Takaya Honda and Matt Wilson play David and Aaron in Neighbours. (Channel 5)
Neighbours star Takaya Honda, who plays David Tanaka in the soap, has spoken about his character’s trailblazing storyline of becoming a foster parent in a same-sex relationship.
Tanaka’s character David married Aaron Brennan in 2018, making them the first couple to have a same-sex wedding in Neighbours’ history.
Their latest storyline, which begins airing on June 15 on Channel 5 in the UK, sees the couple begin their journey to becoming foster parents.
Tanaka told PinkNews that Neighbours’ creators have gone to great lengths to make sure that their fostering story is true-to-life.
“It’s actually a storyline where we go into what it’s like to become a foster parent,” he said. “
What it’s like to then receive a foster child faster than you expect to, and then have a child of an age which you weren’t expecting, and then trying to figure out how do I not damage this child?
“How do I actually help this child with the situation and issues that they already have? And how do I then educate those people around me so that they don’t perceive how that child reacts to things as being negative?
“It’s just because they’ve experienced trauma. And there are just certain ways they need to be treated so that we don’t trigger them in ways that they can’t control.”
Neighbours worked with neuroscientists and adoption advocates.
Honda added: “A lot of foster kids who have experienced trauma react in very strong ways, the fight or flight response can be incredibly strong… because they feel threatened.
“So the thing that’s important for the foster parents is to give love, not hate or anger, no matter what they give you, you’ve got to give them love back.”
He explained that the show’s writers, one of whom is a foster carer themselves, spoke to a neuroscientist who educated them on how children’s brains are affected when they experience trauma.
The upcoming Neighbours episodes were directed by Australian actress and adoption advocate Deborra-Lee Furness, who founded the charity Adopt Change.
“Those things mean that we end up with a story on screen that gives a genuine representation of a version of what it might be like to be a foster parent,” Honda continued.
“Beyond that we’re also telling the story of two gay men becoming foster parents as well, and exploring the different avenues they might go down to have a child, and dealing with going down the road of being a foster parent.
“The reality is, you’re pushed to the limit, because they need to know how you’ll react if the kid pushes you to the limit.”
He added: “Intellectually, everyone knows about [fostering], but emotionally I think it’s very easy for us to disconnect from the fact that there are children out there who don’t have a safe home, who don’t feel safe in their home, who are actively being attacked in what is meant to be the safest place for them.
“I hope that this storyline exposes that to people on an emotional level.”
Takaya Honda is a straight actor in a gay role.
Takaya Honda, who is straight, said depicting the challenges of being LGBT+ has been a learning curve, but portraying same-sex love has been easy.
He said: “To me, love is love. And playing a character, whether I’m having to love a man, woman or other, is giving a representation of that love.
“I’m representing that I’m in love with that person, and I’m not sure how that would change whether the person on the other side is a man or a woman.”
But, he added: “In terms of things I’ve learned, I think having such a close connection with a character who then has to go through the challenges, and the highs as well, of being a gay man, coming out, being confronted by homophobia, having a same-sex marriage, going through the process of trying to have a child, what options are available to us and the fact that we can’t have a child between us.
“Being exposed to those storylines in an intimate way raises those issues in my mind strongly.
“I have a better understanding, and it’s definitely opened my eyes to what people out there have to go through.”