Change of character
Petra Starke, Perth Now, 7 November 2008

SWITCHING STREETS: Michala Banas will join the cast of Neighbours as Libby Donovan [sic].

FORMER McLeod's Daughters star Michala Banas is picking up and moving to Ramsay St - but only for a short stay, says Petra Starke.

It's a dilemma that has long plagued writers of television drama series what do you do when one of your actors is suddenly put out of action?

The usual tactic is to write a plot line in which their character makes a spur of the moment decision to go on holiday, and leave it at that.

But what about when that character is Neighbours' Libby Donovan, and she's scheduled to have "the wedding of the year" in the next four weeks? You call Michala Banas.

For one month, starting Monday, the former McLeod's Daughters star will take over the role from actress Kym Valentine, who was forced to take time off due to illness earlier this year.

"The character's been on the show for 14 odd years all up, and this is a character that everyone loves and knows really well, and they all love Kym, so I was nervous, but she really needed the time off to recuperate properly," Banas says.

"It was overwhelming, and a little nerve wracking, but it's good to do things that scare you."

Valentine was rushed to hospital in July with pneumonia after becoming ill on a flight from New York to Melbourne.

Her character Libby was written out of the show for several weeks, before it was announced that Banas would temporarily take over the role.

"I had four days' notice, so it was just nuts," Banas says.

"I tried to watch as many episodes as I could, to the point where I was dreaming about Neighbours. I was trying to cram as much information in my brain as possible, it was like cramming for a test."

While she was nervous, Banas admits she was happy to get the "juicy storylines" although she's not giving much away about Libby's upcoming wedding to Dan.

"I certainly got the juicy storylines," she says with a laugh.

"Talk about getting thrown in the deep end I got the juicy stuff. And yes, Libby's wedding is supposed to happen in the month while I'm there, but whether it does or not we'll see."

Banas says it's inevitable that Libby will be slightly different for the next four weeks, but hopes that fans will come along for the ride.

"I tried to keep the essence of Libby the same, but I can't be the same person inevitably there's going to be a bit of me in there," she says.

"We're not pretending that I'm Kym, or trying to make me look like her I've got curly hair and I don't wear her clothes. It's going to have to be my version because I'm not her.

"Hopefully people will like it. People don't like change so I'm sure I'll get a bit of 'She's not Kym, we don't like her as Libby' but hopefully they'll come round after a week or so and forget.

"Fingers crossed."