Tuesday, January 9, 2024
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Neighbours producer Jason Herbison teases new season and returning characters

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The big day is quickly approaching. On September 18, Neighbours returns for a brand-new season, beginning a brand-new chapter of Ramsay Street drama.

Fans can anticipate an interesting blend of the old and the new as well as a number of new faces in Erinsborough.

Jason Herbison, a long-time executive producer, recently spoke with Digital Spy and other media outlets to provide new previews of what’s to come.

Did you approach the 2022 finale with this conceivable rebirth in mind?

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“We tried so hard to make it feel appropriate, rewarding, and satisfactory because we truly believed it was the end. I always thought the programme may return at some point, but I never anticipated it would happen so quickly. Power to the viewers, the followers, and of course Amazon Freevee, who showed up and is bringing the show back.

“Although I didn’t want to rule anything out and I wanted to leave all options open, I had not yet made up my mind about what the next chapter may include because we didn’t even know when it would happen or who might be involved. I wasn’t thinking about it during the epilogue.

How did the initial discussions with Amazon start?

“It was following the finale and the astounding reception we witnessed the finale receive. Naturally, the entire stellar ensemble was back, and I believe that everyone was reminded of the enduring popularity of Neighbours. Then, everything fell into place in November 2022, and we made our announcement.

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Two years after the season conclusion, the next season is set. Why did you choose to jump back in time?

“When we were in conversation with Amazon, it was decided fairly early on. We were aware that there would be a transmission gap, so the audience would have continued to live their lives and time would have passed for them as well.

“It simply seemed like a one-time chance. There aren’t a lot of first-time experiences in serial dramas. Other soap operas have, of course, used time jumps, but in our situation, we were genuinely going to go off the air. Two years seemed like a pretty lovely timescale, and we thought it was a terrific chance.

When and how did you make the decision to bring back certain characters?

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“It happened very, very fast. I initially contemplated it alone, but after we received approval and the go-ahead, I went to see the four members of the heritage cast (Stefan Dennis, Alan Fletcher, Jackie Woodburne, and Ryan Moloney). After speaking with them, we swiftly secured their support for an announcement.

We swiftly and urgently picked up the phone and, in a matter of weeks, put together the cast that we required for the return since I had a vague idea of the additional characters that I’d been considering.

Do you only approach those you think you can play interesting character arcs with?

“Well, the decision to perform a time jump meant that some people would have naturally moved on. We had to decide whether or not to recast certain characters since some performers were unavailable because they had moved on to other projects, or whether to let them leave the show altogether.

But I will point you that just because a character is absent from episode one, it does not necessarily indicate that they won’t appear again in the future. Certainly, the actors that have been on the show are really supportive.

How is the partnership with Amazon going?

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They have been fantastic. They have always been nothing but supportive of the show. They have worked together, and it is significant for them as well because they are aware of how significant it is to bring back Neighbours.

“I just met everyone when I went to their offices in February, and we’ve had the pleasure of having a few of them come out to set as well. They have simply been fantastic. They hold the brand in high regard. They are aware of how eagerly the crowd awaits the return of the performance.

Do you intend to introduce a new audience to the revival as well as the current one?

That ‘ideal mix’ is definitely present. We want everyone who knows and adores the programme, everyone who saw the season finale, to return and visit the Neighbours they are familiar with, adore, remember, and miss. We want them to believe that their show is back on.

“I’ve always said that the show’s finale is a hug to the audience, a farewell hug, and I want this to be a welcome back hug. But we also wanted the show to be approachable to a new audience.

“There, too, the time jump is useful. There are really natural, organic ways to update a new audience on what might be happening as new characters join the show.

“I believe that if you have already watched the episode, you will be able to pick it up right immediately. You’ll be able to pick it up right away if you haven’t watched it in a while. Alternatively, you’ll be able to get into it even if you’ve never watched the show.

Have there been many discussions about how your strategy might change now that the show is streaming on a service?

It’s a fresh and fascinating world. I believe there has been a lot of discussion concerning streaming services and serial dramas. It will be quite exciting to witness this debut because we are now setting the standard.

“I don’t think it’s changed anything about how we plot the programme or how we structure the show in the slightest. Even though we certainly want to improve the show, we are still producing it very much in the same way as previously.

