Takaya Honda will speak next in our series of Neighbors goodbye interviews regarding his six-year role as David Tanaka.
David has been the focus of several significant storylines this year, but as we approach the final episode, it now appears that he will finally receive his happy ending.
Takaya talks to Digital Spy in this interview about the cancellation of Neighbours, his covert plans to leave the programme, and his aspirations for the future.
How has the environment been on the set while you’ve been shooting these last few episodes?
“David’s major plotline picked up steam toward the end and got pretty intense. I haven’t spent a lot of time on set with many of the others because a lot of stuff was with guests rather than the main group.
“The actors and crew are accustomed to working hard each week to finish filming this show. We don’t have a lot of time to reflect on our feelings as the play comes to a conclusion because the action moves so swiftly. Nevertheless, occasionally you’ll notice someone contemplating the situation while gazing off into the distance.
“When I recently had an interview with our digital producer on the hospital set, she let me know that it was no longer in use. Hearing that a set I had spent a lot of time on wouldn’t be utilised again made me feel strange.
We’ve just been working to put on the best show we can, so it’s an odd sensation to be nearing the finish.
This year, David’s narrative has been outstanding. Was the announcement of the cancellation required to speed things up?
“Last year, I told the producers that this would be my final deal. I was glad to leave after six years since I believed David had completed the necessary journey. I had already shared all the tales I had wanted to share with David.
“Had the show continued, this would have been my exit narrative since it was intended to be. If the story had continued, it would have been different and longer. To make it shorter, certain aspects had to be altered, but hopefully the result was the same.
“They wanted David and Aaron to have a happy ending since the show was coming to an end, and I agreed with them.
“Although it was cut short and I’m not entirely sure what they had in mind had it continued, I don’t believe the audience will feel cheated out of a satisfying ending to the story. Within the confines of the available on-screen time, there was still plenty of room to thoroughly and entertainingly tell the tale. It was nevertheless a thrilling rollercoaster ride.”
We’ve heard that Neighbours’ cast was informed last year that the show’s future was questionable. Was the February firing announcement still unexpected?
“It wasn’t a shock because we were informed beforehand, but it was still unexpected. There have been rumours that the show is ending ever since I began. There would be negotiations every couple of years, and there would be clickbait articles published about the show ending.
“Obviously, the chats we had last year felt much more serious. Prior to this, producers had never hinted at the potential that the programme would terminate. Don’t worry about all those rumours; negotiations are moving along well, we were always assured.
“We were aware that they were attempting to revive the show and that we would return in November 2021. Instead of producing six episodes per week, we now only produce five. Additionally, we chose to work on more locations, and the production values you see on screen have been raised.
“We were aware that was an attempt to spice up the show.”
How did you find out the news through the media?
“The fact that it was leaked in the UK and not from Fremantle or the Neighbours production shocked people. That was terrible since it prevented the cast and crew from having to deal with the facts before the rest of the world did.
“That made us unhappy. The fact that it was leaked in that manner does disappoint me a little. The folks that leak that kind of information, in my opinion, don’t truly realise that they are discussing 200 people’s jobs, and they lack the respect for those people to let them be the first to learn about it.
“It wasn’t a shock, but it was a surprise, and how it happened was sad.”
Do you have any faith that Neighbours will come back?
“The show, in my opinion, might return in some capacity. I believe the Neighbours brand is so strong that it would be ridiculous for it to completely vanish, whether it stays the same as it is now or is reformatted into something else.
“That brand, in my opinion, still has a tremendous amount of value. The future? Never say never. Things are frequently revived or reinvented years later. I don’t want to put a time frame on it, but for the benefit of the viewers, I’d really like to see the programme return or get a spin-off.”
How much of an effect will the show’s finale have?
“I believe that the loss of Neighbours is tragic not only for the show’s current cast, crew, and viewers, but also for the cast and crew that the show would have had in the future.
“A programme like Neighbours owes a lot to the Australian industry for opening doors for so many creatives, whether they work in front of or behind the camera. There are probably not many Australian productions anymore that don’t have a writer, make-up artist, grip, camera operator, publicist, or any other Neighbours-related employee.
“Over the course of 37 years, a huge number of people have watched the show. The industry will likely look back in five years and wonder how this gap came to be. It will be due to the current iteration of Neighbours being cancelled.
“It’s a programme where contestants have a chance. In contrast to other series where there are just six episodes and you need all of them to be successful to earn another season, people without experience can come on and be given a genuine chance at something.
“Due to the fact that Neighbours was filmed essentially year-round, mistakes could be made by guests without having a major impact. Anybody could do that, whether they were a writer, director, or actor.
“The industry will likely question why fewer people are entering the field in a few years. So hoping someone else steps up to fill that gap.”
In recent years, the show has gained appreciation for its depiction.
“In that way, it’s a loss for Australian culture because it’s a significant export that shapes perceptions of what Australian culture actually is. In many respects, it perfectly captures Australia as it is.
“This includes representation of people of colour, sexual orientation, and gender, all of which are prominent. I believe Neighbours did a fantastic job with it, therefore this is a loss on many levels that will be felt for a very long time.
Many people will no longer have the option that Neighbours affords, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who are unaware of this.
Have you had a favourite David tale?
“I am so fortunate to have such amazing narratives. The best response I can provide is that David’s entire story arc has been my favourite one. I am very grateful to have a character with a complete arc.
“When David first arrived, he was this reserved, quiet person who was unsure of both his sexuality and his identity as a human.
“The moment David accepted himself as gay, he found strength in it. In contrast to people like his dad or brother—these sharks who do anything they want to gain something—he stood up for what he believed in. David has always acted morally.
“Then, in the most recent plot, we put David in a precarious scenario where he had to act against to his fundamental belief in doing the right thing.
“Instead of treating each tale separately, I hope the viewer will recognise the effort it took to keep that arc together and make it a cohesive whole.
“The clearest illustration of that was when viewers first saw David in prison, still sporting kidney transplant scars. Since that incident, I have worked tirelessly to advance that cause since I received feedback from people who had actual organ transplants. They had emphasised the significance of demonstrating reality and its tangible implications.
“Even if David’s scars are probably not as severe as they otherwise would have been, they nonetheless exist because of Neighbours. That consistency was very significant to me.”
Had you ever had a least favourite plot?
“Sincerely, I don’t have any. I enjoyed how two different people struck David with the same ute twice! You’d think it would be stupid, but it was fantastic. That, in my opinion, is one of the soap opera components that are layered on top of our narratives.
“A present for being a fan, it’s almost like an Easter egg for the audience. I have never encountered a plot that I didn’t enjoy since I have been so blessed to have had excellent ones throughout.”
How do you see the future?
“I want to do more of this, perhaps on a different set! I adore acting and hope to keep doing it for a very long time.
“With Matt Wilson [who plays Aaron], I have a fantastic working companion. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anyone with whom I got along better. The working relationship and friendship between us should continue. We intend to work on several projects for ourselves.
“I want to travel to the UK and perhaps LA as well. I wish to see my loved ones and friends. I’m eager to complete all the things that have been on the back burner that I’ve had to put off for a while.
“In the end, I want to keep performing, so I’m hopeful some opportunities may present themselves. I hope the audience follows me, continues to appreciate my work, and views me in a new way as I take on other identities.
“I’ve enjoyed my role as David, and I truly hope that now people will get to see me in a different role. I’m hoping you’ll be interviewing me shortly for a new position.”