Neighbours’ Alan Fletcher and Ryan Moloney discuss Ramsay Street return
In a chat with Neighbours’ Ryan Moloney and Alan Fletcher, we discuss the show’s shock return, how they see it evolving now it’s on a streaming service, and when they’ll first meet the new cast members.
We sit down with Alan, Ryan and other members of the press at a London hotel, the morning after their second performance at the London Palladium, part of Neighbours’ 16-date Celebration Tour. They’re looking remarkably fresh for two people who’ve performed nine times in 14 days, and they’re full of enthusiasm to discuss the show’s hotly anticipated reboot.
It’s been a whirlwind year – Neighbours’ cancellation was announced in February 2022, the final episode aired in July, and then November saw the announcement that Amazon had stepped in to save the show!
The farewell tour has since become a celebration tour, and the duo will shortly be returning to the Nunawading studios in the Melbourne suburbs to film brand-new episodes – joined by a number of familiar faces.
Talking about the jam-packed tour, Ryan tells us that fellow cast members Stefan Dennis (Paul) and Annie Jones (Jane) describe the fan excitement as similar to what they experienced in the 1980s.
“[They’re] saying this is what it felt like during the 80s, people lining up outside the tour bus and the stage door,” Ryan explains. “It’s quite a bizarre experience because you’ve got that, and then you can walk [outside] and nobody will or say anything.
“If you put it into context, all of a sudden people go nuts, and when it’s out of context it’s ‘nothing’. It’s quite nice, actually.”
Alan calls it a “gentle level of fame”, which means that they still get the ability to live normal lives.
“For me, it’s always been about interacting with the fans rather than [trying] to withdraw from them. Rockstars disappear behind walled mansions because they can’t go out into the street, but we can.
“We can walk down there, and if someone walks past and says ‘hello’, you go ‘g’day, how you going?’ ‘Can I get a photo?’ ‘Of course you can.’”
Alan also recognises the huge part that fans played in bringing Neighbours back – a petition to save the show was signed by nearly 72,000 people, and was even referenced by the show itself.
He says that during the tour’s meet and greets, when fans say “it’s really nice to meet you”, he feels like it’s actually really nice to meet them, “because [they] made sure this show came back.”
However, neither Alan or Ryan expected that we’d see a return to Ramsay Street so soon.
“We’d all made plans to do other things, because it was not coming back,” Ryan explains. “As things were winding up and it became very, very real, walking past the scriptwriters room and it being completely empty, and you’re like ‘holy moly, there’s no more stories, this is real, this is finished.’
“So as it got closer and closer and then obviously finishing, it coming back was the furthest thing from our minds.”
“It’s a huge vehicle that has 200 people on it. And as they all left, and all the sets were all carted off, and some disappeared,” Alan adds as he nods in agreement. “And you sort of go, this is as real as it can be.”
With scenes often filmed out of order, the last scene that the cast and crew filmed was in the Kennedy living room, where the characters watched messages from friends and family who couldn’t be there to see Toadie and Melanie get married in person.
Many of the characters tried to convince the newly married couple to remain on Ramsay Street, after the final episodes saw them prepare to move away.
“The last scene that we shot, the last words, were [Toadie saying] ‘Well, I guess we’re not going anywhere’,” Ryan reminds us. And he was right, they’re not!
The show’s “big 4” – Alan, Jackie, Stefan and Ryan – were the first to find out that the show was returning. Executive Producer Jason Herbison paid them individual visits, and he only called them that same morning to tell them he was on his way.
“Jason rang up and he was like, oh hey, I’m just in the area and I’ve got something to give you. “And I’m like ‘bullshit, you’re never in this area, nobody’s in this area,” Ryan laughs, referring to his remote house far away from Melbourne’s CBD.
Alan laughs too, remembering how Jason claimed he had a gift for them, something that he’d kept under his desk for months. “He gave it, to me, and I said ‘oh that’s very nice Jason’, and I’m thinking ‘well I’ve already got these photos, I don’t know what I’d do with this…’
“Thanks for the frame, I’ll take the photos out and use it for baby photos…,” he jokes. “And then of course, [he revealed] the real reason to be there. He was so excited, and he said ‘we’re back!’.”
Alan reveals that a Network 10 executive did try dropping hints to him at an award ceremony, but that he didn’t pick up on any of them!
“She was being very subtle about it, I have to say. But it was very important that it remained secretive to the level they had it, because it needed to be the big announcement.”
The pair also revealed that the Neighbours cast still have a WhatsApp group, and the “big 4” were forced to stay silent as rumours began to build before the official announcement.
Ryan describes a certain guilt at getting their jobs back before their fellow cast members knew whether their own characters would be returning: “Even within that WhasApp group, there’s almost that level of survivor guilt. We’ve got our jobs back, and we actually don’t know who’s coming back.”
The cast WhatsApp group is still quiet, Ryan admits, with some cast still not confirmed as returning.
“We actually don’t know who’s coming back. That chat is still pretty quiet,” says Ryan. “There’s a [sense of] are you coming back, or…?”
As for whether they had any doubts about returning, Alan and Ryan both say that it was an instant yes from both of them.
“A straight yes for me,” says Alan.
“You have to say yes,” says Ryan. “This is just a ridiculous thing to be part of, we’re gonna reboot this thing, you have to say yes.”
“It was like the great adventure, it really is,” says Alan. “We have a chance to do a re-do. Who gets that? A show ends and you say “hey, that’s the end of that”, and suddenly no. Can we make it better, what can we do that could be better? It’s going to be incredible.”
