Anne Charleston: I didn’t like the Neighbours production team and they didn’t like me

The Ramsay Street actress says she didn't get on with the people behind the soap, and that she hated the way Madge was made into a "dreadful bitch"

Anne Charleston, who played the formidable Madge in Neighbours during two stints between 1986 and 2001, has revealed that she was not a fan of the soap’s production team for much of the 14 years she was on the show.

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The 72-year-old Australian actress, whose character died in 2001 of pancreatic cancer, appears in the 30th anniversary special as a figment of husband Harold’s (Ian Smith) imagination. But although she’s “immensely proud” of the show, there are no rose-tinted glasses for Charleston.

Asked if she was struck by any behind-the-scenes changes in the 15 years since she left Neighbours, Charleston told RadioTimes.com that she was “amazed” by the new team. 

“The production people and those in authority, they’re much nicer now.

“Before, I just didn’t like them. I don’t think they liked me either.”

After a four year break from the show, Charleston reprised her Neighbours role in 1996, but she felt that the character of Madge had been ruined. 

“When she arrived in 1986, Madge had gone  through a broken marriage, her daughter had had an abortion, her son was in jail. She felt pretty much like a failure as a mother I think, and as a woman.

“We worked on her, and I started to feel strength in her and the writers maybe picked up on what I was doing on set. 

“Towards the end, when I went back for the second stint I just hated what I was being given to do. I wouldn’t have minded if the role had been written like that, but the role wasn’t like that and it was completely contrary to the character I’d built.

“All of a sudden, she was a dreadful bitch and that wasn’t what Madge was like. She wasn’t vicious. but she could fight her corner. And that’s when they decided I was going to be a victim. I went blind, I had an aneurysm, I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“It was just one thing after another and I thought, ‘I cant stand this. I didn’t want to go to work, it was awful.”

Charleston left the show for good in 2000, after Madge died a heart-breaking death in Harold’s arms. 

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Harold and Madge, one of soap’s most popular on-screen couples, are still in touch. “We have the occasional phone call,” said Charleston. “We meet up for dinner to catch up.”