As part of it’s epic 35th anniversary celebrations, Neighbours reunites five cursed couples from different eras of the soap who never made it up the aisle to to give them a second chance at tying the knot.
Fans of the 1980s golden age of Scott and Charlene are being treated to the belated nuptials of Jane Harris (Annie Jones) and Des Clarke (Paul Keane). It’s been more than 30 years since their engagement was broken off, and Jones reveals both actors hadn’t laid eyes on each other in the intervening decades.
“It’s mind-blowing, we hadn’t seen one another in all that time,” says the actress, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com. “I left in 1989 and our paths just never crossed again. Paul lives in Sydney, I’m in Melbourne. But from day one when we rocked up together for rehearsals filming this storyline it was like we’d been hanging out yesterday, it was crazy. We had a ball.”
Plain Jane Superbrain initially hooked up with the recently-widowed single dad after his the death of his wife Daphne in a car crash. There was a bit of an age gap and it seemed an unlikely pairing at the time, but Jones points out it was harder to get a hold on fan reaction in those days.
“You couldn’t tell what the audience thought as quick as you can now because we had no social media,” she explains. “So if someone had something to say about a storyline they would write you a letter, which would take weeks to reach you! Fan response was very different then.”
Long-term Neighbours enthusiasts will recall Jane left Ramsay Street to care for sick grandmother Mrs Mangel in the UK shortly after she and Des got engaged. Despite promising to return, the distance put paid to the romance and Jane dumped Des by phone a few months later – something Jones admits she had forgotten about!
“Oh my gosh, what a gal!” she laughs. “But all’s well that end’s well for them now!”
Sensing Jane is feeling lonely and left on the shelf as wedding fever grips Lassiters with their bridal expo, Paul Robinson plays matchmaker and lures old pal Des back to Ramsay Street upon learning Jane still holds a torch for her ex.
“Jane has actually reconnected with Des off screen,” continues Jones. “She talks about visiting him in Perth recently and spending time with him just as a friend. It’s not until he returns to Erinsborough that things move on a little further than platonic friendship.
“Paul genuinely wants to mend Jane’s broken heart after she was cat-fished, but she is annoyed with Paul for meddling and the defensive ‘Mrs Mangel’ aspect of her personality resurfaces! Eventually, I have a feeling she is going to be grateful for what Paul does…”
With such a long history on the show (Jones was a regular from 1986-1989, and has been a recurring guest since 2018) this is surprisingly Jane’s first on-screen wedding. “Yes, I think you’re right!” exclaims Jones. “I got to try on a whole stack of pretty dresses and pick one out, which was great fun.
The actress admits the frock is a far cry from the unforgettable peach bridesmaid’s gown worn when Jane was matron of honour for Scott and Charlene’s iconic 1987 wedding. “There are no puffy sleeves on this one, which is disappointing,” she grins. “I think this is much nicer!”
Jane’s big day comes towards the end of anniversary week and viewers will have to tune in to see if she gets her happy ending with Des. With the character’s future beyond the nostalgia-fuelled nuptials unconfirmed, and three deaths promised as part of the milestone episodes, could this be the last we see of her?
“Let’s just say Jane has a little hiatus after this,” Jones replies with caution. “I hope she’s been well-received again this time by the audience. As for another return, or being back full-time – never say never.”
Having been associated with the show since the early days, what does Jones think is the secret to Neighbours’ enduring success?
“It has an honesty and a warm, fuzzy heart,” she beams. “Watching Neighbours is like hanging out with a dear old friend. You don’t mind if certain things they do make you angry, you forgive them their quirky ways and always wish them the best. Here’s to another 35 years!”
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