Doris Younane in ‘Five Bedrooms’

After years of fighting against being typecast as Lebanese or other Middle Eastern characters, actor Doris Younane is in a very happy place in her career.

She’s played a variety of characters, most of no specific ethnicity, in the past five years with recurring roles in Five Bedrooms, The Wrong Girl and Party Tricks plus guest appearances in Secret City, Harrow and Janet King.

“I just want to be seen as an actor in Australia,” she tells IF. “I no longer want to be a pin-up for multiculturalism; I have passed that baton on to others. I’ve been really lucky. I think I am a good, solid actor and that’s what has got me through.”

Currently Younane is winning plaudits for her performance as the firebrand Heather in Five Bedrooms, Hoodlum Entertainment’s eight-part comedy-drama for Network 10 created by Christine Bartlett and Michael Lucas.

After her first audition she was called back for a chemistry read with Stephen Peacocke, who plays tradie Ben. The night before she went to the wrap party for the ABC’s Frayed, got home late and fell asleep on the bathroom floor until 3am when her husband urged her to get into to bed.

It wasn’t the ideal preparation but she nailed the part, prompting Bartlett to tell IF: “I was blown away watching what Doris did to bring the character to life.”

Doris loved playing the character inspired by Bartlett’s own life, saying: “She has so much joy, madness and mess.” She rates Peter Templeman as “the best set-up director you could wish for; he has a lovely underplayed sense of comedy,” and credits 10 for being willing to take risks.

Network executives were so happy with the ratings for the premiere they sent a bottle of champagne to each member of the ensemble cast. The launch episode drew 842,000 viewers including encores and seven-day catch up.

She signed a three-year contract and is very confident the show will be renewed. Ten has been a lucky charm for the actor having screened Peter Andrikidis’ BlackJack movies in which she appeared, followed by Party Tricks, The Wrong Girl and now Five Bedrooms.

Doris Younane with Alan Dukes.

Her character has some steamy scenes with Peacocke’s Ben, despite the fact she has long been married to Colin (Alan Dukes). She gets even raunchier in Frayed, the 1989-set drama co-produced by Sharon Horgan and Clelia Mountford’s Merman Television and Kevin Whyte’s Guesswork Television.

Sarah Kendall stars as Sammy Cooper, a fabulously wealthy London housewife who is forced to return to her Newcastle hometown where she must revisit her past and the events that led her to flee as a teenager years earlier.

Ben Mingay plays Sammy’s brother and Doris is Bev, his partner. “We have a lot of sex, more than I’ve had for a long while,” she laughs. “The show has broad humour and it’s dangerous and risky: I think it will go gangbusters.”

In Paul Ireland’s upcoming feature M4M, which was inspired by Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, she had an unusual challenge. Playing the Lebanese mother of Jaiwara (Megan Hajjar) and Farouk (Fayssal Bazzi) she had to speak fluent Arabic. She was born and raised in Australia by Lebanese parents so she had to enlist the help of an Arabic coach.

Growing up she had no desire to become an actor. As a teenager she was a gifted athlete in the 100 metres sprint, hurdles and long jump. She was invited to compete for NSW but her mother forbade it.

After high school she spent two years at the Nepean College of Arts, specialising in dance theatre with no thoughts of acting. One of her teachers suggested she audition for NIDA, she doubted she’d be accepted but won a place in 1986.

Richard Roxburgh was a fellow student, the beginning of a lasting friendship and occasional collaboration in theatre. At NIDA she helped him with physical movement while he urged her to read classic novels.

Roles in Michael Jenkins’ 1993 drama The Heartbreak Kid and the late Ben Gannon’s Network Ten series Heartbreak High helped build her profile.

She played truck stop manager and psychic Moira Doyle in McLeod’s Daughters from series two to seven. During her spare time on that show in Adelaide she had the idea for a TV series about the juvenile justice office, drawing on the experiences of her sister who has long worked in that field.

With writer Sam Meikle she has written a bible and scripts for The Hard Road on the premise that those who work in that system often are as damaged as the kids in their care. They got some development money from SBS and subsequently pitched the project to several networks, so far to no avail.

She isn’t giving up and intends to pitch it to UK producers, explaining: “It’s like my baby, and it would give exposure to a lot of new talent.”

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