Neighbours spoilers follow for UK viewers.
Neighbours viewers are treated to another blast from the past next week, as Lucinda Cowden reprises her role as fan favourite Melanie Pearson.
Melanie, who was a show regular between 1987 and 1991, heads back to Erinsborough for a catch-up with Jane Harris and Des Clarke. The happy reunion is engineered by scheming Sheila Canning, who wants an excuse to get Clive Gibbons alone so she can win him back.
Digital Spy recently caught up with Lucinda for all the gossip on her comeback.
How did it feel to get the invite to come back?
"It felt like a gift from the heavens. It happened in July, during the really strict lockdown that we had in Melbourne. The lockdown went on for around 120 days and it was really hard. During that time, I lost all of my other work.
"I got a call from my agent saying: 'Would you be interested in coming back to Neighbours? They're just talking about it at this stage'. That was probably around the end of May, then the call came at the end of July that it was a goer.
"I started filming in October, so it was just fantastic and so much fun. It was really great to be working."
There was a really lovely reaction from Neighbours fans when your return was announced. How did it feel to know that viewers still have such affection for the character?
"I felt enormously flattered, buoyed and uplifted by it, because it was such a long time ago. Neighbours hasn't been part of my life for a long time, so it was just so joyous to know that people had still kept Melanie in their hearts. It was such a beautiful reaction.
"At first I just thought people were going to say: 'Oh my God, look how old she is!' It's 30 years later and you know that the comparison may be a little bit hard! But it was just really lovely and it felt like getting a big, warm hug."
Can you tell us how it was to step back into the studios after so long away?
"When I used to be there, all of Channel 10 used to be there. At the studios in Nunawading, there used to be gameshows, comedy shows, sitcoms, and all different things being filmed in lots of different studios. Back then, Neighbours only had two studios and the location lot.
"Now it's only Neighbours that's out there. That, of course, changes the feeling out there immediately, because there's not a whole lot of people. You used to see lots of people and audiences coming in to watch shows. It was very different in that aspect.
"But there were studios and sets still there that I worked in 30 years ago. I'd be thinking: 'My God, this is the same set that I stood in when I was 24! Wow!' There were times when I was stood there with people like Annie [Jones] or Stef [Dennis], who I worked with all those years ago as well.
"That was mild-melting really, that we're all here again and it's 30 years later. We're all really different but we're all the same as well. It was gorgeous and everyone was enormously welcoming."
Can you tell us about what brings Melanie back? It sounds like Sheila is pulling the strings…
"Sheila is completely pulling the strings! Sheila suggests to Des that they need to get Jane away from Clive, so Sheila can have some time alone with Clive. She suggests that she's found a friend of theirs on Facebook who they might like to catch up with, who turns out to be Melanie.
"Melanie has returned to Australia. You would have seen her in the 20th anniversary episode in 2005, when she was living in London. So she got back an undetermined amount of time ago and is currently living in Anson's Corner, which as we all know as Neighbours fans, is the next suburb along from Erinsborough.
"So Melanie is a local and she's keen to catch up with some of her old friends. The opportunity to get her nose into everybody's business again is just too good to miss out on."
Is Melanie similar to the character that fans will remember?
"She's exactly the same! She's obviously 30 years older but she's just as loud – possibly slightly louder. Melanie is just as sweet-natured and she's trying to help everybody all the time, but often ends up not quite doing the right thing or telling somebody the wrong thing. So she's exactly as she was, but just 30 years older.
"I also don't think she has the same concern over what everybody else thinks of her. She's possibly even more free-spirited than she was."
Is Paul pleased to see Melanie back?
"Not at all! It's terrible, isn't it? (Laughs.) He ducks and dives but you can always hear her coming, that's the good thing about Melanie! Paul has plenty of time to reverse direction and move the other way.
"He dodges her as much as possible and for as long as possible, but she finally corners him and asks: 'Why haven't you answered my Facebook messages?' He just cringes the whole time."
You've said on Twitter that you'd be interested in a permanent comeback. Have there been any hints about whether it's on the cards?
"I have no idea. They haven't given me any hints at all! I'm going back to film for a couple more weeks, but that's all I know so far. So far, so good. But yeah, I would be interested if they asked."
You were part of Neighbours in the '80s heyday. What are your memories of that time? Did it get crazy with the UK fans?
"It was crazy, but I didn't really get over to the UK until I'd finished filming. I wasn't in the show when it was happening, so they were slightly separate things for me.
"We did have a lot of fun back in the day and I have such great memories of the fun we used to have with people like Ian Smith, Anne Haddy and Anne Charleston and how hilarious, generous and lovely they all were.
"Then going over to the UK and having all of those options was slightly overwhelming, I must say, looking back on it. There were probably times I didn't know how to deal with it. I wasn't really into all that kind of stuff, because it causes you a lot of stress and you don't know how to deal with that. I wasn't very practised at that by the time I got over.
"But I loved my time in the UK. It was absolutely fantastic. The fans were brilliant and super enthusiastic. It was really exciting and that was when Neighbours was on the BBC and it was on twice a day. I used to make a joke to people and say: 'What didn't you get the first time?'"
We're duty-bound to point out that it's still on twice a day at 1.45pm and 5.30pm…
"That's amazing! It's only changed channels and it's not changed times. I'm super pleased that it's still on twice a day – that's brilliant."
Your return has aired in Australia. How has the reaction been so far?
"So far it's been absolutely brilliant. I think everybody is really pleased, especially people who watched Melanie years ago and knew her the first time around. There's probably a whole lot of people that have no idea who she is, but she just brings an injection of fun into things because she's so forward and laughs so much. She also has such a ridiculous laugh!
"I think Melanie just brings some fun in, whether you knew her back then or have never seen her before. She's a warm-hearted, fun character who's great for drama because she gets things wrong. That's a gorgeous type of character to have in a soap."
Neighbours airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5.
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