Jackie Woodburne and Alan Fletcher on Neighbours’ surprise resurrection – and what’s next for them

'Our little show matters'

By Stephen Downie
As the theme songs goes, everybody needs good Neighbours. For the cast of the show, this became abundantly clear when they spoke with fans on their celebration tour throughout the UK earlier this year.
For many, life throughout COVID was dark. Neighbours was the one bright spot of their day.
Neighbours was the bright spot of their day. (Image: Supplied)
"One guy said he felt isolated and alone in lockdown and thought, 'I'm not up for this'," Jackie Woodburne, 67, tells TV WEEK. "He said, 'The only thing that kept me going is I wanted to find out what was going to happen next on Neighbours.'
"Our little show that we make on the other side of the world mattered to him, in a significant way."
Jackie's on-screen husband Alan Fletcher (they've famously played Susan and Karl Kennedy for more than 28 years) adds they met many people on the tour who "sobbed and broke down" as they spoke about what Neighbours meant to them.
They've played Susan and Karl for more than 28 years. (Image: Supplied)
"I get a lot of emails and social media messages from fans who talk about having a familial connection to the show," Alan, 66, says. "Three generations would watch it together. In many cases, they would say they'd watch it with Mum, but they've lost Mum now and watch it to think of her.
"So, the show took on a different tenor for people. It wasn't just a TV show – it became a signature of their lives."
And the show has meant just as much to Alan, who first appeared as Dr Karl way back on September 20, 1994. He has appeared at Dr Karl fan events throughout the UK, where his notoriety has afforded him the opportunity to perform live music as himself.
"It's been the biggest blessing you could ever hope to have," Alan says of the classic Aussie soap.
Of course, when the axe fell on Neighbours last year after 37 years much to the dismay of fans ("I met people everywhere who told me how aggrieved and sad they were," Alan recalls), few thought it would be brought back to life.
But, just months after the last episode of Neighbours went to air, it was announced Amazon Freevee had saved the day. Now, the show is back on screens – with episodes airing twice daily on free-to-air TV, and then on Prime Video seven days after each episode airs.
Both Jackie and Alan are "absolutely thrilled" they have the chance to reprise their characters. "I remember on the last day feeling this [the end of the show] is absurd," Jackie says. "We have so many stories we want and need to tell."
That's music to the ears of fans, who view the Kennedys as Ramsay Street's rock-solid family unit.
"It wasn't just a TV show – it became a signature of their lives." (Image: Supplied)
"Karl and Susan are the constant among what is quite chaotic," Alan says with a laugh.
And that's despite the couple's many hilarious ups and infamous downs – including, but not limited to, Karl's affairs with Sarah Beaumont (Nicola Charles) and Izzy Hoyland (Natalie Bassingthwaighte). What's their dynamic like these days?
"My job is to find the truth in all these stories," Jackie stresses. "I like to think that yes, he's cheated, and they have reconciled, but that Susan has made an important decision that – more than anybody else – she gets him completely and can forgive all his foibles and make a happy life with him.
"She's recognised she has her own faults too, but that together they work.
"Now they're in what I guess is their third act, we'll see them telling different stories, but still maintaining the fundamental things that are truthful about their relationship. They have fun together and enjoy mucking around and being stupid.
"They have a strong physical chemistry, which is fun to play as older people. There's still a lot they have ahead of them. And Susan has plenty up her sleeve, I promise you."
There's a sense of old and new with the resurrected Neighbours. You have the return of established characters such as Karl, Susan, Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) and Toadie (Ryan Moloney) – along with new characters such as Reece (Mischa Barton) and then there are returning newer characters like Holly Hoyland (Lucinda Armstrong Hall), who is Karl's illegitimate daughter with Izzy.
"Holly is back and living with the Kennedys, which is glorious," Alan says.
Mischa features as new character, Reece. (Image: Supplied)
Karl is looking more like the Karl of old since Alan's brush with alopecia, which left him bald, has abated.
"It was an auto-immune disorder," Alan explains. "I had a virus in 2022, which was like pneumonia, and then COVID. My hair has come back – and it doesn't for a lot of people. But I could lose it again."
When he did have alopecia, Alan says some people didn't even recognise him. He was at a cafe in London where, after explaining who he played on Neighbours, a barista replied, "Yeah, right".
"I have a very gentle level of fame," he says humbly.

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