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Neighbours

Sharon Johal reveals the brilliantly sneaky way Neighbours filmed intimate scenes amid COVID, and it involves a lot of kissing practice

Her character is about to be caught in a shock affair.

By Maddison Hockey
This year has undeniably been one of change, as we've been forced to adapt quickly to the garbage fire that is 2020.
We're all just trying to keep on keeping on, as are some of our favourite television productions.
We've seen COVID restrictions and outbreaks wreak havoc on the production of shows like The Bachelor and The Masked Singer.
There's been many solutions to restrictions, such as video calls and 1.5 metre spacing on sets, but iconic show Neighbours has thought up a very tricky hack when it comes to filming their more, ahem, intimate scenes.
As beloved character Dipi Rebecchi (Sharon Johal) finds herself embroiled in a scandalous affair with charming businessman Pierce Greyson (Tim Robards), filming kissing scenes seemed impossible.
Enter Sharon's real-life husband Ankur, who stepped in as a body double for Tim, despite no prior acting experience.
We chat to the couple about the clever work around, filming together and whether Ankur's kissing technique was up to scratch.
Uh-oh! Things are heating up between Dipi and Pierce. (Channel Ten)
TVW: How did you feel being ask to stand-in during this pivotal scenes for Sharon's storyline?
Ankur: I would do anything to help my wife and that includes helping the show. I know Sharon has been hoping for meatier storylines since she started on the show and her pride in her work requires her to tell the story and perform to the best of her ability however she can - on this occasion that included having me to help in those pivotal scenes!
I also have actually watched the show since I was little and have many fond memories of it. We are living through a very strange time and if there's any way I can help - I will.
TVW: What sort of preparation did you do?
Ankur: My wife made me practice pretend kissing the night before, which is such a weird concept in itself. I thought my kissing skills were up to scratch but obviously not!
She told me it was more for blocking because she had spoken to the director and producers about what they were planning to show of me (mainly the back of my head) so she was experimenting with different angles.
I did get a little excited at home when the scenes went a little further than kissing, it was exciting if you know what I mean! [Laughs]
Ankur says some of his best acting practice comes from staring in Sharon's TikTok videos. (Supplied)
TVW: Was it tricky keeping your composure during filming?
Ankur: Yes. The entire time. Sharon has great relationships with everyone at her work including the crew and she did her best to encourage them to tease me and play pranks, so we spent most of the days laughing on set.
Sharon is a joker at heart and maintaining those long Neighbours soap gazes were torturous! Especially when the directors pushed them out longer before calling "action", just to have fun with me.
TVW: Is this the beginning of a new career?
Ankur: Hell to the NO. Shazzy is cut out for this life, but I find it so hard and scary. I always admired Sharon's ability to take on highly stressful situations and adapt but seeing her in actual action laughing one minute and then pulling out the emotions and exceptional performances really moved me.
I am so proud of her! I will never say her job is easier than mine ever again - it's one of the hardest jobs in the world and I can truly attest to that!

TVW: Sharon – did you have do some persuading for Ankur to accept the role?
Sharon: Sure did! My hubby is not an exhibitionist by any means and doesn't enjoy being the centre of attention so I practically had to beg him to help us out.
But once I explained how important it was for the storyline and for the show in general to show intimacy in the juiciest storyline of the year, he was all in. I also reassured him he wouldn't have to go nude or act, which helped. In reality, he can't really say no to me! [Laughs]
TVW: How would you rate his performance?
Sharon: 1000/10 for sure! He was very professional, he took direction very well (much better than me), was able to keep himself composed (unlike me) and didn't go too far with the kissing/making out sessions (no slipping in of tongues occurred. By him anyway!)
TVW: Why was it so important to find a work around for these intimate scenes?
Sharon: We've always been told by the producers that this was the juiciest, biggest storylines of the year for Neighbours and would also be the one which would be the most compromised by lack of touch and intimacy.
It makes sense for the producers to brainstorm and come up with ideas to work around this given the physicality of the relationship is so important to the characters and story at play.
For Dipi to jeopardise a 20-year strong marriage with no previous adultery by any party and for Pierce to betray Chloe - there needed to be incredibly intense moments of sexual chemistry between the pair and longing looks wouldn't be enough.
It's also the biggest storyline I have personally had over the four years I have been on the show and for Dipi, the biggest thing that has ever happened to her marriage - so the stakes needed to be high.

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