Neighbours star Alan Fletcher, who plays Dr Karl Kennedy recently visited the UK to launch a new cancer charity, Blue September. We caught up with Alan to find out more... Tell us about Blue September? "With this charity, we are trying to raise awareness about cancer in men. It’s something that men don’t tend to talk about. Yet they are more likely to get cancer than women. So, please visit our website, Blue September where you can learn a bit more about how to look after your health better. And consider signing up to get involved with Blue September." And the charity already has a number of celebrity supporters? "Yes. You may have seen various personalities around, with their faces painted blue to show their support for Blue September. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher just came on board. Bryan McFadden is involved too, as well as a lot of actors from around the world. Blue September started up in New Zealand in 2008, but it’s now across Australia, the US, UK and Ireland." What’s the latest from Ramsay Street? It's not looking good for Karl and Susan’s marriage, is it? "Susan totally threw herself into the life of cancer patient, Jim Dolan. This harks back to how Susan felt she didn’t do enough for her ex-husband, Alex Kinski, who died of the disease. The big part of this storyline happens when Jim dies. That’s when a lot of Susan’s animosity towards Karl comes out. I think it’s one of the best episodes of Neighbours that I’ve ever seen." Are Karl and Susan going to split up? "It’s not over yet! Karl is desperate to work on his marriage. There’s a lovely end-of-year cliffhanger coming up, where Karl and Susan are forced into a situation which leads them to start examining their relationship." What was it like having Benji McNair, who plays Mal, return for a few months? "It’s been wonderful. Benji is a super, super guy. When I first met him, he was just a young, knockabout surfie. But now he’s a grown-up bloke with his own family. But he still has that boy-ish enthusiasm. So we were delighted to have him back. The most lovely thing about Neighbours has been having this on screen family outside of my own family." Kym Valentine, who plays Libby, has had to take a break from the series for health reasons. Any plans for her to return? "That hasn’t been decided yet. But I have seen Kym recently, and she’s in excellent health. She’s feeling great and positive about things, and is doing very well." Do you still keep in touch with Jesse Spencer, who played Billy? "I haven’t seen Jesse for a couple of years, but he does come home from LA to visit his family in Melbourne a lot. I hear from Jesse’s friends that he’s completely unchanged. He’s just a knockabout, lovely guy with his feet on the ground. There’s no stereotypical Hollywood star about him." Obviously Jesse is busy starring on House these days, with Hugh Laurie. But do you think he would ever return to Ramsay Street? "You know, Jesse has always said he would come back and do a cameo on Neighbours if he can. It would be marvellous if he did. The ideal would be to have all of the Kennedys back together in the one room, even for just one scene." There have been lots of new characters moving into Ramsay Street over the past few years. Which of them do you think are working well for the show? "There’s no question how well the audience have taken to Sonya Mitchell (played by Eve Morey). They absolutely adore her. In a short space of time, Sonya was established as one of the favourite Neighbours characters. I think a lot of that has to do with the marvellous onscreen relationship that Eve has with Ryan Maloney (Toadie) and Morgan Baker (Callum)." Neighbours filmed some episodes in London in 2006. Any plans to come back? "Well, it’s not confirmed yet. But I have heard rumours that a couple of characters could be coming over to do some UK stuff soon. Stay tuned on that one!" Are you still rocking the crowds with your band, Waiting Room? "Sadly, I didn’t have time for any UK gigs this time. But I am flat out with it back in Australia. Waiting Room still play every week at the Neighbours Night in Melbourne, which is fabulous. I’ve also formed a new band called Uber Savvy. We’re a nine-piece band and play some swing music and I’m able to indulge that crooner side of me!"
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.