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'Neighbours' producer Richard Jasek talks show future - interview

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Neighbours executive producer Richard Jasek

© Channel 5

Neighbours has undergone behind-the-scenes changes in recent months following the arrival of new executive producer Richard Jasek, who has taken charge of Australia's longest-running drama following Susan Bower's decision to stand down.

On screen, meanwhile, storyline highlights of the year so far have included Chris's romance with Aidan, Michael's departure, Troy's dramatic return and the arrival of newcomers Sheila Canning and Vanessa Villante.

With Jasek's credited episodes now airing in both Australia and the UK, Digital Spy recently chatted to him about future storylines and his plans for the soap.

You've been in charge of Neighbours for a few months now. How's it all going?
"I was a director on Neighbours early in my career, and it's great to be back! Working on such an iconic show, with such a great team of people, makes it a pleasure coming to the studios every day."

What can you tell us about your vision for the show? When you took over the executive producer job, was there anything in particular that you were keen to change or address?
"I have always loved the warmth and sense of community in Neighbours. The world is going through a period of great uncertainty at the moment, and it's a privilege to be involved with a show that is all about the ties that connect people, rather than the things that separate them."

The pace of storytelling has perhaps been slightly gentle this year, but that's changed recently with Tash torching the Sandman, Michael's exit and the dramatic hostage scenes with Troy. Will there be more in the way of bigger events or more heightened drama in the coming months?
"We have a really dramatic storyline coming up soon which I can't tell you too much about, but it will have consequences that run for the rest of the year. All I can say is 'the gang shouldn't have gone out that night…"

Many fans still seem really keen for Neighbours to get a PG rating, as they feel it would allow the show to push the boundaries more and portray social issues in a more realistic way. Is the show still keen to remain G?
"We try to make our dramatic storylines as hard-hitting as we can, while still keeping the show true to its heart. Neighbours is not a guns-in-faces show and never should be. Being G-rated does mean we sometimes have to pull our punches, but on the other hand it also forces us to be creative in how we tell stories."

Stefan Dennis & Colette Mann from Neighbours

© Channel 5

Neighbours' Kapoor family in their new home

© Channel 5



Fans also seem passionate about their desire to see the older characters getting more screen time, rather than the teens always being at the forefront. This already seems to be happening a bit more in the latest episodes airing in Australia - will it continue?
"We always look to blend the show's storytelling, balancing teen stories with those of other age groups. Stories tend to develop a life of their own, so the balance shifts from time to time. With the Kapoors moving to the street, Kyle's granny Sheila joining the regular cast and two expectant mothers on the street, we can expect to see more stories for their age groups in times to come."

On a similar note, could there be new characters introduced to the adult age group? For example, some fans feel that Susan is lacking a 'best friend' character to interact with following the departures of Lyn and Rebecca.
"That would be telling! But yes, we would like Susan to have a confidante…"

Neighbours currently seems to be far less centred around 'traditional' family units than we've seen in the past. Is this something which could perhaps be addressed over time?
"Yes, we think that's true and it's something we are already addressing with the arrival of the Kapoors and extending the Canning family, which now includes another cousin which UK viewers will meet later in the year."

We've had lots of reader questions about possible returnees to the show. We know there's a mystery male returnee on the way - will you be delving into the show's past any further? In particular, we've had several questions asking whether the iconic Robinson family could be expanded with returnees - is there any hope for this in the future?
"I can't say too much at the moment, but Neighbours does have a rich history of wonderful past characters and yes, we do have a familiar face visiting - all will be revealed shortly…"

Karl and Susan Kennedy from 'Neighbours'

© Channel 5

Susan is disgusted that Karl is jealous of a dying man

© Channel 5



Karl and Susan remain hugely popular characters with our readers. Is there any hope they could reunite? Will it be possible for Susan to stay at the forefront even though she's not living on Ramsay Street?
"Karl and Susan are our golden couple - despite their recent split, they remain best friends and soulmates. You can't keep Karl and Susan apart forever - but how long until they will realise that? Maybe Susan isn't destined to live off-street forever…"

Viewers seem sad over Kym Valentine's continued absence from Ramsay Street. Could Libby ever return?
"As I mentioned previously, if we are able to weave past characters into occasional stories, it's a bonus for viewers and we also love working with them."

Are there any firm plans to see Mal again? Viewers seemed pretty pleased to see him back last year…
"We all loved working with Benjie [McNair] again and depending on the story, we would love Mal to visit again. Benjie is also a close friend of many of the cast, so he is a wonderful addition to the green room!"

