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Jackie Woodburne (Susan Kennedy, 'Neighbours')

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Jackie Woodburne (Susan Kennedy, 'Neighbours')
Jackie Woodburne has played the part of Susan Kennedy for a staggering 14 years and is the longest-serving female character in the show's history. During her time on Ramsay Street, she has been in a plane crash, married, divorced, widowed, had retrograde amnesia and even slept with a priest. As she enjoys a winter holiday in the sun, we called up Jackie Woodburne for a chat about Susan's Multiple Sclerosis, her marriage to Karl Kennedy, going skinny dipping and that ever-continuing tattoo rumour...

The big storyline this year has been Susan's Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. How was it playing that?
"It's a massive story and to take a character that has always been so strong and to challenge them physically and emotionally was terrific. Also, when you're doing a story which affects so many people, I think there is an imperative to do it as truthfully and as ethically as possible. I know that the writing department did an enormous amount of research."

What sort of feedback have you had from people?
"We worked fairly closely with the MS society, who were obviously very keen for us to get it right. I had feedback from people saying, 'when I had my MRI that's exactly how I felt', or 'when Susan had to tell the children and stay strong for them, that's exactly what I went through'. I think it was something that people who have faced any kind of health issue were able to relate to."

Will that storyline continue into the new year?
"I don't think so, it was a good long story that we got a lot of mileage from. I think occasionally there will be a relapse, obviously it never goes away and will inform her character from now on, but I doubt that we will be dwelling on too much."

How do you think Susan finds working for the Erinsborough News?
"Oh I wish I was doing more of that! When it began it was pretty intense and so much fun. Obviously, Susan and Paul Robinson are natural enemies and yet they also have this sort of grudging respect or interest in each other. Stefan [Dennis] and I had a lot of fun doing that storyline. There was a lot of conflict and comedy and it kind of ran its natural course over several weeks. She still works there so the potential for further stories is still there."

Libby made a return last year. What are the chances of Billy and Anne coming back too?
"Oh wouldn't that be fantastic? I think Jesse Spencer is too busy being a television star in Hollywood so I don't think we have much chance of luring him back. Brooke Satchwell is a very busy actress too, so I doubt we'll have her back on the scene either. Obviously it would be lovely to have Malcolm back as well."

There are constant rumours that your arms are adorned with tattoos. Can you clear it up once and for all?
"That is one of my favourite rumours. I thought I'd cleared it up a couple of years ago when I was in the UK on a chatshow and was asked the question. I had a sleeveless shirt on at the time and said, 'well look there is absolutely nothing'. So no, I do not have any tattoos, but it does make me sound much more interesting if I were to say, 'yes I'm covered from head to foot'. But sadly, no. Unadorned."

How do you think the rumour started?
"I have no idea. Someone told me that there is actually a porn star called Jackie Woodburne who does have tattoos. Now, whether someone has seen our work and got us confused, I find that highly unlikely, but perhaps that's where it began. I can only guess!"

Well Neighbours does have its fairly risque moments...
"Oh yes, well we have skinny dipped a number of times! On several occasions we have been caught naked by someone, but its all shot in close up - we wouldn't want to scare the children."

Finally, what has been your most enjoyable storyline?
"I absolutely loved the Susan-Karl-Izzy triangle. It was a terrific story and Natalie [Bassingthwaighte] did such a good job in that role. She managed to make the character so much more complicated than it may have been apparent at the beginning. Because Susan is a good person normally, it was nice to have a character that she could just hate for a change. It was good to play those much meaner, darker, angrier, cruel moments than always to be the kind character. It was good to see those dents in her armour I think."

Neighbours airs weekdays on Five at 5.30pm and is repeated on Fiver at 7pm

> Click here to read more from Jackie Woodburne about Susan and Karl in Soap Scoop Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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