Madeleine West on HUGE new Andrea twist – and when she’s back in Neighbours

"There's more to come in 2019 - it's the best storyline the show has ever had!"

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Neighbours has teased yet another twist in the Fake Dee storyline as evil Alice Wells (Kerry Armstrong) reminded disturbed daughter Andrea Somers (Madeleine West) they have one more secret that could change everything – cueing up the next chapter in the sensational saga for 2019.

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Friday 14 December’s episode saw Alice flee Erinsborough after her true identity as the mother of deluded Dee lookalike Andrea was revealed, and her attempt to kill Sonya Rebecchi (Eve Morey) by poisoning her saw terrified Toadie (Ryan Moloney) keep a vigil at his wife’s bedside. Alice (or ‘Heather’ as she’s known) paid one last visit to Andrea in the psychiatric hospital and told her the plan to get rid of Sonya had been derailed, but reminded her offspring she still has a trump card…

“Remember the person you told me about at the Salamanca Markets? When the time is right, you tell Toadie. Because that could change everything…” Who did Andrea meet at the Tasmanian tourist attraction? How is this a game-changer? And when are we going to find out? RadioTimes.com put all these burning questions, and more, to Madeleine West herself…

What can you tell us about the ‘trump card’ Alice alludes to?
That is deliberately left on a cliffhanger for now, but it’s good! I mean, could it get any better?

Neighbours has said there is an end point to the storyline, do you know what it is?
Of course I do! Our producer Jason Herbison had to tell me as I’m in another show on the same network in Australia called Playing for Keeps, which is very glossy and Footballers’ Wives-esque, so I have to know how the Andrea story plays out so I can plan my schedule on both shows. Jason has lured me back in next year with a fantastic storyline that I think is going to be the best in Neighbours’ history. I’m putting it out there, I really don’t think I’m pushing it saying that. And I’m not telling you anything about it!

Are enjoying playing a complicated character like Andrea?
It’s lovely she’s such a strong counter to Dee, a complete foil to her loveliness. You either love or hate characters, everyone loved Dee – and everyone hates Andrea! In the beginning Andrea was confused and a bit bent out of shape, but she’s really evolved. I didn’t think she’d get so twisted, but we do strange things when we’re in love. And now we’ve met her mother it all makes sense!

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Is Alice to blame for the bad things she’s done?
Yes, Andrea is the nurture V nature argument writ large. Her maternal role model is a maniacal and devious woman who neglected her daughter in her formative years. It kind of makes sense. At the end of the day Andrea doesn’t see she’s hurting anyone, she thinks Toadie loves her, he wouldn’t have slept with her otherwise and they have a chlid together. In the psych unit she is doing her best to take therapy on board and become a better person. Whether that will play out in the long term remains to be seen…

How complicit was Andrea in Alice’s plan to get rid of Sonya?
She isn’t truly okay with her mum doing what she did to Sonya. I don’t think deep down Alice was capable of murder, and Andrea wouldn’t support that, but she is at her most vulnerable and under her mother’s spell which is why she made a point of escaping her in the first place, now she’s back in her life under the guise of trying to help her. She can’t help being seduced by that.

Has Alice manipulated Andrea?
Andrea is so isolated, she has lost everything – her children, the man she thought she loved, any sense of self. When you are that low it does become a matter of grasping at straws. Her mother is offering an olive branch, Andrea thinks Alice has her best interests at heart. Kerry Armstrong (aka Alice) and I improvised a bit where Andrea tells her she loves her, just to get a beautiful mother/daughter moment. Despite all the malevolence it all comes from a place of love, they want the best for each other.

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With so many layers and red herrings, is it hard to know what Andrea is thinking when you’re playing her?
It’s like an acting masterclass. People have asked why I keep going back to Neighbours, and nowhere else do you get to play these high-arcing, high drama, hyperbolic storylines which are so far-fetched – but the challenge is to steep them in reality so the audience believes it, and characters’ motivations appear genuine. You use every acting muscle in your toolbelt and I am loving the challenge.

What can you tease about the next chapter of the story?
All I can say is there is more to come in 2019, it will get even bigger and even more fantastical than it is now. I can’t wait for the challenge! I love working with Kerry so fingers crossed we get to see Alice again when I return – who knows where she ends up? I start filming again in March. When I come back next year I’ll also be doing some directing on the show at the same time. I’ll be in for a good healthy stint so the story will be well and truly fleshed out.

How much attention do you pay to fan theories about Andrea and Dee?
I’m not on social media so I’m not too aware of it to be honest, but I love the speculation. You want your character to create an emotive, visceral reaction, to keep the audience guessing and grip people. You want to be the topic of conversations around the watercooler, that’s the essence of great drama whether its a period piece or a soap opera – if people are talking about it you must be getting it right.

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Did you ever imagine two years ago your return would develop into this?
No! It’s spawned such a strong reaction that took us all unawares. I knew Dee was loved but didn’t realise how much until the show’s 30th anniversary in 2015 when they did a poll of favourite moments – of course the first was Scott and Charlene’s wedding but the second was Dee’s death, which made me think I owed it to the fans to revisit the story as it had been left open. The reaction was unprecedented. I did it for the fans, Neighbours is where I started my career and they’ve been devoted for so long I owed it to them, that’s why I keep coming back. The storyline just keeps getting better. If people love it, why not give them more?

What else can you tell us about your other show, Playing for Keeps?
The beautiful Olympia Valance is also in it, she played Paige in Neighbours so we’ve got quite the Ramsay Street crew going on. I play the queen of the WAGs! It’s so good, a guilty pleasure. I describe it like the meat pie of Australian TV – it’s got a golden, shiny crispy crust full of juicy goodness, full of meat of probably dubious origins, with a nice dollop of sauce on top! Who can say no to a pie? I certainly can’t!

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