Neighbours star Alan Fletcher has hit back at claims that the show isn't diverse enough.
The Aussie soap has recently broken a lot of ground for LGBTQ+ representation, becoming the first Australian TV drama to show a same-sex wedding last year.
More recently, show bosses have cast transgender role model Georgie Stone for a guest appearance, after she approached Neighbours executives a year ago to discuss introducing the soap's first ever trans character.
Discussing the importance of keeping up with the times, Alan – who plays fan favourite Karl Kennedy – exclusively told Digital Spy: "It’s crucial. There was a time where Neighbours was accused of being too Anglo-Saxon. It wasn’t reflecting society, the multiculturalism and so forth.
"The producers wore that, and accepted it, and then really positive changes were made – right down to even just the casting of extras and background actors.
"So even if you’re looking at scenes at Harold’s or if you’re looking at scenes at Lassiter’s or The Water Hole, you’ll notice a lot more diversity in casting.
"There's also a focus on trying to also include stories that don’t necessarily focus on disability, but where people with disability appear in the show, with no mention of their disability. So there’s wonderful, positive things happening there."
Alan added: "We get a little bit upset – particularly Jason [Herbison], our executive producer. There’s another soap that started up in Australia, on ABC, and it boasted that it’s more real than Neighbours. They were referring to a Neighbours from the 1980s and ‘90s and early 2000s. They’re not talking about Neighbours now.
"It’s sensational. It’s a sensational thing to do. I mean, the growth of awareness about the difficulties facing LGBTQIA people is fabulous when it gets into the mainstream media. Having the first gay marriage – legal gay marriage – in Australia on TV was brilliant. We did Mardi Gras this year. We had a float in Mardi Gras, the Sydney Mardi Gras.
"Basically, what Neighbours is trying to sit back and say to its audience that it is a place of inclusivity and diversity. Our slogan is: everyone’s welcome in Ramsay Street."
Neighbours airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5 (UK) and 6.30pm on 10 Peach (Australia).
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