Digital Spy recently caught up with Colette Mann, who plays Sheila, for all the early gossip on the new relationship story and what's ahead for the rest of her on-screen family too.
What do you make of Sheila's new romance with Clive?
"Oh, Sheila loves Clive! She loves the fact that he's the COO of the Erinsborough Hospital. And for me, working with Geoff Paine is an absolute dream because I've known him for years. We once did a terrible theatre show together and we were the only two sane people in it. That says a lot, because neither of us are particularly sane!"
How does Sheila and Clive's relationship progress?
"Sadly it doesn't last very long at this point, but I'm hoping against hope that they will bring Clive back. The producers have said that they will. We have a little bit of an upset coming up, but then hopefully he will resurface on the horizon."
Why is Sheila's love life always such a car crash?
"Well, because nobody can be very happy for very long in Erinsborough – you know that! But I also think nobody wants to see old people kissing. They just want to see the young ones getting at it, so we're just a slightly aged interlude.
"Sheila is actually with another bloke in the episodes that we're filming at the moment, but I can't tell you too much about him. He's the one who breaks up Sheila and Clive, but once he's gone, our producer Jason Herbison has said that he'll bring Clive back again. Clive will come back into Sheila's life with a big bang, metaphorically speaking."
It's been a massive year for Sheila's granddaughter Xanthe, hasn't it?
"Lilly, who plays Xanthe, is the female that I'm closest to in the whole show and she has been outstanding in the storyline with Finn Kelly. She was actually very worried about this storyline when it came up, but she played it with such pure innocence.
"We've got to be careful because of censorship in Australia, since we're on at 6.30pm. But it worked because Lilly played it with such open-eyed wonder. Finn was creepy but she wasn't and I just thought she handled it like a really mature actress."
Will we see a turning point for Xanthe? She still seems quite troubled at the moment.
"Kind of! In the scenes we've shot recently, Xanthe is aiming towards that. I've actually quite liked the way the writers have handled that storyline, because Xanthe hasn't done that thing that we often do in soap operas, where she's suddenly alright again after something terrible has happened.
"They've taken their time with Xanthe finding her way back to normality. We've just shot some stuff which is the beginning of Xanthe coming back into normal life, but that's a good 10 or 12 weeks after what you've seen on air already."
Do you think Sheila was blind to what was going on with Finn for too long?
"I didn't think she was but I know the fans did! When the storyline first came out, I marched up to the writer Stephen Vagg's office and I asked: 'Why aren't I in any of these scenes?!' He said: 'Well, because you'd find out, you'd know, you'd be onto Finn in a flash'. I said: 'You use that excuse far too often with me!' (Laughs.)
"That's also why they had Gary so concerned with Terese, so that he wouldn't be onto Finn either. I don't know what my excuse was – I was probably busy cutting herbs!
"They only really gave me one scene with Finn, which was outside the police station. We actually beefed that up on the day, because Sheila was quite weak in the writing. So I said to Rob Mills, who played Finn: 'Do you mind if I grab you and try to shake you?' The director also said: 'Please do it'. I would have liked a scene where she really gave it to him, but there just wasn't time."
Are you still in touch with your absent on-screen family members Morgana O'Reilly (Naomi) and Chris Milligan (Kyle)?
"Yes, I am. I went over to New Zealand to see Morgana in May, because she was in a theatre show. I'm going back in August because she's playing Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire. So I keep in close contact with her.
"Chris is over in LA with Jenna [Rosenow, who played Amber] and whenever he comes back to Australia, he comes to see me and sometimes stays with me. We speak a bit on Skype, probably about once every two months. He seems to be doing okay over there – he's been doing bits and pieces. He hasn't quite hit the big one yet but I'm sure it's not far off."
Are you still coaching some of the younger Neighbours cast in your own time?
"Yeah, I am. I coach Matt Wilson (Aaron), Jodi Gordon (Elly) and Tim Kano (Leo). I'm also more of a life coach for Lilly and Mavournee (Piper). And occasionally Olympia (Paige) too – depending on what drama she's having in her life, I can be there and give her some advice."
Who from the cast would you tip to go far in the industry?
"Definitely Lilly and Mavournee. They're funny girls, because they think they're in competition. They get on incredibly well together and they love each other, but they see each other as competition when actually they are so very different – as actors and everything about them. But I can see both of them really making it in this industry and making it big overseas, if that's what they want to do."
Do you encourage the young cast to try their luck in LA? It can sometimes work out really well, but not always.
"I do, if that's what they want to do. I think Mavournee is thinking of staying on [in Neighbours]. Her time will be up fairly shortly, but I feel that she wants to stay on for a bit longer. Lilly's time is up late next year and I've got a feeling that she may go after that.
"But they all have different reasons for doing it – where they want to be and what they want to achieve. Sometimes I feel it might be easier to stay in Australia and work somewhere else, if the work is there. But of course, in Australia the work isn't as abundant as anywhere else."
What would be your dream storylines for Sheila's future?
"I think to have Clive in her bed on a nightly basis! (Laughs.) I also really enjoy the storylines that are family-based with Xanthe and Gary. Whether it's conflict or camp comedy, I really enjoy the scenes with the Canning family together.
"The 'round-the-table' type scenes are ones that I'd like to do more. We haven't worked together much as a family this year, because Xanthe's been off with Finn, Gary's been off with Terese and I've been off with everyone. We get a bit disparate when we're not together."
Would you like the writers to bring in more Cannings?
"There's one other family member that they're talking about bringing in, which would be good. I know that the fans are desperate for people like Dane and Harley to come back, and they'd also like to meet Jackie. I don't know who any of these people are, so I'm not very sure that I want them to come! (Laughs.)
"It's those fans who've been watching the show for many years who keep saying: 'I really want to meet Jackie'. I keep thinking: 'I've got no idea who Jackie is! And I'm not sure I want to meet her!' (Laughs.)
"Chris came back for a couple of weeks in the middle of last year and it'd be great to have him back again. I don't know that Morgana would ever come back. It's not that she didn't enjoy her time, but she's the kind of actress who likes to move on. She's very involved in theatre and writing her own stuff, which is where her passion lies.
"I don't want a full house, I'd like to be able to move around! But we'll see what happens."
Neighbours airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5.
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