Neighbours’ Sonya Rebecchi has gone from pillar of the community to emotional wreck in the space of just a few months. Married to stalwart Toadie, mum to cute little Nell, mayor of Erinsborough, this was the woman who had it all. Until her husband cheated on her with a woman he thought was his missing ex back from the dead…
The ‘Fake Dee’ storyline, in which a con artist doppelganger of Dee Bliss turned up 13 years after she plunged into the sea sniffing around her inheritance, has been one of the most talked-about soap plots of the year.
But while the central conceit was high concept and just the right side of crackers, the emotional fallout has been surprisingly deep and saw recovering addict Sonya tragically lose a child, hit the bottle hard and endure a very public meltdown.
As Willow Somers, teenager daughter of evil imposter Andrea, returns to Ramsay Street to open old wounds for the Rebecchis, actress Eve Morey discusses what she describes as her most intense six months on the show since she started playing Sonya in 2009.
“It just hasn’t stopped,” says the star in an exclusive interview during a recent visit to the UK. “The storylines have been incredibly challenging, and playing drunk is so hard. Hopefully all that time being a trash bag in my early 20s came in handy!
“But I’m pleased we’ve shown the real consequences of what happened to the character, it’s not like we’ve moved on in a few weeks and forgotten everything which is often the way in soap. If you don’t deal with your issues, there can be real mental health consequences – that’s what we’re exploring now.”
Sonya’s mental health takes another battering when Willow reappears next week, having escaped the clutches of her lying mother. The teenager may be as much a victim of Andrea’s antics as the Rebecchis, but that doesn’t stop Sonya freaking out when she sees her again.
“She’s petrified as she thinks Dee is with her,” continues Morey. “This situation is Sonya’s trigger and she worries she could fall back into her destructive patterns. Just when she was starting to feel strong again and move forward from her self-hatred it could all come tumbling down.”
Willow has left Andrea behind in London and returned to Australia alone, but without a legal guardian she could end up in care – so Toadie wants to take her in. How does Sonya feel about that?
“It’s a no-win situation. Willow symbolises a lot of bad stuff which is sad because she’s just a young girl. Sonya is angry at Andrea for putting her child in that situation, but Sonya doesn’t blame Willow. As a mother herself whose made mistakes, she’s got compassion towards her.
“Ultimately Sonya recognises who the adults are in this crazy mess, they are the ones who allowed the situation to get where it did and that wasn’t Willow’s fault. So as hard as it is, she can’t really object to letting Willow stay in Erinsborough.”
While Sonya tries to make peace with the past, Morey reveals Toadie’s still got his unresolved issues, which Willow’s unexpected return will highlight.
“We start to see his behaviours and what’s driving him. Sonya’s issues are very overt, she got drunk in front of everyone and caused the backpackers’ accident – Toadie’s are a lot more subtle and beneath the surface.
“He has a ‘white knight’ complex, a need to fix everything and to feel like the dutiful man doing the right thing by everyone – but at the expense of his own happiness and that of those around him.
“On the one hand he’s saying he’ll do anything to get back together with Sonya, yet at the same time he wants to take in the child of the woman who is the root of all their issues. He fails to see the correlation between them not moving forward and helping Willow…”
With Sonya and Toadie seemingly still at odds, Morey admits to having doubts when producers pitched the idea of wrecking the Rebecchi marriage. “I was resistant at first, as was Ryan (Moloney, aka Toadie). But now, the growth that’s come out of it for the characters has been worth it, and I’ve enjoyed playing it more than I thought.
“While they make a great couple, what’s interesting is exploring how they also enable bad habits in each other – we’ve not seen that element before.
“In fact now I wouldn’t feel comfortable if they reunited without working through their issues, so I want to keep them apart for longer!”
And what of ‘Fake Dee’, wicked Andrea Somers – with Willow sticking around for a while, will Neighbours heed fans’ cries to bring the incorrigible imposter back to continue the bonkers blockbuster plot?
“This story is not yet resolved,” smiles Morey, “there hasn’t been an ending yet. It would be good to have some kind of resolution for Sonya after all the trauma, and for Andrea to pay for what she’s done.”
So what about those theories that Andrea could return in around nine months’ time carrying a little surprise from her and Toadie’s lusty liaision in London? Morey won’t be drawn…
“I don’t think she’s coming back any time soon – that’s all I can say… Although Andrea is meant to still be in London. Maybe I’ll bump into her while I’m here!”
Neighbours continues weekdays on Channel 5 at 1.45pm and 5.30pm.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news