Despite the recent Melbourne lockdown, Australian soap Neighbours has battled through to continue filming, but the new restrictions have forced Tim Robards to leave the cast earlier than planned meaning another actor is stepping in for playboy Pierce Greyson's exit storyline.
Robards is expecting a baby with his wife, Anna Heinrich, and commutes between Melbourne and his family home in Sydney. Due to amended travel restrictions after another outbreak of COVID-19 in Neighbours' home city, the actor has decided to finish four weeks earlier than he was meant to, with his departure already in the works for some time, so the soap has airlifted in Don Hany to inhabit Pierce's sharp suits for his final scenes.
"I made the gut-wrenching decision to depart Neighbours early as my responsibilities as a husband and father have to take precedence," explained Robards, the former reality star who joined the cast in 2018. "I would like to thank the amazing cast, crew, Fremantle and Network Ten for the incredible opportunity to play Pierce Greyson. I have absolutely loved my time on the show and will miss it immensely."
Hany, an established TV name in his native country whose credits include Offspring, Picnic at Hanging Rock and White Collar Blue, said: "I'm thrilled to have been invited to be in a show that is part of Australian TV history. It's all new and I'm happy to be here.
"It's a testament to the resilience of the production that it's still running at a time like this."
Showing what a small world soapland is, Hany already has a connection to Ramsay Street: his real-life wife Alin Sumarwata was a Neighbours regular between 2011 and 2013 as Vanessa Vilante.
Robards makes his last on-screen appearance in the UK on Monday 9th November, with Hany seamlessly slotting in from Friday 13th November.
Wealthy entrepreneur Pierce was Robards' first major acting role, following his rise to stardom in Aussie versions of reality hits The Bachelor, Dancing With the Stars and I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
Neighbours' executive producer Jason Herbison supported his colleague's difficult decision in a personal statement: "With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit movement and with the risk of Tim potentially not being able to travel, we all felt that in these astonishing times he should return home to Sydney to be with his wife ahead of the impending birth of their first child.
"We thank Tim for his passion for Neighbours and wish him and Anna every happiness as they embark on parenthood."
Pierce's imminent exit is obviously bad news for his marriage to Chloe Brennan - could that little spark between her and newcomer Nicolette Stone lead to the breakdown of the fairy-tale romance?