In a most recent interview, which marks the end of Neighbours, Geoff Paine looks back on his time playing Clive Gibbons.
When he first landed the part of the neighbourhood doctor Clive in 1986, Geoff’s involvement with the programme officially began. He retired as a regular the next year and made a cameo appearance in 1989, but Erinsborough wasn’t quite done with him.
Geoff returned to the role of Clive in 2017 after a 28-year absence, and he will appear in the next hour-long finale episode.
Geoff talked to Digital Spy just two weeks before filming wrapped up about Neighbours’ peak in the 1980s, his unexpected comeback as Clive, and the reasons behind his character’s prolonged absence this season.
What kind of vibe was there on site while you shot these last few episodes?
“I must admit, it’s a little emotional. As everything draws to a conclusion, you become aware that you’ll be wrapping up a plot or that this might be your last opportunity to work with a certain director or actor.
“We occasionally hear the statement, “That’s the last scene for this director, or this crew member.” It is emotionally draining, but since we can’t stop, it is also intensifying.
“The luxury of three more months to wrap things up is not available to us. There is a deadline, so all we have to do is work toward it, shoot, and finish everything.
The work is being done, but there’s a bass note in the background signalling that it’s about to finish.
Is the finale’s script what you hoped it would be?
“You understand I can’t discuss the conclusion! But it’s vast, and that last episode has a tonne of people in it.
“It’s gorgeous. It’s a nice way to say goodbye to and honour this extraordinary program—this lucky fluke of a show that truly gained popularity at the ideal time and location and attracted a loyal following.”
When the show’s cancellation was revealed, were you shocked?
“We were informed in advance that television was evolving. We were aware that there was a lot of other content now available that competed with this form of commercial television.
“We were taken aback? No and yes. No one knew when the situation would change, but we were aware that it was happening. So when the news did finally arrive, we believed it to be the end. How do we make this work? How do we say goodbye to the show’s long-time viewers while maintaining our commitment to style?”
Are you happy the cast had time to plan an ending rather than having the programme stop suddenly?
“Absolutely. Was it The Sopranos that abruptly ended with a blank screen, prompting viewers to call the network and inquire as to whether there was a power outage? “No, no, that’s the end of the show,” they had to say.
“In addition to bringing back some characters for this farewell, [executive producer] Jason Herbison and the team did an excellent job of wrapping up the various storylines and current characters.
“Thank goodness the story doesn’t finish abruptly. There is an effort to assert: “These folks have been here for a while, and we need to recognise that.””
Has there been any difficulty?
“Well, they’ve handled the ongoing COVID crisis, which has returned to Australia, quite well. There have been numerous logistical problems that we have had to address quickly.
“With a number of issues that are simply mind-boggling to consider, Jason and the production team did a superb job of handling it and ensuring that the product kept coming out.
“Stories were created about people who had to abruptly become alone. After that, they brought them back in and made sure the concert could continue.”
Earlier in the year, Clive was missing for a few months. Was there a rationale behind that?
“I’ve been active. I have to admit that I have been acting in a small play, and the producers have been very accommodating of my other work obligations. As he is useful, Clive comes and goes.
“I won’t spoil the ending, but Clive is not an exception to the rule when it comes to things not always going as planned. A few obstacles will stand in his way before the show’s conclusion.”
How did it make you feel to learn that Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue would be making a comeback?
“Simply said, I find it to be a nice circle that they are back in the same Street where they began all those years ago. Many people believed they wouldn’t come back, so when I heard they were popping back to the Street, I was thrilled.
“On this magnificent programme that launched into the stratosphere all those years ago, it’s a tip of the hat to where they started. Nobody could have foreseen that, so it’s astonishing how suddenly it exploded.”
How has it been having so many more of the same faces around?
“I was working with an actor I hadn’t seen in thirty years. We were catching up on life, so they had to interrupt us to urge us to move! It’s incredible to consider that we were all young people who have since moved on to have children, careers, and other interests.
“It was nice to catch up, and they had to tell the men, “Okay, guys, you have to act now and say the lines.” That has therefore been really great, in fact.”
What are your favourite recollections from when you played Clive?
“You’re speaking with a man whose first acting gig was this. As we all do in our first employment, I was bluffing because I had no idea what I was doing. You fake confidence that you don’t actually possess.
“I do recall wearing the gorilla suit on the first day we were filming my character. I questioned whether this was the direction of show business and what on earth I was doing in this gorilla outfit. I only wear outrageous clothing,
“I thought the play was a fantastic, quick-paced storytelling factory where you didn’t have much time to reflect. You simply had to take these risks and act accordingly.
“Saying, “Okay, let’s simply grab this and run the scenes” was something I really enjoyed. We were all taken aback by the show’s popularity, so we formed a lot of strong friendships with the actors and crew there.
“I used to enjoy using my “gift of the gab” and participating in Clive’s antics as well as my own flights of fancy.
“In a holiday episode, Clive was knocked unconscious and experienced a dream sequence in which he was Father Christmas and everyone else in the street had changed into these holiday characters. Simply said, it was an amazing, inventive, and creative period.”
Are you happy that you had the chance to come back over 30 years later?
“Completely. In terms of maturity and viewpoint, the elder Clive is a significantly different character from the younger one. But it’s been wonderful to return, get to know the new cast, and catch up with old friends. It’s been wonderful.”
Which of Sheila and Jane was Clive’s ideal love interest?
“It depends on how Clive is feeling! While Jane is much more restrained and under control, Sheila was this remarkable, courageous, and emotional type of character. They highlighted various facets of Clive’s personality.
We’ll have to wait until the end of the episode to find out if Clive and Jane are still together. Clive has been with Jane most lately.
What did you think of the show of support for Neighbours after the cancellation was revealed?
“It’s just a beautiful, pleasant feeling to know that the characters have been adored and cherished by others. It’s the nice feeling of knowing that you’re creating something that people consider to be a part of their everyday lives and routines.
“Although it’s had such a great run for the past 37 years, we want it could continue forever and ever. We’ve been really fortunate since it just made television history and is unheard of.”
How long were you expecting to stay?
“I only intended to observe the situation. Although I also devote my energies to other things in the world, it has been wonderful to be able to come back. Being one of the elder guys, it’s incredible to think that after having a life, a family, and other events, I’ve returned.
It’s good to interact with some of the younger cast members and realise that they were me a very long time ago.
Can Neighbors come back?
“Always have hope, and who knows? There may be another digital life for the show when our viewing preferences and the selection of streaming platforms change. They must be looking into those possibilities.
“Some people have cleverly posed the question, “Will an asteroid impact the Street?” There is always a chance that the show or different versions of the show could return, even though that is not going to happen.
“Exist any specific homes on the street? Are there any couples in particular that people wish to pay attention to? The future?”
Do you hope Home and Away continues to air and serves as a training ground for the Australian business despite the fact that the two shows may be rivals?
“Absolutely. I hope that Home and Away continues to grow and keeps serving as a training ground for the crew and production side of things (writing, acting, directing, etc.). All of that stuff where performers in this high-stress, high-volume type of show have to learn the ropes.
“Every week, we produce a feature-length picture, so a lot of work needs to be completed quickly. It’s an exceptional environment and an excellent training field. I fervently hope that Home and Away remains on TV and does not end.”
Are you going to try to take something from the set?
“I don’t intend to take anything from the set! What would the symbolic object be? The gorilla mask, perhaps? If so, would it be a vintage drum set? Over time, there have been many changes.
I’ve got too many pleasant memories of the location and the staff, but I appreciate you giving me the thought.