Neighbours: Karl Kennedy star Alan Fletcher on the final goodbye, a possible UK soap tour spin-off

    After moving to Ramsay Street in Erinsborough in 1994, he’s been known as Dr Karl Kennedy for approximately 28 years. Alan Fletcher talks to Sky News about his experience on Neighbours and his music career as he prepares for the show’s final episode.

    The street that gave us Harold Bishop’s return from the dead and Bouncer’s dream, and where good Neighbours became good friends, it was must-see teatime viewing for generations. It was the home of Kylie Minogue and Margot Robbie before they became megastars, the street that gave us Harold Bishop’s return from the dead and Bouncer’s dream, and the street where good Neighbours became good friends.

    While the soap moved from the BBC to Channel 5 and lost UK fans over the years, it was always more than simply a TV show for people who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s.

    From Paul’s affair with his wife’s twin sister – discovered by the baby monitor! – and Todd’s death while trying to prevent Phoebe from having an abortion to the tornado and plane crash in recent years, Neighbours delivered typical soap melodrama, tragedy, and sexy affairs, but as the sunnier, more glamorous Australian cousin of its British counterparts.

    While the big screen and polished dramas receive critical accolades, the great majority of viewers will never witness the affection that soap operas develop with their viewers. The personalities, the (usually) welcoming faces who invite us into their highs and lows and supply hot subjects for the school playground and, let’s be honest, office catch-ups, are a constant in our lives.

    And none more so than Alan Fletcher’s Dr. Karl Kennedy. He and his on-screen wife Susan (played by Jackie Woodburne) are officially Ramsay Street’s longest-serving residents after 28 years in Erinsborough.

    Despite Dr Karl’s relationships (remember Susan’s slap?) and illegitimate kid, as well as a recent questionable investment, he and Susan are still together, and he is undoubtedly Neighbours’ most popular character. He has a fan base as a musician as well, first with his band Waiting Room and now as he prepares to release his first solo album.

    So, as we get ready to say our goodbyes to Ramsay Street (sob), who better to talk to?

    “We will finish filming the final scenes on 10 June,” says Fletcher (must remember to call him that, the urge to write Dr Karl is strong). “I’m on a break from Neighbours now until mid-May, so I will go back and do the last four weeks of the show, which promise to be – this is a big statement – possibly the best episodes of Neighbours ever made, because we have a lot of returning guests.

    “It’s going to be an absolute hurricane of filming and I think the fans are going to love it.”

    So far, Harold Bishop (Ian Smith) has been confirmed to return, and he claims there are many more on the way. Is it possible that Kylie and Jason will bring back Scott and Charlene, as well as Margot Robbie and Russell Crowe? Is Fletcher able to share anything about how the story will end? Surely it couldn’t have all been a Dallas-style dream? Or, like Byker Grove, could it end with a T-Rex attack? (It’s true.)

    “Well, I would dearly love to [give a spoiler], if I knew,” says Fletcher. “Here’s the thing… I can’t tell you something I don’t know about. The ink is still drying on that last episode, they waited to write it for as long as possible because they didn’t know who was going to come back… and now they are keeping that so guarded.

    “It’s such top secret stuff, I don’t know when I’ll find out. I guess… three weeks before it happens and my script lands in my inbox. So I could be sly and call you up then.” (Obviously Sky News is holding him to this).

    “I’m assuming that whatever that last scene is, everyone will turn up and fill the studio,” he says. “This has happened before when actors have left the show, where they’re filming their last scene and it might just be two people on the set, you know, discussing their love, and there are 150 people in the studio, in the dark, waiting for the scene to finish.

    “This will be extraordinary, I know it will be. It’ll be so emotional. I think a lot of people just won’t know what to say. They won’t know what to do. It’ll be like, what do we do now?”

    Karl and Susan to move to the UK?

    As such popular characters, has he ever considered pitching a Karl and Susan spin-off? “What would be fun would be Karl and Susan go traveling through the UK and just accidentally turn up in every UK soap as tourists,” he suggests.

    “We could be in EastEnders and go for a pint at the pub and I could go on to the set of Doctors and be asked to help save a life in the street. We’d have a grand old time. Up to Corrie and then go across to Emmerdale. Brilliant.”

    And if he could keep any Neighbours memorabilia? “There’s one piece of memorabilia that will be absolutely capital to get your hands on,” he says. “It’s the portrait of the three Kennedy children painted by Helen Daniels sitting over our fireplace. It’s been there for literally 27 years. That’s a cracker.

    “There’s also a picture of me from back in the ’70s when I had a moustache and sort of semi-long hair, which was actually from a play, that belongs to me. So the first thing I’m going to do on the last day of filming is rush over and actually grab what belongs to me.

    “But I don’t know there’s going to be any opportunity to try and slyly pinch anything because I believe it will go into storage as being historical. Basically, it’s history, it’ll be all going to a museum, I think.”

    ‘I’m not looking for pop stardom’

    Fletcher admits that acting after Neighbours might be “a little tough,” because “of course, everyone links me with Dr Karl.” He has decided to focus on music for the time being.

    He began to realise his affinity for Americana and folk music in 2020, after performing with rock band Waiting Room from 2004 and publishing two albums and touring the UK ten times in eight years, as well as keeping a weekly residency in Melbourne for 12 years.

    Dispatches, the resulting album, is expected to be released later this year, with the first track – Sorry Is The Word, a duet with former Neighbours star Alyce Platt (Jen Handley and subsequently Olivia Bell; changing characters is permissible in soap operas) – being published earlier this month.

    “The music I’m very keen to really work hard on and I’m looking forward to having a little bit of a break so I can actually write music and record it,” Fletcher says. “At the moment, I’ve got 10 songs, but you know what? It’s very likely I’ll write another one that I like better and some stuff will end up getting the boot. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to the future.”

    He later adds: “I’m not looking for any sort of pop stardom or anything. I’m just looking to play my music as honestly as I can, and I don’t care if there are 10 people watching.”

    Fletcher says his solo shows will be very different from his appearances with Waiting Room back in the 2000s, which often took place at university nights as students turned out to see Dr. Karl on stage. Inspired by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, and Keith Urban, Fletcher says his solo shows will be very different from his appearances with Waiting Room back in the 2000s – which often took place at university nights as students turned out to see

    “That was party time,” he says. “There’s lots of jumping around being silly, but this music is a little more subdued. And when I’m playing in the UK, I’ll be playing as a three-piece, so it’ll be more about the words and more about what I’m singing than the antics.”

    What’s in the blue box?

    Fletcher also has his “evening with” show, The Doctor Will See You Now, which is slated to tour the UK in September following the cancellation of COVID. And, of all the inquiries people have for Dr. Karl, the one about his sex life is the most common.

    “Everyone wants to know what’s in Karl and Susan’s blue box that they keep under their bed, because that’s their marital aid,” he says, laughing. “It’s basically implied that it forms a rather large part of their love life – but no one knows what’s in it.”

    Fletcher is keeping quiet about this one, much like he did about the ending of Neighbours. You’ll have to wait until the end to discover if a blue box revelation is included in the grand finale. Perhaps improbable, but stranger things have happened in soap operas.


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