TV

Alan Fletcher: Parties, comebacks and the secret of Neighbours' success

Alan Fletcher aka Ramsay Street’s Dr Karl Kennedy on Neighbours’ 30th anniversary episode… the deceased will rise!

I have a cold. After more than 20 years playing Australia’s best doctor, what’s your advice?

Just make yourself a nice hot lemon drink, take an aspirin, lie down and relax.

You’ve treated many serious and strange ailments in Erinsborough but maybe never the common cold.

That’s true. If you haven’t got a really serious illness it doesn’t make a good story.

I remember the time you had to give your son an emergency tracheostomy but never anyone complaining about the sniffles.

And then just recently Susan had to do a tracheostomy on Lou Carpenter with me talking her through it on the phone. We have a history of tracheostomies on Neighbours.

This week is the show’s 30th anniversary. How are you marking the occasion?

We’ll have some serious partying but first of all the episodes themselves will be amazing. We have an extraordinary cast of past characters coming back, including Madge.

Madge died in 2001. That’s quite a miraculous recovery, even with Dr Karl’s help.

It’s cryogenic stuff – patented – so I can’t give you any details. In all seriousness, Madge does return. She is not a ghost, it’s a beautifully told and quite poignant tale.

What is the secret of Neighbours’ success?

The UK has some fantastic dramas but they’re often quite heavy in comparison. We have lots of good serious drama but also fantastic lighter moments. I think audiences appreciate the mix of comedy and drama.

You can find the perfect blend.

Indeed! People relate to the stories. Even though we live in a diverse world, what we want as humans and from relationships is not vastly different.

What has been your favourite storyline?

I’ve loved all my love triangles but my favourite was one filmed just recently for the 7,000th episode. Karl found then lost a lottery scratch card worth $7,000. He had to retrieve it from Toadie’s backside. It’s a bit hard to explain in an interview…

The cast is probably the hardest working in the business. What is your schedule like?

There are 18 episodes being produced at the same time. We film studio scenes one week, locations another and prepare for the next at the same time. It’s more than a feature film a week. It’s enormous pressure – we have about 20 minutes per scene. It’s extraordinarily unusual for TV to be made this quickly and more unusual for it to be made at such high quality. We’re proud of that.

Many have found their big break on Ramsay Street, from Kylie and Jason to Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe. Can you tell when somebody shows up with extra star quality?

When you get someone like [The Wolf of Wall Street and Focus star] Margot Robbie you can tell straight away. From the moment I started working with her I realised she was the bee’s knees. Her ability to play comedy and drama was exceptional.

Listen to Alan Fletcher’s actually really very good anti-war song

So will Dr Karl be around for the next 30 years?

I consider myself an entertainer. I love to make people feel good. Wherever I go people ask: “Are you the doctor from Neighbours?” It’s an immense privilege and a blessing. We’re very appreciative of the UK audience’s support. We wouldn’t have a show without it.

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