Wednesday, November 30, 2022
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Neighbours boss Jason Herbison addresses finale mysteries in big interview

It’s safe to say that the final episode of Neighbours’ nostalgic season was a big success. The Australian soap’s final-ever visit to Ramsay Street garnered the show’s biggest ratings in years on both sides of the globe.

Fans are still talking about the show’s emotional climax, so Digital Spy asked executive producer Jason Herbison, who wrote the finale, some questions to get the inside scoop.

Continue reading for all the exclusive information from our exclusive chat.

You’ve already mentioned how you had a vision for the conclusion quite early on. Can you tell us which ideas you had right immediately and which ones you came up with later?

“I’ve always seen the very last moments. The happy street party, Susan’s narration, the deceased characters, the balloon, the original theme music, and the audience message. I was aware that I wanted everyone present for these last seconds on the street.

“The other components emerged at various points in time. I intended the conclusion to be a celebration of the past and present, as I’ve already stated. I wanted to make sure Susan, Karl, Paul, and Toadie—the “big four”—all had significant plotlines. I wanted the storylines to naturally invite other characters to show up, which the wedding did of course.

“Without rehashing the tired “a developer is taking over” narrative, I also wanted to create a menace to the street. I knew I had my emotional anchor when everyone moved on and left the Kennedys behind, and I was able to bookend the hour with Susan. I tried as hard as I could to make people cry.

“A last tour of the homes and a classic Ramsay Street argument were two additional things I wanted to include in. Everything fell into place, and for timing or production needs, a few things went to God as well.”

It’s likely that the final episode would have changed significantly if Guy Pearce hadn’t consented to do so. In the event that a few people didn’t return, did you have a Plan A, B, C, etc.? Or did you wait to write the script until you were certain that someone would return?

“I took a five-week break from the plot room to try to understand all the moving components. I waited as long as I could before plotting the final two weeks with the wonderful Shane Isheev, the script producer, and Sarah Mayberry, the story consultant. Us three superfans having a couple days together was extremely lovely.

“We had locked all the big stars by that point. Having stated that, I dispersed to work on the conclusion after planning the penultimate episodes. I kept having to go back and rewrite the previous episodes because I had just too much stuff to tell.

“I over-edited the final four blocks, something I hadn’t done in years, allowing me to remove elements that weren’t necessary anymore and insert others that would assist build the conclusion. The squad as a whole put in a fantastic effort.

“Guy was a genius. We had a general outline for the narrative, which naturally included a return to Mike and “simple” Jane. But he added so much more than that. We all agreed that the revelation that Mike is Sam’s father was one of the most heartwarming aspects of the conclusion, and it was his idea.”

How much back and forth regarding their plans was there between Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue? Greg Barnett of Channel 5 stated in a recent interview with Digital Spy that they didn’t want to overshadow the long-running cast. Or would you have secretly preferred that they had more scenes? Did you think this was for the best?

“They both excelled. You’re right; they didn’t want to take the spotlight away from anyone. They cleared their schedules on the one day they could both be in Melbourne to make it happen.

“The only thing I could really tell them about how their sequences would fit in was that I hadn’t even written the ending yet. They acted in a refined and respectful manner. I didn’t care how much conversation they had. They wanted to take part in it and express their gratitude because it was just so unique.

“When I was able to inform Greg that they were on the street, it was a very joyous day. Over the years, he has been a huge supporter, and I liked sharing such exciting news with him.”

The most notable response has likely been to Jackie Woodburne’s masterful delivery of Susan’s emotional monologue. Can you explain the reasoning behind having Susan end the episode in that manner?

“Since Susan is the soul of Ramsay Street, I’ve always wanted to end the show with her. Without allowing Jackie to give us one final performance of a lifetime, how could I call the event to a close?

“Actually, writing it was the section of the screenplay that was easiest. I simply considered my feelings towards the programme and projected them into Susan’s voice. I must give director Scott Major and our production designer Peta Lawson major props for bringing the whole thing to life.

“I recall telling them about the balloon, and they must have thought I was bit insane, but everyone helped make the idea a reality.”

Was Terese’s letter’s reference to Tom Oliver (Lou Carpenter) an admission that he was a character you had hoped to see in the climax?

“Tom is adored by everyone at Neighbours. I personally invited him back for the conclusion over the phone. We had a nice conversation, but I realised he is now in a new stage of life. He was remembered in the flashback scenes, the final photo collage, and, as you may have seen, the envelope reference.”

Was there anyone else whose return you wished you could have gotten but couldn’t?

“I wish I could have brought back a great deal more folks. I received a tonne of requests, some of which I didn’t learn about until later. But it was simply impossible to include everyone.

