, despite her questionable actions. 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 initial storylines focused on a reconciliation with her mother, after they fell out over Naomi's affair with a married man. Naomi then tested one of the show's established marriages after she developed feelings for Toadfish Rebecchi (Ryan Moloney) and exploited the problems in his marriage. She also engaged in a casual relationship with her much younger neighbour Josh Willis (Harley Bonner). Naomi and her storylines have received mostly positive attention from viewers and critics, with one dubbing her "the best new character of the last few years" and another calling her "a breath of fresh air".
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 provoke strong reactions among the characters and viewers. 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 competed with 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. O'Rielly 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 bad, 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.
A few weeks later, Naomi sold a valuable painting to Paul in order to pay off her debts. 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 while Naomi was not amused, 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.
When Toadie took on a difficult case, his reasons for doing so made Naomi realise that she still had feelings for him. When Sheila then "assassinates his character", Naomi told her that she was still in love with him. She then quit the law firm, and on the advice of her mother, Naomi chose to distract herself from Toadie by temporarily leaving Erinsborough. Upon her return, Georgia Brooks (Saskia Hampele) learned that Naomi had been in Melbourne instead of Hawaii and Toadie accused her of sending Sonya poison-pen letters. Naomi denied being the sender.
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 Daniel Robinson (Tim Phillipps), 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 had 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 ended the affair after Josh's mother, Terese (Rebekah Elmaloglou), found out about it and confronted Naomi. O'Reilly thought Naomi was well suited to Josh as they had "similar energies", but ultimately he was too young for her.
Brother and career change
In November 2014, Naomi was reunited with her older brother Gary (Damien Richardson), after he decided to extend his stay in Erinsborough to reconcile with Sheila and Kyle. Naomi was angry with her mother's "blatant favouritism" of Gary and urged him to reveal the truth about his past and the reason why he abandoned his family. When Kyle's work tools were stolen, Naomi made "more damning accusations" against Gary. After Sheila learned that Gary had committed a violent assault, she had a heart attack. Naomi discovered her mother and she was rushed to the hospital, where "an incensed" Naomi then revealed to Kyle the full truth about Gary's criminal history.
Needing a new job, Naomi decided to start her own events business, and took on the role of organising the local Christmas carols at the Lassiter's Complex. Naomi faced difficulties with the event when the "Santa Union" refused to provide a Father Christmas or Snowman, forcing Naomi to ask her mother and neighbour Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburne) for help. The event then came under threat from a councillor, who informed Naomi that she did not have the correct insurance. Once the issue was sorted, the carols went ahead as planned. Naomi's next job was to plan the Erinsborough Festival. Local businessman Dennis Dimato (David Serafin) approached Paul and Naomi about sponsoring the event, but when Mark Brennan (Scott McGregor) informed them that Dimatio had "a dodgy past", Paul and Naomi turned down his offer.
O'Reilly thought the development was interesting as the old Naomi would have teamed up with Dimato. Dimato later tried to bribe Naomi and Brennan encouraged her to go to the police, but she refused and gave the money back. Brennan confronted Dimato, who then cornered Naomi and threatened her for talking about the bribe. O'Reilly commented that Naomi was annoyed at Brennan's interference, as she felt she could handle Dimato. She continued, "She's tough as nails. She would never admit there is danger there – and especially not to Brennan!" Matt Turner (Josef Brown) later asked for Naomi's help, so the police could build a case against Dimato. Naomi gave a statement even though she was still receiving threats from Dimato and his men. Dimato later targeted Sheila, forcing Naomi to retract her statement. Matt tried to get her to change her mind, but it was only when Sheila learned what she had done and told her to re-submit her statement, that Naomi agreed.
Mark Brennan and Paul Robinson
Naomi's friendship with Brennan eventually turned into a romance, after they grew closer during the Dimato situation. O'Reilly said that Naomi was initially "oblivious" to Brennan's feelings for her. She told an Inside Soap columnist that Naomi was wary of Brennan and figured that he was not ready for a relationship, but neither was she. During a yoga session, Naomi and Brennan flirted heavily and eventually shared a kiss. Naomi tried to take the relationship slowly as she was scared of being hurt. Naomi and Brennan later declared themselves an official couple, despite Naomi's insecurities. When Naomi saw Brennan exchange glances with his ex-girlfriend Paige Smith (Olympia Valance), she became anxious about her relationship and questioned Brennan as to who he wanted to be with – her or Paige. As Naomi and Brennan's relationship started to "gain ground", Naomi was hired to be Paul's executive assistant and she was told in confidence that he had been diagnosed with leukaemia.
Naomi began to do everything to help Paul and a TV Soap columnist noted "although their working relationship has often been a tense one, Paul and Naomi have always managed to make it work." While Naomi home-nursed Paul, her mother became suspicious, worrying that it might impact on Naomi's relationship with Brennan. This forced Paul to defend their connection. When Paul was later informed that his body was no longer responding to the chemotherapy, he started putting his affairs in order and showed a vulnerable side to Naomi. While comforting him, Naomi was "overcome with emotion" and she kissed Paul. Despite trying to make their relationship more professional, Naomi realised that she had developed feelings for Paul and she decided to break up with Brennan.
Paul and Naomi eventually embarked on a relationship, but faced problems early on when she interfered in his family business by contacting his estranged daughter Amy Williams (Zoe Cramond). Paul confronted Naomi in public, but with Sheila supporting her, Naomi refused to apologise and threatened to quit her job and their relationship. Paul later apologised to Naomi, as he bonded with Amy. O'Reilly believed Paul and Naomi's relationship would "stand the test of time" and joked that their pairing would be part of Neighbours history. Paul and Naomi's romance was tested when Naomi learned of Paul's involvement in her brother's crime, and when Paul questioned whether she was still in love with Toadie, following an accident that was her fault. Naomi told him that she admired Toadie as he was a good man, something that Paul was not. Paul promised to be a better man and later proposed to Naomi.
The proposal surprised Naomi, as they had only been dating for a few months, but she "feels duty bound" to accept. Naomi instantly had second thoughts and when Paul wanted to tell everyone, in the hope that it might boost his mayoral position, she asked him to keep their engagement a secret. Naomi and Paul's relationship eventually ended after she had a one-night stand with Josh. Paul asked if they could try and work out their differences, but Naomi declined and he told her she would not amount to anything.
Following her split from Paul, Naomi learned that she had secured her dream job in the United States. She left Erinsborough after saying goodbye to her family and friends. The storyline served as a permanent exit for Naomi, as O'Reilly decided to leave the show to pursue new career opportunities. She had been expected to take a temporary break following the birth of her first child. Of her exit, Herbison commented "The Neighbours audience fell in love with Naomi instantly and we have certainly left the door wide open for her to rejoin the Cannings in the future – Sheila wouldn't have it any other way."
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." Claire Crick from All About Soap praised the couple, even though she thought they were complete opposites. Crick also loved their "hilarious secret hook-ups". O'Reilly was concerned about how her character would be received by viewers, especially when she went after Toadie, but she was pleased with the positive reaction to Naomi.
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". During his review of the show in 2014, Digital Spy's Daniel Kilkelly praised O'Reilly's addition to the cast, saying "Naomi has also been a breath of fresh air as a character who will push the boundaries just that little bit more than many of her neighbours!"
In 2015, Kerry Barrett from All About Soap placed Naomi at number 29 on the magazine's list of 30 favourite Neighbours characters. Barrett quipped "Spoilt, bratty, kooky, sexy Naomi hasn't been in Ramsay Street for long, but she's definitely made her mark!". Barrett thought Naomi's best moment was "getting jiggy with Josh in a lift!"
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