Neighbours Susan Kennedy star teases conflict which we havent seen before
35 years ago Neighbours was first broadcast in the UK and from 1985 in Australia and instantly viewers were hooked as they followed the happiness and heartbreak of the residents of Ramsay Street, Erinsborough.
Other Neighbours favourites include Jackie Woodburne, who plays Susan Kennedy, Geoff Paine who starred as Clive Gibbons and Annie Jones, who played Jane Harris. The trio have all spoken exclusively to Daily Star about their most memorable moments so far and what's to come as they celebrate 35 years.
Speaking about upcoming storylines, Jackie shared: "What has been great about being on the show for such a long time, is that your storylines adapt to your age.
"All the stories that we're 20 years ago, we're doing very different stories now.
"There is quite a big one coming up, which I can't say anything about, but it's a conflict story. It's a different kind of conflict and one we haven't seen before. Keep tuned – watch this space."
Among the drama, Jackie said that part of why Neighbours works so well is because of the added comedy moments that the writers sprinkle into the story.
"I think we have a good healthy dose of comedy," said Jackie.
"The writers are very good at having a very dramatic story, but sprinkling it with other minor stories that allow us to breathe, allow us to exhale and allow us to enjoy a lighter storyline.
"Fletch and I, are both always looking for the gags. We're always keen to try and find any joke that we can find that is appropriate in a story, as people have senses of humour.
"Even when the most dramatic things are happening, sometimes you still laugh at stuff."
Asking about some of her funniest moments, she said "We've done silly storylines and a lot of early storylines around random animals in the house. They were always great for funny storylines."
Reflecting on his Neighbours origins, Geoff shared: "Kylie and Jason, Guy [Pierce] and I were just thrown in and picked it up as we went, and copied the more experienced actors on set, to work out how to not knock into the furniture," said Geoff.
"It was wonderful."
Geoff's Doctor Clive character was introduced to the series however in a particularly unusual way.
"My first day on set was in a gorilla suit," says Geoff. "That was the opening sequence, like, who was this character?
"I had just done three years at drama school and took myself a little too seriously, and my first introduction to television was in a latex gorilla suit.
"I laughed and realised, this is what television is. It blows away all your prejudgements and just throws you straight in. I loved it, it was new to me, the medium of television and it was a great team experience, as there were a lot of newbies in the show."
He remembers that the young cast had to learn "very quickly how to keep the pace going because it was a team effort where we had so much to shoot" and that Kylie Minogue had incredible attention to detail with her character, which would also help the others on set.
Geoff said, "Kylie, I've got to say was incredibly organised with her scripting and she would make notes about the previous scene, so that made a huge difference."
Kylie's character Charlene was also friends with Jane, played by Annie Jones, who she infamously gave a make-over to, in the hope of impressing Guy Pierce's Mike.
Spoiler – Mike and Jane soon got together, but sadly not for long.
"I was pretty sure I was about 19 but playing Jane a bit younger," said Annie.
"My first scene was with Vivienne Gray, who played Mrs Mangle, I was wide-eyed and so excited. It all went well I think."
Talking about working with her fellow co-stars, Annie said they are "a lovely bunch of people and we're all just really grateful and dedicated to try to do the best we could on the show.
"There was a great camaraderie that still exists very much so. We all work so closely and so quickly. You need to trust everybody, in that everyone knows their lines and what is going on, so you can step into this other world and live it.
"I had so much fun, I'm so grateful coming to work every day on a show that I love and with people I love."
Viewers were delighted when Annie returned to the show as an older version of her character, who is constantly trying to get her own daughter Nicolette to be less unruly.
"I love working with Charlotte Chimes, who plays Nicolette my daughter," says Annie.
"We have a wonderful relationship on-screen and off-screen, and we're equally passionate and devoted to doing the best we can. It's great. We go to work and we play."
Annie said that stepping back into the role was "like a dear old friend you get to hang out with everyday" and that she is constantly drawing on her work in the eighties from characters including Mrs Mangle.
"I feel like I'm living two lives, as I have Jane's life and I'm always thinking about what is coming up for Jane and my own life.
"Jane is inching more and more towards Mrs Mangle's age, and having an unruly daughter like Nicolette, she's got to instil some morals into her, before it's too late.
"I think the more Jane is put into those situations, the more you see Mrs Mangle. It's wonderful to have so many layers of history to draw on."
"I'm only really starting to appreciate what an impact the show has had. With the internet, you know more about it now. I feel very honoured to be a part of such a wonderful part of Australian history, twice, not just once. I'm getting to have a go again, as an older character and I'm really relishing it. I feel like I'm channelling Mrs Mangle every now and then."
Like Annie, Geoff also made a return to the series as the Chief Operating Officer of Erinsborough Hospital, and said "Coming back to it was like wearing a comfortable pair of shoes.
"The funny thing is – everything has changed and nothing has changed. Back in the day, when there was no internet, now you get an instant reaction on social media about a storyline that would have taken three months to come via snail mail."
However there is one thing he still can't understand about Clive in the eighties – his hairstyle, laughing and saying "When I had hair, why would I have wasted it on such crazy eighties looks?"
Now an older iteration of his character, Geoff is getting to explore new storylines, including working alongside original cast member Annie Jones, who offset he also reveals that he has computerised board game competitions with.
"Clive is dealing with the complications that happen in the street with Jane and living in her world. I can't give anything away though.
"Clive is often called in to deal with serious medical issues, that stuff is ongoing," said Geoff.
"What I look forward to at the moment though is when Clive can loosen his tie a little bit and be less of a COO and more of his character and relax and be himself.
"Sometimes the suit slips and what Clive can be, which is a lot of fun."
Both Annie and Clive left Neighbours in the late eighties, but since then, other fan favourites have joined the series including Toadie Rebechi, Harold Bishop and of course, Karl and Susan Kennedy.
Jackie Woodburne, who has played Susan since the family first joined Neighbours in 1994, and is one of the longest-serving cast members, recalled her first day on set saying, "
"I can picture that day so clearly. The first scene we shot was actually in Ramsay Street, driving up in our old station wagon and stuff.
"Alan [Fletcher] and I knew each other, we'd worked together before, but it was the first time that the five of us had shared a scene together and there was just this beautiful, instant connection and rapport.
"We just got to a place of deep familiarity, so quickly, and I think that's why the family worked so well.
"It's not something you can necessarily rehearse, but it was just there organically for all of us. The fact that it was 27 years ago, is mind-boggling to me."
Since then, Susan has been a part of some of the soap's major plotlines including her character dealing with Karl's affairs, developing MS and also adopting children Zeke and Rachel.
Talking about the impact that her character has had on generations of fans, Jackie said "one of the loveliest things for me, is people of your generation that I'll meet and say "you were my other mother".
"I just think that's extraordinary, to have been such a part of someone's history. A small part, but to have been embedded in someone's life like that, that's quite a privilege.
"There have been so many big stories for us, we've been very lucky."
Reflecting on the legacy of Neighbours across the decades, actor Geoff said "The street is like a family. Like most of us, we don't choose our family.
The enduring values are these are people that like each other and support each other, despite the clumsiness of what we do. It's a family dynamic and people can relate to that.
The sunshine and swimming pools help – it's an optimistic, sunny kind of view."
But what is next for our beloved Ramsay Street characters? Jackie says we'll have to wait and see.
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