Farewell to Neighbors : “With 28 years of working together, it is like a marriage.”

In a final Farewell to Neighbors interview,
Ramsay Street matriarch Jackie Woodburne shares her thoughts on the enduring partnership
with actor Alan Fletcher,

and reveals a favorite storyline.

Over 28 years Jackie Woodburne and Alan Fletcher grew to embody the heart and soul of Ramsay Street.

Susan and Karl Kennedy were soulmates, devoted parents, fallible partners, wise guardians and mentors.

Woodburne and Fletcher were also drama virtuosos. Scenes between the pair were often described as ‘one takes wonders’ because the chemistry between the two, so evident to viewers, meant each could read the other in the moment.

“There was the trust. The dynamic was perfect from day one,” Jackie Woodburne tells TV Tonight.

“We get each other, and with 28 years of working together, it is like a marriage.

“We saw each other on our best days and on our worst days, and we loved each other through it all, so the work never suffered.

“The work was always our happy place”

“And the work was always our happy place. We would arrive, we would come onto the Kennedy set and everything else went away. It was just about just doing the work, and having so much fun doing it.

“I mean, ‘Fletch’ for me is the biggest part of the recipe. It’s the thing I’ll miss the most, spending time working with him. He’s one of a kind. I love him.”

The Kennedys arrived on the street in 1994 with children Malcolm (Benjamin McNair), Libby (Kym Valentine) and Billy (Jesse Spencer).

Susan and Karl’s storylines were endless, much like the show itself, spanning infidelity, amnesia, multiple sclerosis, divorce, surrogacy, cyber-bullying, and more. Powerhouse scenes saw Susan in a fit of rage slapping Karl, or tearing strips off him in the street. No surprises Woodburne was nominated for a prestigious Rose D’Or Award in Switzerland.

“Look at the stories that we tell today”

Over the decades, she says the 10 soaps also adapted to the world around them.

“If you go back to the beginning of Neighbors, the stories were arguments about ‘Who’s putting their rubbish in my wheelie bin?’ Very much simple stories which were very successful,” she continues.

“But if you look at the stories that we tell today: the first same-sex marriage on Australian television, introducing a lot of diversity, actors with hearing impairment, actors with physical impairment. (Producer) Jason Herbison is responsible for breaking the ceiling on this show, really taking risks and telling relevant, important stories and I think the audience responded to that.”

But the heart of the show was always its sense of community and cross-generational empathy.

“It was always implicit that someone had your back. The young people go out and do young people things, make mistakes, have experiences, be fearful, be in danger. But we knew as an audience, because of the characters, that someone would have their back, so they could go out and make mistakes and have those life experiences,” she explains.

“Mum or dad or whoever was in that parenting role would be there for them.”

Despite her screen union with Alan Fletcher, Woodburne nominates a 2020 storyline as one of her favourites, in which she and Rob Mills performed the entire episode together.

“Soap opera has an imperative to keep moving”

“I really enjoyed the Finn Kelly storyline. Jason wrote a two-hander episode that was just Rob Mills playing Finn and myself. One episode, just the two of us. The style was different. Soap opera has an imperative to keep moving, keep the plot unfolding, keep the story moving. You don’t often get time for the characters to just sit in their situation and allow it to happen around them. But in the Finn Kelly story, there were a couple of scenes with gaps and silences, things were happening without dialogue. It was just so different, I loved it.”

But as the world takes its leave from Ramsay Street, where will viewers see Woodburne perform next? She isn’t sure just yet.

“After today, I’ll have time to just sit with it and reflect and think about what’s next,” she reveals.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I’m so overwhelmed with all things Neighbors at the moment, these wonderful people and this place that I’ve loved to come to.

“It’s going to take some time to kind of wean myself off it, I guess.”

Neighbors Finale Week:
Thursday July 28 7.30pm – 9pm on 10 and 10 Peach

Attention British fans: TV Tonight will be filing a finale story following the Australian broadcast.

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