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Neighbours' Kiwi star Tim Kano on playing a mixed-race character on Australian TV

Kiwi Tim Kano plays Leo Tanaka on Neighbours.

Despite the country's multicultural population, mainstream Australian television has remained resolutely white – and for that reason, Kiwi actor Tim Kano is full of praise for the approach taken by long-running soap, Neighbours.

Former Wellingtonian Tim and Sydney actor Takaya Honda have moved into Ramsay Street as mixed race twins Leo and David Tanaka who are out to solve a family mystery.

"Australia's just like New Zealand in being built of all these different ethnicities and races living together, but the media doesn't portray it equally or fairly as it is in real life," says Kano, 29, adding both he and Honda have Japanese fathers and European mothers.

Takaya Honda and Tim Kano as twins David and Leo Tanaka on Neighbours.

"Neighbours has always been great at having actors from all different backgrounds, but it's just fantastic that they've introduced us into the core cast with a really strong plot line and ties to the cast.

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"In any other series we'd just have a small guestie – but they are establishing us as multicultural, mixed-heritage characters."


Tim is best known here for his two seasons of Reservoir Hill, an interactive drama that won New Zealand's first Emmy Award. Since moving to Melbourne, he's had roles in the movies Holding The Man, Berlin Syndrome and TV series Winners And Losers.

"Reservoir Hill was great," he says. "It was one of the first of its kind in the world where the audience could text characters, give them advice and change the plotline. You'd never know which way it was going to turn."

His Neighbours role is a little more clear-cut. The twins are starkly different in personality with David a doctor with a social conscience, while Kano's Leo is a shameful opportunist.

"It's a dream role because he's really cheeky, really playful but under all the layers he's definitely a good guy with a good heart. It's nice to know all that's there and I don't just have to play this ruthless, superficial, bad boy all the time," Kano says.

Neighbours, TVNZ 2, weekdays.

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