Miss Universe Australia Maria Thattil joins cast of Neighbours

Former Miss Universe Australia Maria Thattil has an exciting new career venture, nabbing a guest role on Neighbours.

Speaking to news.com.au, the 31-year-old media personality, who grew up watching the Aussie soap, said she was “very grateful” to be joining the cast.

“It’s really incredible, especially when you’ve grown up watching it,” she said. “We all see Neighbours as being synonymous with Australian television. You grew up watching everybody on Ramsay Street, but you certainly don’t think you’re going to end up on it.”

“Having the ability to start my career on Neighbours is such a dream because I’m getting to work with incredible Australian actors on a long-running show that means so much to people.

“It’s so special, a dream, a privilege and I’m so grateful that they welcomed me into the cast.”

Making her Neighbours debut tonight, the model and author will appear in six episodes as Amira Devkar, the older and sometimes bossy sister of Haz Devkar played by regular cast member Shiv Palekar.

Thattil’s character is a queer South Asian woman, something the model – who is also bisexual and in a relationship with former women’s AFL star and Australian Survivor contestant Moana Hope – said is “pretty special” to be representing on the small screen.

“There definitely hasn’t been a gay South Asian woman on Neighbours before so that’s a first,” she said. “Given that Neighbours is in so many Australian households and the South Asian community is so big in this country,

“It’s really important that we are representing that right through people’s living rooms and showing it in a normal way, in a way that is not overly stereotyped or caricatured.

“I know that whatever I grew up watching other Indian people on television, or queer people on television very often fall into stereotypes, forms that don’t actually represent what these communities are like.”

She continued: “I love that I get to bring this representation in a really natural, nice way. I think this is the kind of stuff that impacts generations to come so I feel very privileged to get to do and be that. I’m so excited for people to meet Amira.”

Passionate about performing since she was in school, Thattil has recently been making the move towards acting.

Last year, the up-and-coming actress appeared in one episode of the reboot TV series Mother and Son and the online show, Let’s Get Ducking Famous.

Having already established herself as an author, TedX speaker and campaigner on inclusivity and LGBTQIA+ rights, Thattil says she now wants to focus on acting.

“When I got into media, that was when I decided I knew I wanted to get back into acting,” she revealed. “But there were things I wanted to do before I put a focus on it like writing my book and establishing myself as a voice on social issues and giving a TED talk.

“And now that all these things are done, I can focus solely on this [acting]. As far as my career choices, they have been quite strategic. I wanted to make sure I’ve done all the other things that I’ve wanted to do so that I can focus on this.”

She added: “I’m really excited to be able to do it.”

Neighbours airs weeknights at 6:30pm on 10Peach and 10Play.

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