Are there any plans for new sets or revamps for existing ones? We've heard from some viewers who feel that the current sets appear too dark in comparison to a few years ago, and also compared to the brighter, sunnier feel of Home and Away.
"Yes, we would like to see some of Erinsborough's sunshine in our sets too. Renovating Toadie and Sonya's house was part of that, plus after the fire, the share house was given a splash of colour. Shortly you'll see the Kapoors have added a touch of their personality to their new abode!"

A few fans wanted us to mention the end-of-episode previews, as they felt they give too much away or undermine the hook in the cliffhanger. What are your thoughts?
"That's interesting feedback which we'll take on board."

Neighbours Opening Titles: Sophie, Vanessa & Rhys

© Channel 5

Neighbours Opening Titles: Sophie, Callum & Rani - Production Shot

© Channel 5



When will the new opening credits air? Will the current version of the theme tune remain?
"We have updated the current opening titles to include some of our newer characters which will start on-air later this month in the UK. We have no plans this year to change the format, however we may consider it down the track."

The Kapoor family seem to have had a pretty good reaction, but so far they've been seen far less than some fans expected. What can we expect from them when they officially join Ramsay Street?
"Not everything will go according to plan for the Kapoors. Ajay's career will take an unexpected turn, Rani will fall for a boy living nearby and Priya will do something unthinkable!"

Chris remains a popular character. Could we see more of his family life in the future? What's ahead for him and Aidan?
"We love Chris too and his family is important to him, so we'll continue to see them from time to time. He will face a terrible crisis later this year and his family will be there for him. As for Chris and Aidan, they broke up because Chris needed to find his strength and did so too late. But that doesn't mean it's all over for these two…"

We've seen lots of positive feedback over Sheila Canning's arrival. Is she definitely a regular and will she move onto the street?
"I let the cat out of the bag earlier, didn't I! Yes, Sheila will join the regular cast this year, and in due course we'll see a lot more of her. That won't always make life easy for people on Ramsay Street, though!"

Viewers seem slightly intrigued by Vanessa. We know that you're planning to delve into her background, so can you give us any hints on what to expect?
"There are a few surprises in store for Vanessa. We haven't yet met her family, but when we do, things will become even more complicated for Rhys and Lucas…"

We've had lots of questions about Jade's upcoming departure. It's a while away yet, but can you tease the plans for us?
"I don't want to give too much away, but Jade will have an amazing opportunity presented to her, with big, emotional consequences for Kyle."

Sonya Mitchell from Neighbours

© Channel 5

Toadie feels like his masculinity is being questioned.

© Channel 5



Sonya has always been a popular character too. What's coming up for her, Toadie and Callum once the Troy dramas are over?
"As we move toward the end of the year, Sonya's pregnancy will throw up lots of questions for the whole family. An unexpected visitor from Toadie's past will present some hilarious challenges, and then, just as the baby is due, there will be terrible complications!"

Without her family around, can you tease where Tash will be heading story-wise over the rest of the year?
"Tash will continue to make some disastrous choices because she doesn't have that parental guidance, but she'll find solace with an unlikely friend - or should I say foe?"

Where are things heading next for Paul?
"We have a story planned which is 'classic' Paul Robinson and will leave the street reeling!"

Andrew has been tipped for a huge storyline in which he causes an accident and the community turns against him. Should we be expecting a stunt, or is the accident smaller than that?
"This will cause huge ramifications for everyone on Ramsay Street. And without saying too much, yes, there will be something to see!"

Lou is now a part-time character, but can you tease anything that's ahead for him? Viewers have been surprised by how far he's taken his scamming recently - will his nicer side return?
"Lou has done some pretty crazy things lately, but he'll settle down and look to helping his family - which will involve some surprises."

What's coming up for Summer? Will her stories be separate from Andrew's drama or tied up with them? Would you ever bring back Max or Boyd?
"There will be Summer stories that cross over with Andrew. However, there is an event coming up in her life - and it doesn't involve Andrew - which will have a major impact on her. And no, Max and Boyd are not in our plans for the moment."

It was a while ago now, but we had a couple of people expressing their disappointment over the rewrite of the Ramsays' history when Kate and Sophie were introduced. Would you ever rectify this?
"It's testament to the passion of our viewers that intricate details of families' histories are noted. It's always our goal to be as precise as possible, however like real-life families, there are often skeletons in the closet and these can enrich a story."

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
"As I mentioned, there is an upcoming event which will cause a tsunami lasting a long time. Some of our characters will make life choices which will have you screaming at the screen to turn back - the best kind! And, of course, there will be babies!"

Neighbours airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5 in the UK, and weekdays at 6.30pm on Eleven in Australia. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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