Neighbours‘ Sonya Rebecchi (Eve Morey) loses her battle with cancer on Tuesday 5 March and dies in the arms of beloved husband Toadie Rebecchi (Ryan Moloney).
There won’t be a dry eye in the house as the fan favourite breathes her last, the day after doctors confirm the disease has spread to her brain. Travelling to join the rest of their family at the beach, Sonya and Toadie enjoy one final road trip together as her condition deteriorates. Arriving just in time to watch her children from afar, Sonya tells Toadie how much she loves them all before slipping away…
Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Morey is frank and philosophical as she explains the reasons behind her departure after almost a decade in the role, confirming it was not her decision, and tells us what’s next after saying goodbye to one of the most popular pairings in Neighbours’ history.
Why is Sonya being written out?
At the end of 2017 Neighbours was at a point where it was negotiating its future (following Australian broadcaster Network Ten going into administration), and there had to be changes budget-wise for it to move forward in every department, and I was part of that. It’s what happens in the industry, it made sense, it’s a business, and it’s all good – once I knew the character was going I wanted to know what would happen to Sonya and Toadie, we had to preserve the integrity of these characters. So with almost a year to go I said ‘I have to die,’ which started trajectory of the exit storyline.
Once the decision was made you were happier for Sonya to be killed off?
Yes. Sonya would never leave Toadie or her kids, or take Nell and not let him see her. They both have too much respect for each other to do that. I didn’t want her to go off the rails again, if you make someone unlikable because they’re leaving you end up not caring they’re going! I feel death was the only option in order to be true to them. In the end everyone did everything they could to make this whole process as wonderful as it could be for the end of the character.
Did the reasons behind the exit make it harder to film?
Ryan and I worked hard to make them real and bring meaning to the relationship, and to have that amplified even more in the final year was wonderful. It was a devastating year in some ways with regard to having to do an upsetting storyline but was probably the most meaningful story and my most meaningful time on the show, and I wouldn’t take any of that away.
Was it hard to accept the decision?
It made complete sense to me, and there was even a moment of exhilaration in a weird way having been there for so long. And these last few years I’ve felt like I wanted to be home with my kids more, especially after coming back after my second maternity leave. I said to Ryan when he came to meet the baby while I was off: ‘I don’t want to go back, I just want to be with my kids,’ not thinking that would ever really happen – the universe was listening! You go through lows of ‘Have I done something wrong?’ but you come out the other end and it’s not black and white, this is business, this is the industry we’re in and there’s worse stuff that can happen – I’m being written out of a show but I’m not dying! I believe things happen the way they should, and I strive to find meaning and purpose in everything I do.
What’s next for you career-wise?
My priority is the kids, my eldest starts school next year so to be able to be around more for that is exciting. Whatever I do next has to fit within the rhythm of the family. I’m interested in stepping away from acting, still working with actors but in a wellness or mental health part of the process – taking a bigger responsibility of what they do. I studied psychology so it ties in with that. They asked me if I wanted to direct but my husband is a director on the show so he has that covered! Rather than leading the ship I like nailing the nitty gritty of character detail and helping the actors, that’s my passion. I’ve just started doing a little bit of that for Neighbours.
How did you feel filming the death scene on the beach?
Awful and yet incredibly precious at the same time! They weren’t supposed to be my last scenes but we got rained off out on location and had to come back a few weeks later after I’d wrapped everything else and finish it, so my last moments as Sonya was her dying. It was weird, knowing Ryan and I wouldn’t be working together any more once the scene finished. There were so many layers to that moment, even looking over at the kids and thinking, ‘This is it!’ Having that two week gap allowed more perspective on those scenes and allowed a different approach. It was actually really lovely.
Were there any aspects of Sonya you wished you’d explored further?
We did so much, Sonya had some great journeys. Actually I only remembered the other day I was the mayor of Erinsborough! That was pretty cool! I don’t know if that will get a mention at her funeral – I walked into the green room one day and no one was there because they were filming Sonya’s funeral. I was asked if I wanted to go and watch but I just couldn’t do it!
What are you highlights from playing Sonya?
I really enjoyed the surrogacy with Mark and the baby, although when they put that story to us I just didn’t get it! But it worked in the context of getting Sonya and Toadie to the point where he was driven to cheat with Andrea. From a strategic point of view it made sense, but sounded completely bizarre at first! I loved working with Scott McGregor and building their relationship. Now you’ll have the complexity of Mark’s grief for Sonya out of the bond formed in that time. I also loved working with Gemma Pranita who played Jade, having a sister showed another side of Sonya. But working with Ryan is my entire highlight!
Why did fans connect to Toadie and Sonya so strongly?
Within a world of crazy stuff, beautiful people and a heightened, at times aspirational, world, they were just very normal. You watched them meet, fall in love, get married, have a kid, you felt that complete growth of a relationship. They had fun and made each other laugh. I think that is what them relatable – they are just like us.
If you have been affected by Sonya’s storyline and would like more information on Ovarian Cancer, please visit targetovariancancer.org.uk
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