The creative ways that actors tried to get the attention of Neighbours casting director Jan Russ are the stuff of industry legend.

Of course, there were bottles of champagne, flowers and chocolates, while one actor pretended to be a courier and another a singing telegram.

There was also a box of popcorn with a demo tape inside, and a model TV set – complete with legs and a note reading, “I want to be on television”.

All that effort was not without good cause given Russ’s record as a star-spotter.

She is the woman who uncovered Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Craig McLachlan, Delta Goodrem, Natalie Imbruglia and Guy Pearce, and gave Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman their big breaks on the small screen.

As a domestic audience farewelled Neighbours with Thursday’s finale, the casting veteran told AAP she’s always had an instinct for spotting up-and-coming stars, honed by her own background in acting and directing.

“Margot Robbie, when she was walking towards me into my office, I thought, this girl’s got something … the Hemsworth boys, Chris and Liam, they all had something that caught my eye,” she said.

Recalling Minogue’s first audition, Russ said most star power happens only once the camera is on.

“She was so quiet, like a little mouse, and I put her in front of the camera and looked at the monitor and I went, ‘Oh my God, that’s an incredible change there’.”

Russ found the original residents of Ramsay St before the first episode went to air in 1985 and managed the show’s casting for 24 years.

Booking A-list talent aside, she also had to get the chemistry between the actors right.

One reason Scott and Charlene’s 1987 wedding became a major moment in Australian TV history was the on-screen chemistry that sprang from Minogue and Donovan’s budding behind-the-scenes romance.

That made Russ not only a star-spotter but something of a matchmaker as she constructed whole families that would be believable on screen.

The secret was making auditions comfortable and getting to know the actors, she said.

“You have to look beyond a pretty face and whether they can walk and talk and not fall over the furniture.”

After her two-decade career casting the show, Russ also has many bizarre tales from the audition room.

She found one actor lying on the floor of the corridor doing acting exercises, while another refused to learn the script beforehand because that wasn’t how auditions ran in the US.

Some actors were terrified doing their first screen test, while others with decades of experience suffered crippling anxiety because they desperately needed the work.

Russ said she always made sure actors felt good heading out the door, whether they had the part or not.

“I know how heartbreaking it is to be told you haven’t got the role, so I would always let them down gently,” she said.

For years, Russ travelled all over Australia looking for the next Neighbours stars, attending plays, acting classes and school productions.

Running auditions in Sydney in 1998 she initially refused to see one young actor but relented and found time to squeeze him in.

That was Daniel MacPherson’s big break, and although there wasn’t a role for him at the time, Russ told the scriptwriters to make one. MacPherson’s part as Joel Samuels lasted for more than three years.

“I spread my tentacles far and wide… I wouldn’t want to miss anything just in case, if I said no to someone that could be the right person,” Russ said.

For the Thursday night finale, she set aside time to watch the show with a glass in hand to quietly toast the beloved soap.

“It’s sad that it’s finishing because 37 years is extraordinary … but I think nothing lasts forever and maybe it was time for it to to finish,” she said.