With a number of months between the final scenes being filmed and Neighbours’ return being announced, many of the cast had inevitably made other plans. Thankfully, producers have been accommodating, and both Alan and Ryan hope they’ll have opportunities to fit in other work alongside their Neighbours filming schedule.
“People have moved on, people have made plans, their agents have organised things,” says Alan, who has multiple tours already organised – both the ‘The Doctor Will See You Now’ tour and the tour for his new album ‘The Point’ will see him return to the UK later in the year.
“Other people have planned holidays which can’t be moved, and all sorts of things. But Neighbours is incredibly accommodating, because we have a large cast and we don’t shoot all year, so there is a lot of flexibility, and they’ll work it out.”
Ryan also tells us that he hoped to find work in the UK when the show wrapped, and that he’d still like opportunities in the future:
“I wanted to come over here [to the UK] and do more work here, so now it’s just a thing of kind of going ‘alright, well how do I still do that?’ And you know, you’ve just gotta work it around the breaks that we’ve got.”
Will there be changes in store when Neighbours returns in the autumn?
Alan describes the show’s reboot as like a ship that was put into the wrecking yard, but now it’s “gone back in the dry dock and it’s getting its refit.”
“It’s getting some new en-suites,” Ryan jokes.
“Actually, the Kennedy en-suite really does need a refurb,” Alan quips. And with a number of houses on Pin Oak Court – the street in the leafy Melbourne suburbs where the Ramsay Street external shots are filmed – undergoing renovations at the moment, he may just get that refurb.
As for whether it’ll be a complete reboot or a continuation of what we’ve known for the past few years, Alan assures us that it’ll be the same show that we’ve known and loved.
“I think the audience are the primary focus, and Neighbours knows what its audience loves and wants. It’s very rare for Neighbours to vary from what the audience expects.
“Sometimes Neighbours will say ‘oh, we’re gonna try this, or try that’, some things work, some things don’t, but ultimately the show will be the show that people know and love.”
However, Ryan hints that the show could do things slightly differently, with a streaming service allowing them to run weeks or strands which step away from the usual format – akin to the ‘End Game’ week of episodes which had nightly airings in 2020.
“Over the years, network executives have always been whinging and complaining that the numbers aren’t great because the way that people watch TV is different now. “People don’t tune in night after night to watch things any more.
“So apart from being really excited that now people can watch it exactly how people watch it, which is great, but I think [being on a streaming service] actually gives aspects to change ways that we can do things.
“Like, we could do things like where we drop little easter eggs into a scene, like something happens in a scene, we don’t particularly mention it and we kinda carry on for a bit, but then because it’s a streaming thing, we could actually pause time on Ramsay Street and then go off and explore… ‘hang on a second, what was that about?’
“And then maybe do a week’s worth of episodes about that kind of aspect, and then go ‘ok great that was awesome’ and now flip back and now we can pick up Neighbours back to where it was.”
“You couldn’t do that on a nightly thing because it’s gotta follow a chronological time.”
So, can we get any teases from them on what’s in store when the show returns? Both Alan and Ryan remain tight-lipped – but it seems that they don’t know themselves.
“Sadly we can’t give you anything, any teases, because they’re religiously keeping it locked up in a code of silence,” Alan explains. ‘We’re gonna have a big zoom call, where everyone involved in the new show will be there, and it’s gonna be very exciting.”
They believe the call is taking place in a couple of weeks’ time, and they still don’t even know which of their fellow ex-cast members will be in attendance.
“I’m gonna have to take a screen grab, because suddenly it’ll be ‘such and such is in the waiting room’ and we go ‘oh my lord,’ and then that face pops up, and then that face,” Alan laughs. “And then there’ll all of a sudden be someone you’ve never seen before in your life, and it’ll be revealed they’re a new character.”
“And then there’ll be people like, ‘oh, they’re not here’,” Ryan interjects. “Ohh, what’s happened…?!”
“I think the viewers will be able to go on that exact same journey that us as actors are going on,” Ryan continues. “In that kind of going ‘oh, what is going to happen’, and if people aren’t back, why? And what’s the story surrounding that, and who are these new people?
“Is it picking up from when it finished? Or is there a time jump? The more things change, the more story comes out of it.”
However, Alan hints that the show won’t be rewriting too much of its history, thanks to the fans’ in-depth knowledge of the show:
“The glorious thing about our audience is [that] they remember the minutiae. Because the fans remember everything, it means the story department are meticulous about not getting things wrong, because fans do sit there and say ‘No, no, 20 years ago…”
Aiding that is the fact that many of the show’s top producers were fans themselves. Jason Herbison remains as Executive Producer, while Shane Isheev returns as Script Producer.
“Jason was the ultimate fan in that he wrote to the show wanting to get a job on it, and he got one,” explains Ryan.
“So he knows Neighbours better than anybody, and that’s very rare,” Alan adds. ”They’ve also got Shane Isheev back. Shane was responsible for some of the most wonderful storylines. To have the writing team, those two people in the writing team, and Sarah [Mayberry] it’s safe hands, it’s going to be great.”
Joining Alan and Ryan on the newly rebooted Neighbours are Jackie Woodburne (Susan), Stefan Dennis (Paul), Annie Jones (Jane), Tim Kano (Leo), Rebekah Elmaloglou (Terese) and Georgie Stone (Mackenzie).
Ian Smith (Harold), April Rose Pengilly (Chloe Brennan) and Melissa Bell (Lucy Robinson) will also reprise their roles in a guest capacity, and more returns are expected to be announced soon.
Neighbours returns on Freevee in the UK and US, and Amazon Prime and Channel 10 in Australia, later this year.