In order to honour the current cast members’ contributions to the show as it comes to an end this week, Digital Spy will be publishing exclusive interviews with several of them.
First up is April Rose Pengilly, who spoke with us just a few weeks before the renowned Australian soap’s final season of production.
Here, April discusses the sad demise of Neighbours, her recollections of playing Chloe Brennan, and her hopes for a good ending for “Chelly.”
What kind of energy has been present on the set while you’ve been shooting these joyous finales?
“It’s incredibly odd. It hasn’t yet properly affected everyone, in my opinion. I remember telling everyone one day that there were just 27 days remaining of filming, and nobody could believe it.
“Because of our hectic schedule and constant busyness, we haven’t had time to truly comprehend it. Even though we’ve been working hard and moving forward, it’s still a little amusing.”
What can the audience anticipate from the conclusion, please?
“We were surprised by several of the cast member announcements. We were annoyed by their extreme secrecy since we wanted to know what was going on! (Laughs.)
“It will be a really nice conclusion. It will be pleasant and I hope everyone will feel happy afterwards.”
Was it still a surprise when the cancellation was revealed in February considering there had been some ambiguity regarding the show’s destiny for some time?
“It was, indeed. We were aware of our positive ratings and award victories. We had slightly adjusted the show and had begun filming in more off-site places. We made a special effort to include everything into it.
“The adjustments had only been broadcast for about two weeks when we made the change before it was cancelled. Hey, we didn’t even get a chance to show everyone, we were all thinking.
“Although it was really unexpected, it was also very shocking. It is very sad. We’re happy that the programme is ending on a positive note, but we also share the frustration of the other viewers who are asking, “Why has it been cancelled when so many people adore it?””
You didn’t learn about it otherwise, did you?
“Yes, on a Sunday morning, all of these pieces started to appear. All we could think was, “Same old false information.” But afterwards, producers contacted and confirmed it was real.
“The next Monday was a meeting day. Even if we anticipated it, the news nonetheless caught us all by surprise a little bit.”
How long were you expecting to stay?
“To be honest, I wasn’t really certain. Our timetable is really demanding. After one of the American soap operas, I believe we are the second-fastest programme in the world. They are only faster than us because they don’t use outside sets and instead shoot everything indoors, which is quicker.
“We shoot a lot, which is quite taxing. It’s incredibly hard to have any type of life, and all of my friends and family are in Sydney, so I wasn’t sure how long I could handle it.
“It was quite challenging to go through COVID, but I definitely adore everyone on the show and consider us to be a true family. Though I wasn’t sure, I believe that would have kept me there a short while longer.”
Did Chloe’s plans need to be altered as a result of the cancellation of the show?
“Since they haven’t really told us, I’m not sure. Because they were awaiting word from the UK network on whether they would renew our contract, I think they had tales planned out past July. They would periodically do that and sign the show up once more every few years.
“They weren’t sure, so they continued to plan, but the concert was cancelled before they could finish. I believe that in order to appropriately wrap up some previously written stories and wrap up a lot of other things, they had to move quickly.”
Did anyone inform you that Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue will be making a return?
“We all learned about it on the day they arrived after it had been kept utterly secret. Someone asked, “Why doesn’t anyone inform us? We won’t ruin it because we’re not idiots. The following day, however, the details were released to the media. (Laughs.) I wish someone had informed us so we could have taken a lovely group shot.
“I was acquainted with Kylie when I was young and we used to hang out on tour because she once dated Michael Hutchence, a former member of my father’s band [INXS]. She and I last interacted a few years ago.
It would have been wonderful to send dad a greeting and a picture, but everything was kept extremely quiet.
What are your favourite recollections from when you played Chloe?
“I do frequently think about Chelly, the union of Chloe and Elly. We weren’t really expecting much from it going in. We shoot so frequently that we constantly have a fresh plot or new love interest. This is the next one, sure, Jodi [Gordon, who plays Elly] and I just thought.
“We undoubtedly spent a lot of time and effort into it, but we simply had no idea that it would be so well received. It inspired a great deal of fervent admirers and had a significant impact on the LGBTQI+ community.
“Young women and members of the queer community continue to tell me that the plot aided their coming out to their families.
“I’m simply incredibly appreciative of the support from the audience and humbled and honoured that I even slightly aided someone. I would have to choose that plot, as it had such significance outside of the programme as well.
“Beyond that, my on-screen brothers Scott McGregor and Matt Wilson are just people I have such wonderful memories of working with. When I shot with them, that was always so much fun, and I’d always get a sore face from laughing!”
Now that Jodi is back, is there any chance of a Chelly reunion?
“I would adore that so much. Long before it was officially announced, I was aware that Jodi was returning. Like everyone else, I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed.”
Have you have a least favourite plot?
“The “payment for company” plot line, in which Chloe went on dates and was portrayed as a sex worker, didn’t really appeal to me. It was all really hurried and just a lot. I don’t really want to take anything away from anyone, though, as many people claim that it was their favourite and that they found it to be amusing and informative.
“The second one I found humorous was Chloe’s casino. In one of Lassiters’ rooms, there was a gambling ring. I had a lot of lines to learn, and I had to shoot all of those scenes back-to-back, so that was a big day.
“I overheard someone remark that one of the writers recently wrote about me doing the same thing after reportedly seeing the movie Molly’s Game. Because someone had watched Molly’s Game, I was like, “Oh thanks a bunch, now I have this gigantic day with plenty of lines to study!””
Do you have any faith that Neighbours will return after taking some time off?
“I’m not sure. The sets are going to be destroyed, I first heard, but then I heard that items are being retained just in case. I have no idea what is going on. I’m not sure how likely it is that someone would have picked it up if it were fully there and prepared to leave.
“However, I don’t really understand how it all works because I’m not an expert or a TV executive. Crossing our fingers that it still might be possible.”
In comparison to the other cast, you engage with fans a lot more. Have you valued that connection over the years?
“very significant I adore the fans so much and am so moved by their fervour. They frequently ask a tonne of questions, and all I want to do is respond and assist.
“They obviously adore the show, and I can tell how much these items matter to them. So I’m pleased to try and be there if I can just provide them a little bit of happiness or an answer to something that has long bothered them.”
How do you see the future?
“Every time someone asks, I simply respond, “Sleep!” I’m really worn out. Particularly this year, as a result of the COVID outbreak and all of our lockdowns, when things started to pick up again.
“Along with all the Instagram activity and attempting to connect with all the admirers, I’ve been juggling a tonne of other small work projects. This year, it’s become more than a full-time job, and it’s really worn me out.
“I’ve been eager to return to Sydney, where my friends and family live, and spend some time relaxing. At this point, I’m just going with the flow.”
Many of your supporters claim that they may eventually catch you on Home and Away.
“Why don’t you do Home and Away, people always ask me. like it depends on me! (Laughs.) We have no control over this. Never say never, though.
“Knowing the schedule of a soap opera makes me unsure of my want to return. I’m not sure if I could do it again, but on the other hand, I’m not sure whether their schedule operates differently than ours.
“We must wait and see. I’m just going to go with the flow, as I stated.”