Neighbours star Ben Hall on Ned Willis’s exit, show axe and future plans

    “He leaves as a bit of a bad boy.”

    Neighbours waves goodbye to Ned Willis next week as he decides to leave Erinsborough for a fresh start in Sydney.

    After being caught cheating on Amy Greenwood with Harlow Robinson, Ned quits out of Ramsay Street, realising that he needs to make a clean break after his poor behaviour.

    In real life, Ben Hall, who plays Ned, finished filming his farewell scenes in March, only weeks after learning that Neighbours would be ending after 37 years on the air.

    Digital Spy recently caught up with Ben for a chat about Ned’s departure, his future plans and the big Neighbours finale.

    How do the Ramsay Street residents react when Ned announces that he’s leaving?

    “Ned is undoubtedly departing with a cloud over his head. This is one of Ned’s worst moments, in my opinion. He’s done some pretty stupid things in his time, but there were always mitigating factors.

    “Ned made that decision this time, and he irritates a lot of people.” Paul is dissatisfied, as is Terese, who has always been on the lookout for him. Toadie, too, is disgusted by his actions. As a result, he’s no longer welcome on the Street.”

    Did you enjoy playing that, or did you want Ned to bow out on a better note?

    “What’s more, guess what? He was a little of a bad kid when he came in, and he is still a bit of a bad boy when he departs. That ending didn’t bother me at all. I think it was quite appropriate for Ned.”

    How did your departure from the show come about?

    “My contract had come to an end at that point. After learning that Channel 5 would not renew the [Neighbours] contract, the show needed to come up with new plots.

    “There were probably some cast members who left to provide room for new plots, opportunities for individuals to return, and other such things.

    “I believe Ned had a good reason to go at the time.”

    How did you feel when the news broke that the show was definitely ending? Was your reaction a bit different because you were leaving anyway?

    “I believe I’d come to terms with the fact that I was leaving.” For me, it wasn’t quite as bad. But it was heartbreaking in the sense that it’s always great to know that programme is still on and that there’s something to look forwards to.

    “Neighbours is also a huge component of the Australian industry for those who are just starting out.” It’s really only Home and Away remaining where you can get that kind of feeling, which I believe is a shame.

    “At the same time, it’s going to be such a beautiful finish, and what they’ve got planned is so incredible that it’ll truly pay tribute to all of the cast and crew throughout the 37 years, which I think is a really nice way to end.”

    “It could have gone on for a little longer and then fizzled out in a bad way.” This, on the other hand, will be a great, final hurrah. They have the funds. They’ve gotten the crowds to return. There’s a lot going on towards the conclusion of the storylines. As a result, I believe it will be fantastic.”

    If the producers decide to bring Natalie Imbruglia back, they probably need you there as their excuse since you play Beth Brennan’s son. Is there a chance we could see Ned pop back for the finale?

    “Look, I’d be delighted to. I’d love to do a scene with Natalie Imbruglia if they asked and I was available. That’s something I’m willing to consider. It’s up to the ruling class to decide.”

    Some fans are having a hard time letting go of Neighbours, believing that something might happen at the eleventh hour. Do you believe there’s any chance the show may be revived in the future, or do we just have to accept the fact that it’s over?” It’s an excellent question. I strongly believe the show has the ability to return, although in a different format or in a different style.

    “I don’t believe the show will return in its current form. After all, you never know. It’s the type of business where someone appears out of nowhere with a budget, a time slot, and the ability to complete the task. That would be incredible.

    “But, for the time being, it’s coming to an end, and we’re going to commemorate 37 incredible years of the show and then let it go.”

    What can you tell us about your future plans?

    “I’ve begun work on yet another project. I can’t say much about it yet since I’m working on something new that’s completely different from Neighbours, but I’m very thrilled about it. It’s undoubtedly a beneficial learning experience for me.”

    Are you hoping to stay Australia-based or travel elsewhere?

    “I’m hoping to visit the United Kingdom later this year, depending on work. But I’d want to come over, stay for a few months, acquire some representation, and possibly work there in the future. It’d be wonderful.”

    Home and Away has hired a lot of former Neighbours actors recently. Would you ever be interested in crossing over to Summer Bay?

    “Never in a million years would I say no. I’m always up for new challenges. First, show me the documents! But, hey, what the hell, why not? I know Harley Bonner has had a great time on there, so I wouldn’t rule it out outright. I’d feel a little bit like a traitor, though!”

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