Sky Mangel's return to Neighbours for the 35th anniversary week is a family reunion on and off screen, as actress Stephanie McIntosh got to work with real-life niece Jemma Donovan, aka Harlow Robinson, daughter of Ramsay Street royalty Jason Donovan, aka Scott Robinson!
"It was lovely to see the cast again, says the actress, who left as a regular in 2007, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com. "The best part was obviously having Jemma there. It was very special to be working with my little niece, we are super close as a family, although when she's living in London we don't get to see each other a lot.
"It was such a gift to be on the same show, and something that will probably never happen again."
Asked if she dished out any tips to her relative, McIntosh was full of praise for her half-brother's offspring, who made her first appearance in July 2019. "I gave her some advice but she doesn't really need it, she's totally thriving.
"I told her this will be some of the greatest years of your life, professionally and personally. I was just so proud to be a witness to seeing her at work."
Politicised Sky was something of a rebellious schoolgirl when she was introduced in 2003, and McIntosh wonders what the early incarnation of her character would have made of Donovan's alter ego, uptight teen Harlow.
"Back at the start Sky definitely had a lot of personality and was very strong-minded," she muses. "It would've been fun to see her and Harlow at school together! Although Sky was always protective and didn't stand for bullying. She was a good person."
The family connections don't stop there, as Jemma is the third-generation Donovan to star in Neighbours.
Jason memorably played Paul's kid brother Scott from 1986-1989, who's wedding to Charlene (Kylie Minogue) remains the soap's most famous moment. His father Terence Donovan was patriarch Doug Willis (Terese's former father-in-law) from 1990, and on a recurring basis until 2016.
McIntosh is Jason's half-sister from their Aussie TV presenter mother Sue McIntosh's second marriage after Terence.
Weirdly, this also means Jemma Donovan plays the great-niece of the character her father played!
Sky is back in town to secretly tie the knot with childhood crush Lana Crawford, 16 years after the girls shared the first lesbian kiss in Neighbours' history.
"When we touched on it before it wasn't spoken about or socially accepted as such, Neighbours was so brave to bring something to an audience that should be normalised. To bring it back authentically at a time when it is globally accepted, as it should be, felt right and exciting, and make it as true as possible."
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