“We consistently do that. We constantly assess our production process and technological capabilities in an effort to improve both.

Are any of the storylines you didn’t have time to finish in 2022 going to be revisited?

In any case, we always had a tonne of ideas. I did saw a few of them sneak away, so I am most definitely not doing anything that was discovered.

The Rodwell family was introduced soon before the show’s conclusion, and since the show was coming to an end, we didn’t really have the opportunity to tell as many stories as we’d intended. So, the Rodwell family is back. We also have a new family, who are wonderful.

What motivated the creation of the new Varga-Murphy family?

We’re a fairly progressive show, so I was really hoping to bring in a same-sex couple with older kids. We acted out those plots with Aaron, David, and a little child, but I was particularly interested in seeing it with an older, more established family that had teenagers.

“‘Everyone is welcome on Ramsay Street’ is our motto. I believe we are already beginning to proclaim, “This is the future.” On day one, a small portion of us staked out our positions. However, they are fantastic characters, and we have gotten fantastic narratives from them.

Do you think it’s significant that the show is progressive in that way?

“I simply think it’s current and true to life. I prefer not to refer to it as having “an agenda” or anything of the sort. We are, in my opinion, reflecting reality. Over the years, those who are marginalised or underrepresented on television have given us all such amazing feedback. Hearing folks express how important it is to them to see themselves on television is quite moving.

“Over the past ten years, a lot has changed. We used to have a lot of focus groups, and I recall that in the beginning – I’ve been here for 11 years – you would have one person say, “I’m not sure about Aaron or David” or “I don’t think they should be on at teatime.”

“After a few years, you know that one or two people—maybe it was only one occasionally. Then none were done the previous time we did them. They’re just TV characters we love, people would reply.

That really demonstrated to me the ability of a programme like Neighbours to adapt, normalise, and develop. Additionally, why wouldn’t you want progressive, diversified, and diverse characters because they help you tell wonderful stories?

Can you give us any further hints about upcoming stories?

“We have fantastic new characters. I believe that Neighbours’ multigenerational nature has always been one of its many charms. It was a perfect opportunity to simply reset it since the show’s upcoming chapter is starting from scratch.

We have amazing grandparent characters like Karl and Susan, we have people like Toadie, and then there is the new family, the parents and their children. Then there are the young children, the teenagers, and the 20-somethings who share a home. It has a really excellent mix of characters, in my opinion.

What details on Guy Pearce’s return as Mike Young can you provide?

“We’re thrilled that Guy Pearce has returned and done some work for us as well. That’s fantastic, and I believe that people will really like seeing Mike and Jane together.

“It’s more than just a fleeting moment; it’s profound. Beyond that, events will unfold. But Guy has been fantastic, and he’s also tremendously invested in the characters and their fulfilment in the future.

Can you give us any Reece, played by Mischa Barton, teasers?

She recently moved to the area, just like the new family, making her a fantastic character for a new spectator to observe the world through. She is a bit of a mystery woman, though, in the manner of many personalities.

“Reece has a suitcase filled with surprises! The voyage is interesting. Has she a purpose for being here? Is there anything she’s evading? She combines the two, therefore I believe she will take some unexpected turns.

“Her character embarks on a voyage on her own. She is impacted by the lives of everyone in Erinsborough and finally learns far more later on than she had ever anticipated.

If the show becomes successful in America, where Freevee is also available, would you bring in additional US celebrities?

“I believe we are flexible. Undoubtedly, our show is about Australians who reside in a suburban Australian neighbourhood. But just like in real life, we do have a large population of Americans, Brits, and individuals from other nations. So, in my opinion, we’re really receptive. Over the years, a lot of British characters have appeared on the show.

Whom are you focusing on?

Oh my God, so many! I will admit that we have contacted a number of respectable individuals that are quite open, but scheduling is always an issue.

“I do have one thing I want to announce to the universe. Hugh Jackman should be on Neighbours, in my opinion. On the show, Hugh famously came close to staying for two years. He frequently recounts the incident, which is also available online, in which he was given the option of attending WAAPA, a highly esteemed film acting school in Perth, or spending two years on Neighbours.

“He picked WAAPA, much to the dismay of his family in the UK, thus I believe it is time for him to realise his destiny. He was supposed to visit the set in 2020 while his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, was in charge of the direction, but we had to close since COVID was taking place that week.

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