Neighbours: Xanthe fights for life after Finn tries to kill her – Lilly Van der Meer interview

"There's a split-second where they lock eyes, then Xanthe is knocked out…"

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Neighbours villain Finn Kelly pulls out all the stops next week as he executes his wicked revenge plan which involves a stolen car, a hit and run and multiple kidnappings, leaving the lives of several Ramsay Street residents in danger – including Xanthe Canning, who ends up in a coma.

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The toxic ex-teacher has been plotting from the shadows to wreak vengeance on those he believed wronged him. He’s fooled gullible Bea Nilssen into a sham romance by using a fake identity in order to meddle in the life of her sister, and his ex-lover, Elly Conway, and tarnished the professional reputation of Dr Karl Kennedy to get his own back on wife Susan following their battle for the position of Erinsborough High principal.

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On Monday 9 July, Finn steals Elly’s car and literally crashes the planned scavenger hunt in the bush. As Xanthe and pal Chloe Brennan partake in the event, a car comes speeding towards them – and Xanthe realises the driver is the man who groomed her – and who she thought was safely locked up behind bars…

“As the car comes towards them Xanthe’s first thought is to get Chloe out of danger so she pushes her out of the way,” reveals Lilly Van der Meer, who plays the courageous Ms Canning. “She sees Finn staring at her behind the wheel, there’s a split-second where they lock eyes then she’s hit and knocked out.”

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Finn’s manipulation left the vulnerable teen’s life in tatters last year when he used her schoolgirl crush to his calculating advantage, making her an unwitting accessory to his sinister attempt to usurp Mrs Kennedy from running the school and leaving a huge psychological impact on the student.

As Xanthe slips into a coma and the Cannings are told the next 48 hours are critical, she eventually wakes up on Friday 13 July and suffers a terrifying flashback to seeing Finn seconds before the crash, despite the incident initially being blamed on Elly as her car was involved. “Xanthe suddenly remembers,” continues van Der Meer. “She wakes up petrified screaming for her dad, Gary. It’s a beautiful moment between father and daughter and Gary is really there for her, Damien (Richardson, aka Gary) and I felt very emotional filming it.”

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With the knowledge Finn is on the loose causing chaos a manhunt ensues, while the conniving Mr Kelly turns on terrified Bea and reveals his true agenda, then on Wednesday 11 July he lures Elly and Susan into finding them and locks the three women in a shipping container leaving them for dead.

As for Xanthe, the thought of facing her tormentor again triggers mixed emotions as she recovers in hospital, as Van der Meer observes. “If she were to confront Finn there’d be nothing for Xanthe to lose. Confronting him and telling him exactly how she feels about his manipulation can’t make what she’s been through any worse. I’d love a scene between them of that nature down the line.”

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The patient now faces a long road to recovery from her injuries and brush with Finn, with the plot also exploring the reaction of Gary and Xanthe’s grandma Sheila to almost losing their beloved relative. For Van der Meer the intense scenes meant a first in her fledging career: “I had to do my first coma seizure while Xanthe’s in hospital,” she confides. “I felt a bit intimidated and wanted to get it right so it looked believable, so Colette (Mann, aka Sheila) coached me through it.

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“She knew I was feeling vulnerable about tit so I went to her house and she made me get on the floor and start acting it out, telling me not to be embarrassed until we got it!”

The events from this dramatic week are set to affect the Cannings for months, and it’s clear how protective Van der Meer is over her character as she discusses Xanthe’s upcoming struggles: “You will see that survivor element in her. I want the audience to see how determined she is and hopefully that will be portrayed. That’s my goal, to show her strength coming through, even in times of weakness.”

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