Neighbours legend Alan Fletcher addresses cast cull fears: “No one is untouchable”

The actor marks 25 years on Ramsay Street in 2019

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Iconic Neighbours couple Karl and Susan Kennedy reach the 25th anniversary of their first on-screen appearance later in 2019, and Alan Fletcher, who plays the beloved doctor, is hoping to bring some of his fictional family back to celebrate.

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“A Kennedy kids reunion would be the coolest thing, but there’s no talk yet,” the actor told RadioTimes.com on a recent visit to the UK. “I had coffee with Benji McNair [who played eldest son Mal] the other day and he hasn’t been approached at this stage, likewise Kimmy [Kym Valentine, aka daughter Libby], and Jesse Spencer [Billy] is lost to us!”

Spencer is one of many who got their big break on Neighbours, which famously launched the careers of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Russell Crowe and Margot Robbie, and has since starred in hit US dramas House and Chicago Fire.

“He was gorgeous enough to film a cameo for Neighbours’ 20th anniversary in 2005 but he has contractual obligations in the States,” said Fletcher.

“There are no concrete plans about how to mark 25 years of the Kennedys, but Jackie and I will go out for dins on the date in August! Next year is also Neighbours’ 35th anniversary so there may be a marriage of celebrations tying the two together.”

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Fletcher and Woodburne with on-screen daughter Kym Valentine (centre) in her last appearance in 2014

How did the cast feel about Eve Morey’s axing?

Notching up such a long tenure on the show is no mean feat, especially in light of the recent controversial decision to axe Eve Morey – who played Sonya Rebecchi – after a decade for budgetary reasons.

The popular character was killed off in a heartbreaking cancer storyline earlier this year after financial cuts were forced across the production following the soap’s Australian broadcaster Network Ten going into administration in 2017.

Since then Ten has been saved by US company CBS and UK broadcaster Channel 5 has struck a deal with FremantleMedia, who make the show, calming the waters after a period of uncertainty – but has Morey’s departure made the cast fear for their future?

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“You might think so but it hasn’t,” Fletcher responded candidly. “Channel 5 visited the set recently following the rescue plan, their dedication is undeniable, as is Ten’s, who have been pulled back from the brink. FremantleMedia have always said, even when things were uncertain, Neighbours is the jewel in the crown, a real asset. Hard decisions have to be made sometimes, losing someone like Eve was difficult, but these things do happen – and she had a very important, beautiful and extraordinary story to go out on.”

Fletcher genuinely doesn’t see himself, or fellow stalwarts Woodburne, Stefan Dennis (Paul Robinson) and Ryan Moloney (Toadie Rebecchi) as bullet proof, though.

“No one is untouchable, I don’t think there is any such thing. An actor’s life is by the minute. Jackie and I have always been on one-year contracts, but it is extraordinary to stay on a show for this long. Having the same job for 25 years is not unusual but it does happen.”

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So what’s kept him in the role for so long? “People leave to do other things, but luckily I’ve been able to do other things in parallel outside the show and stay. I’ve had music interests, been a headshot photographer, lots of pantos, stage musicals, produced a short film, I’m currently working on creating content on YouTube. I’ve done a travel show for Channel 5 which airs later this year.

“I’m also very focused on my family who have benefitted enormously from me being on Neighbours. If it all ended tomorrow I’d have nothing but the fondest memories – there would be no sadness just a natural progression. Jackie and I say out loud every day we are appreciative for the gift we’ve been given.”

Can he see himself staying for another quarter of a century? “I’m 62 now,” he laughs, “You do the math!”

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