“COVID also had a significant impact on our goals. We still adhere to tight 7-day isolation regulations, which at the time of filming allowed for close encounters, unlike the UK. We were fortunate to keep our primary cast, but we had to replace a lot of the crew. The production suffered greatly as a result, so I had to be cautious about how many cast members I added.

“I continued to add and see how far I could go up until a few days prior. A white Labrador would have been nice, but I realised it was asking too much. The fact that we were able to get everything shot is a tremendous compliment to the amazing staff.

“This seems like an excellent opportunity to recognise my production team, which consists of Andrew Thompson, Katja Bäuerle, and Chris Donis, as well as all of my department heads. The team kept everything together despite there being a lot of moving components.

“There was still a tonne of work to be done once the cameras stopped recording. The previous two weeks, Andrew and I have been rattling around the building; he is the unsung hero of Neighbours and, in my opinion, is a rock.”

Certain details, especially Amy’s “donor,” were left unanswered in classic soap opera fashion. Viewers are debating between Joel and Lance as potential suspects. Had you ever wanted to leave a few unfinished business like this?

“Absolutely. Most of the questions I wanted to answer, or at the very least, leave satisfied. I didn’t want anyone to feel taken advantage of. But I thought we ought to throw in a little mystery or two. I adored Jacinta’s performance of that. For the record, I’m not sure about the solution!”

Similar to this, Clive revealed in the finale that he was going to LA after receiving a call from Sheila earlier in the week. Should we assume that these two items are related?

“We had to omit some of the dialogue from Clive’s final scene due to time constraints. He informed Mike and Jane that he would be visiting Sheila in Los Angeles. Not to make amends, but to make an effort to comprehend his prior connections better. He set out on a journey of discovery to reflect on his past in the same way that Jane had been doing.”

Was it always the plan to lead us up the garden path and have everyone stay at the last second, or did you ever consider an ending where everyone actually departed Ramsay Street?

“I never thought about everyone leaving. But as the stories wound down, I realised that almost everyone had a valid cause for moving on. Karl and Susan leaving their house and seeing all the for-sale signs made me incredibly happy.

“Since it happened so rapidly, it serves as the ideal illustration of how to balance the urgency of the story with the available time. I had originally planned on adding a few additional bends and twists to get everyone—including the Rodwells—into the selling mood. We also ran out of time to discuss David’s recent conviction.

“We ultimately landed where we did, which I believe still functioned. Actually, I thought of it as a tiny Easter egg on its own. It’s hardly the first time in Neighbours that characters have hurriedly packed up and departed! I agreed that the audience would follow along, and I believe they did.”

In the last few months, the public appeared divided on Terese and Paul. Many shippers fervently desired their reconciliation, while other fans believed Terese deserved better in light of Paul’s treatment of her. Are you glad you were able to reconnect them in the end? Do you believe Paul would have changed if he had been given another chance?

“I completely comprehend the conflicting comments. We would have taken more time to bring them back together in an ideal world. But in Paul’s case, I believe it is better to know the devil than not.

“They are equals and Terese hasn’t always walked in a straight line. Paul won’t ever change, so I’m delighted I was able to bring the two of them back together. But she accepts it, as Terese noted in her remark. That doesn’t guarantee that she won’t ultimately tear the note up!”

By confirming the unseen 15 minutes from both ending edits, you’ve raised eyebrows. Did you see any other returnees or video messages that we missed? Can you give us any further hints about the unfinished scenes?

“Big programmes frequently go beyond their alloted time, and this one was no exception. There were numerous small trims on the floor, but they don’t significantly alter the outcome of the narrative.

“We did see everyone, despite the fact that I wrote around a page of speech for each video returnee.

“We also intended to film other material, but we ran out of time. For instance, I’d love to reintroduce a package showing how quickly the street was prepared for the party!”

The show’s future has been discussed frequently in recent months, including large plans for the Rodwells, Byron becoming a regular, the appearance of Nicolette’s father, a massive season finale episode, and potential exits for some of the major characters like David and Mackenzie.

Are there any more tales you regret not having the opportunity to share?

“In my totally prejudiced opinion, Neighbours has never been healthier or more lively. Therefore, there are numerous stories that we could have told. We have more ideas for the future in addition to the instances you highlighted. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the chance to share the stories we did.”

Do you believe the recent buzz, good ratings, and media attention demonstrate that the Neighbours brand is still relevant and offers promise for the future? Or should we simply go on?

“Everything is conceivable because we have always stated that we are resting the show. I don’t want anyone to lose their passion for the programme. I hope the fandoms endure and that people keep talking about old characters and plots.

“I really did mean it when I claimed in Susan’s monologue that Ramsay Street was forever. Everyone should continue to rejoice in it, even those who have observed us from a distance.”

Although Neighbours is no longer airing, catch-up episodes are still accessible on My 5 (UK) and 10 Play (Australia).

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