Neighbours’ Canning clan face a worrying time next week when Xanthe ends up in a coma after an attempt on her life by old enemy Finn Kelly.
It falls to matriarch Sheila to stay strong and keep the family together as doctors warn her granddaughter may never wake up and could be brain damaged. Thankfully Xanthe comes round, but when it emerges Finn was responsible for the hit and run that put her in hospital her dad Gary vows revenge on the toxic ex-teacher who groomed his daughter last year.
As Xanthe faces a long road to recovery, Sheila’s romance with Dr Clive Gibbons comes under threat – with high drama ahead for Erinsborough’s favourite glamorous granny, we caught up with Australian TV legend Colette Mann who plays the blonde battleaxe during a recent visit to the UK to fill us in on what’s in store.
Does Sheila feel bad she rowed with Xanthe before she got run over about her dream of being a doctor?
Yes, she comes clean to Gary she doesn’t want the last conversation she had with Xanthe to be an argument. Doctors warn it’s touch and go for 48 hours. The Cannings are in the hospital for a long time, we filmed on that set for nearly three weeks and I was pleased the storyline was written in an elongated way for a change so we could make it more intense for the audience. Usually these things are dealt with so quickly – I’ve had three heart attacks and I’m still living!
Was it quite tough doing such emotional scenes?
Sheila is crying for most of them and Gary is fighting back tears, it was very intense. It’s more agonising to watch someone trying not to cry so I wanted Sheila to be doing that sometimes but it’s really hard! You instinctively want to let it go. So it was exhausting but exhilarating, and made a change to not be faffing around in the Waterhole saying: ‘what can I get you, luv?’! And it was nice for us three Cannings to be together.
Is Sheila worried Gary will turn vigilante and try and track down Finn?
We didn’t even know he was out of jail! Sheila is scared of Gary’s response and knows he’ll go off the handle. Gary is incredibly protective over Xanthe but Sheila’s worried he could get in trouble and end up back inside. This makes relations difficult between them, so Sheila feels very alone and distraught.
How is Sheila and Clive’s relationship jeopardised by this situation?
Clive talks to Sheila as a doctor, not her partner. He is the voice of reason and tells them Xanthe may have brain damage and could face a long recovery and Sheila doesn’t want to hear it, so her and Clive have a mini-split. Once Xanthe wakes up Sheila wants to make amends for their argument and pushes her to continue her studies before she’s well enough, but it’s way too much too soon. Sheila is overcompensating and Clive has to point that out which doesn’t go down too well!
Do you like tapping into Sheila’s supportive side?
Sheila’s overall objective is to keep the family happy and together. Everything she does, even if it’s a bit crazy and sometimes a little abrasive and you really want to punch her, it comes from the right place. It’s out of love. Even when she questioned if Xanthe was aiming too high by pursuing medicine, she wasn’t saying she was dumb she just doesn’t want her to have unrealistic expectations and be disappointed. Don’t forget there’s a Canning thing where they all feel they’re not good enough, they have self-esteem issues.
What’s your relationship like with Lilly Van der Meer (Xanthe) off screen?
Us Cannings get on tremendously well, and that includes Damien Richardson who plays Gary. I think if your characters work together a lot you need some sort of decent relationship with them off camera in order for the rapport to work on camera. Lilly and I have a very different dynamic to Sheila and Xanthe but we are very close. I mentor some of the younger cast members as an acting coach, and while I don’t formally do that for Lill we do discuss scenes and character arcs. I mentor her life informally sometimes!
Finally, what can you tease about Sheila’s future?
Xanthe will be recovering for the next few months, Gary will be getting a new love interest, and there’s some funny, warm and sexy stuff coming up for Sheila and Clive. We cement that relationships in lots of different ways in lots of different locations…! I’m so pleased they’ve finally got a ship name on social media as #Shlive. It’s got a nice ring to it than #Cleila, which sounds like a disease!
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