We sat down with Neighbours Producer Jason Herbison to talk about what's in store for 2014.
We’ve seen a really positive response from fans with all of the returnees 2013 has seen. Are there any other plans in the works for more returnees in 2014?
Definitely. We’ve got Jane Hall coming back as Rebecca, as well as four other familiar faces throughout the first half of the year. We’ll also continue to see characters like Lucy and Hudson, who we think of as part of the extended Neighbours family.
Since you started at Neighbours, what is a storyline you have been most proud of?
The eclipse. It’s really difficult to find a story that hasn’t been done before and the eclipse was something a bit fresh and original. I really liked the way several major events unfolded in the one episode – the return of Brad Willis, Kyle going blind, Brennan returning from the dead and Steph stealing Lucas and Vanessa’s baby.
The announcement of Scott McGregor’s return has seen a hugely positive response from fans – any hints as to what might be in store for Mark and Kate?
Mark turns up at a pivotal moment in Kate’s life. I’d like to say that he rides in on his white horse and they get back together – but that would be far too easy! Whether or not Mark fits into her future... or she ends up with Kyle... that remains to be seen.
Are there any plans to revisit the Dee storyline – is she really dead?
That’s a question we ask ourselves at least once a year! The first challenge is getting the actress, Madeleine West, to come back. The second challenge is to find a way to do the storyline that is very different to Harold’s return from the watery depths. But never say never.
Fans have been really happy to see Callum and Josie finally working things out. Can we expect to see more from the Callum and Josie storyline?
Definitely. Callum and Josie are in the prime of their adolescence and we’ll see them facing all the challenges that come with that. We also have a storyline coming up where Bailey takes an interest in the other Josie at Erinsborough High, which could become very confusing for the two boys.
Josh and Amber (Jamber) are a favourite couple amongst fans - will we ever see the two of them settled and happy together?
There’s a major event coming up in early 2014 that will forever alter Josh and Amber’s path. Their relationship will be tested like never before. Whether they come out of it at the other end remains to be seen...
Karl and Susan’s 20th anniversary is coming up next year – have you got any big plans for this huge milestone?
We do. We have a number of storylines planned that celebrate the past, present and future of the Kennedy family. Karl and Susan are beloved characters and we would not let the milestone pass without paying homage to them.
It’s often forgotten that Susan euthanized her mother. Do you think this is something that will ever be revisited?
It’s an interesting chapter from Susan’s history. We don’t have any plans at present, but now you’ve planted the idea in our head, we may decide to explore it.
Can you describe what 2014 will be like in one word?
Can we expect any juicy Bossy stories in 2014? Fans would love to see Bossy in love…
We love her too. I’m not sure about a romance – how could we top Bouncer’s dream? - but we do have a story coming up where Bossy lets Kyle know who she prefers out of Kate and Georgia.
The introduction of the backyard sets really refreshed the look of Neighbours – any hints about the rejuvenation of any of the current sets in 2014?
We are always looking at ways to improve our sets and locations. In the near future, there will be some changes at Sonya’s nursery.
It’s often hinted that Lauren still has feelings for Brad. Does Brad have feelings for her and will we ever see a Brad and Lauren affair?
We’ve certainly hinted at this throughout the year, however, Lauren’s true feelings about Brad are related to a painful personal secret, which she will reveal to Lucy in this years Australian season finale. As to whether Brad and Lauren will have an affair... well, the new year will continue to see them thrown into each other’s orbits, so anything is possible.
There’s been some criticism from fans about the all white Neighbours cast – how do you respond to these accusations of racism?
It's upsetting when we receive criticism like this, as it's not who we are as people, nor is it true of our approach to the show. That said, we understand that people feel passionately about the issue. Diversity is important to us too and we have a colour blind policy when it comes to our decision making, which can sometimes be very tough. We would not retain a character purely because of race if we felt their storyline wasn't working, nor would we introduce a character purely on that basis. That would be tokenism. Looking ahead, you will will see diversity casting in a number of key guest roles in 2014 and it's only a matter of time before we see it again in the regular cast.
Will we ever get to meet the third Willis child, Piper?
Piper is on the world’s longest exchange student program. But yes, we will see her at some point in the future, it’s just a question of when.
Will we ever get to meet Scott and Charlene’s kids?
With the upcoming departure of Kate, we will be introducing a new family member for Paul. Will it be Daniel or Madison, or someone else? All will be revealed very, very soon!