Sheila Canning is in for a rough ride as 2021 gets underway in Neighbours with the news that Clive Gibbons and Jane Harris (Geoff Paine and Annie Jones) have had a festive hook-up that will lead to them realising they want to be together.
For Sheila, this is a kick in the teeth and she sets about trying to win Clive back by any means necessary. But with a heart attack on the way for the Ramsay Street favourite, will she have to learn to let him go?
Colette Mann has been speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com about the upcoming storyline and how she was initially worried about it doing it. Here is what she had to say about the latest Erinsborough love triangle.
Speaking of how feisty Sheila feels when she learns the news, Mann explained: “She’s upset, of course, because previous to that she and Clive had been seeing each other as friends and she wrongly believed that he was interested in her again. She tries to push that along in the Christmas episodes but, unbeknownst to her, he ends up sleeping with Jane and they sneak around behind her back for a couple of weeks. She feels very betrayed by both of them and is quite upset about it.”
As expected, the story leads to Sheila doing some questionable things as she attempts to win Clive over and ruin what he has with Jane – something that Mann felt uneasy about when the storyline was first revealed to her.
“Originally when the story came up they said it would fabulous and comedic and I said ‘hold everything’. A woman being betrayed by both her friends is hardly something to laugh about, Myself, Annie and Geoff had meetings and we didn’t change the storyline as such but we definitely changed the way we played it. I couldn’t be joking about it because it’s a pretty devastating thing to have happened.”
As for whether Sheila can learn from her mistakes, Colette is unsure. “In real life, she wouldn’t make any of those mistakes, but we are in a soap opera and people don’t learn anything in a soap, clearly. She tries to stay out of things, particularly with her grandsons, but one of my concerns about the storyline is that it all read to me as being quite self-serving which I don’t believe Sheila is.
“She gets into messes with people but it is always with her family in mind. Her help is misplaced but her heart is in the right place. This whole business with bringing Des over and trying to trick him, I went to the producers and said I was worried about it as this was deceptive and self-serving and the character has never been like that. After the meetings, I got a text from Jason saying thank you for your dedication and your protection of your character. It was really nice.”
Colette added that she made peace with the story due to how other characters got involved and spurred Sheila’s actions. “She was egged on by Roxy Willis (Zima Anderson) who really wants to see her happy. She keeps pushing her to try and win Clive back, and also by Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburne), so it wasn’t just Sheila being a b***h for the sake of being a b***h, you know? It’s happened to me, Its happened to Colette Mann, and I didn’t behave as Sheila did. I just moved on, the greatest revenge, and had a better life and I would ideally like them to let Sheila move on – of course, they won’t.
“As a woman, Colette, who has been on her own for 14 years and never been happier I would like to see Sheila being an independent woman but, of course, that ain’t gonna happen as we’re in a soap opera,” she added.
Despite her initial misgivings about the story, Mann was keen to stress how much she enjoys being on the show and getting the meaty storylines she often has to play with. “I’m really grateful to be working and working with good actors and having storylines. I’d rather be doing this than standing around behind the bar saying, ‘What can I get you love?’ for the 54th time.”
But disaster strikes for Sheila in the middle of the storyline when she is rushed to the hospital and it leads her to further think that she and Clive are meant to be. “When she has the heart attack, I blame Clive for the whole thing, but he seems really quite torn when he believes he might lose her in the hospital and he is incredibly protective of her and torn between her and Jane who are out and proud by this point.”
“It’s quite easy for Sheila to misread what he is portraying as he seems very loving and protective of her. I tried to play a lot of it as miscommunication. It resolves eventually as she accepts they are together and basically stays out of their way. I quite like Sheila being a single woman really. It opens her up for doing other things. I miss Geoff but that what working in a soap opera is about.”
And it seems that while Sheila is single, for however long that ends up being, she is going to be having some fun with the younger cast. “For the last two/three months, she has still had lots of storylines with the young kids, Levi, Kyle and Roxy – lots of stuff with Roxy. I love Zima, we get on incredibly well together and we’re doing a very funny story at the moment and I’m really enjoying that.”
As for the end of the road for her and Clive, the two actors were only informed about it when they noticed something strange going on with the shooting of the opening titles that finally added Clive back in for the first time since 1987.
“We only knew they were splitting up when we did the opening titles back in March because they shot one with Geoff and I together and then they shot Geoff with Annie so we just looked at each other and thought we must be splitting up.”
Looks like they were right!