Neighbours star Alan Fletcher (Karl) drops in for a chat about panto, his new Christmas single and Paul Robinson’s latest dastardly doings…
We hear you’ve got a Christmas single out, If You Want A Happy Christmas!
“Yes, I recorded it with a wonderful female harmony group, The Pacific Belles who are based in Melbourne. One of the singers, Laura Monaghan introduced herself at one of the Neighbours nights we put on in St Kilda for fans of the show. I’ve always wanted to write and record an original Christmas song. So the idea snowballed from there! We had enormous fun recording it. Hopefully we can get some success and make some money for charity.”
Which charity are you supporting with the single’s release?
“I’ve been a long-time supporter of a charity group, Blue September. It focuses on cancer in men. Men don’t always look after themselves very well. So they have a great awareness campaign.”
And you got some of your Neighbours co-stars to appear in the video?
“Yes, Chris Milligan (Kyle), James Mason (Chris) and Stefan Dennis (Paul). Most people who were available were up for it. We’re a big family down at Neighbours. The guys were happy to come out and help. Stefan is a great mate of mine and often fronts my band, The Waiting Room, when I’m not in Australia. He’s a great singer. You’ll see him singing in the video.”
Are you ready for your UK panto appearance?
“I am, as long as I can remember my lines! I play the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood and The Babes In The Wood. He is the classic panto baddie. He is plotting to kill Robin Hood, marry Maid Marian, kill Prince John and take over England! It’s an opportunity to do something a bit different from Karl in Neighbours. I’ve always loved the theatre and I love coming back to it.”
Are pantos as popular in Australia as they are in the UK?
“There have been some celebrity productions. But they don’t really attract much of a following. I think it’s a weather thing. It’s the middle of the Australian summer, the school holidays. So a lot of families go away and go to the beach, rather than going to the theatre.”
Will you spend Christmas with your family? What do you love about Christmas in the UK?
“My family are coming over just after Christmas on the 28th December. Mind you, my kids are grown up now, so they will be nipping off to see football matches and Harry Potter studio tours. But I think they will come and see one of my panto performances. I love Christmas in the UK. I love going into the old English pubs and people are having their Sunday lunch. It’s a beautiful atmosphere.”
We should talk about Neighbours! Karl is running against Paul to become Mayor of Erinsborough…
“Karl has hated Paul for years, ever since he blackmailed their neighbour, Phillip Martin. Karl only decides to run for Mayor to stop Paul. So perhaps he goes into it with the wrong motivations. But it’s a good drama.”
What happens when Paul plays dirty and uses a secret about Karl’s wife, Susan, against him?
“Karl is furious with Paul when he reveals Susan has had a relapse of her MS, and disappointed that Susan didn’t tell him. Karl decides to pull out of the race so he can look after Susan. It’s a real shock. It’s Karl’s one great fear that Susan will become ill again. He gets so swept up in his campaign that even as a doctor he doesn’t see the warning signs.”
This has been a big year of change for Neighbours…
“I think this has been one of the best years of Neighbours in the 19 years I’ve been on the show. Every now and again the show looks at itself and says, ‘Are we doing what our audiences would like to see?’ A lot of research goes on between Channel 5 in the UK and Channel 11 in Australia to get the show right. Richard Jasek has been our Executive Producer of Neighbours this year and Jason Herbison has come in as Producer. Both of them have enormous passion for Neighbours. As a result the ratings have gone up this year in both Australia and the UK. For a show that’s almost 30 years old, that is remarkable.”
Are there any past characters you’d love to see return?
“It would be great to get Karl and Susan’s kids, Mal, Libby and Billy together again in the same room. I was always very fond of Joe Mangel (played by Mark Little). That was real old school Neighbours. From a nostalgic point of view, he’d be a favourite character to see again.”
Perhaps you can get Jesse Spencer (Billy) back for the 30th anniversary in 2015?!
“Unfortunately, Jesse Spencer would probably have to be unemployed for us to get him back. He never stops working! I haven’t seen Jesse for a few years. I was devoted to House and have been taping his new series, Chicago Fire. I love watching Jess on screen. He is a very charismatic performer.”