Geoff Paine on mystery absence and show ending

Neighbours spoilers follow.

In our latest interview marking the end of Neighbours, we’re catching up with Geoff Paine to reflect on his time as Clive Gibbons.

Geoff’s association with the show began in 1986, when he first landed the role of local doctor Clive. He bowed out as a regular the following year and returned as a guest in 1989, but the world of Erinsborough wasn’t done with him yet.

After 28 years away, Geoff reprised the role of Clive on a semi-regular basis from 2017 and will feature in the upcoming hour-long finale episode.

Chatting to Digital Spy just two weeks before filming ended, Geoff spoke about Neighbours ’80s heyday, his surprise return as Clive and why his character was absent so much this year.

clive gibbons and jane harris in neighbours

FremantleChannel 5

What has the atmosphere been like on set as you’ve filmed these final episodes?

“It’s a tad emotional, I’ve got to say. As you get closer to the end of everything, you realise you’ll be finishing up a storyline, or that might be the last time you work with a particular director or actor.

“We are having those moments where they will say ‘that’s the final scene for this director, or this crew member’. It is emotional, but of course we can’t stop, so it’s also ramping up.

“We don’t have that luxury of three more months to tie things up. There is an end date and we just have to build to it, shoot and get everything in the can.

“The work is happening, but there is that background bass note that it is coming to an end.”

Is the script for the finale everything you’d hoped for?

“You know I can’t talk about the finale! But it’s big and there are many, many people in that final episode.

“It’s lovely. It’s a lovely way to go out and to pay homage to this extraordinary show – this lucky fluke of a show that really picked up at the right time, in the right place and found its audience.”

Were you surprised when the show’s cancellation was announced?

“We had heard beforehand that television was changing. We knew that this style of commercial TV was competing with tons of other stuff out there at the moment.

“We were surprised? Yes and no. We knew that things were changing, but no-one knew when this was going to happen. So when the news finally did come through, we thought: ‘Okay, this is it. How can we tie this up? How can we go out with a bit of style and stay true to the fans who have loved the show for decades?'”

shane ramsay, des clarke and clive gibbons in neighbours

FremantleChannel 5

Are you grateful the team had time to prepare an ending, rather than the show finishing abruptly?

“Absolutely. Was it The Sopranos that suddenly ended with a blank screen and people rang up the network and said: ‘Is there a power blackout?’ They had to say: ‘No, no, that’s the end of the show’.

“[Executive producer] Jason Herbison and the team have done a great job in pulling back some characters for this farewell, but also tying things up for the different storylines and existing characters.

“I am grateful that there isn’t an abrupt ending. There is an attempt to say: ‘These people were here for some time and we need to acknowledge that’.”

Have there been any challenges?

“Well, they’ve done a great job in dealing with the ongoing COVID situation, which has come back here in Australia. We’ve had a lot of logistical issues that we’ve needed to fix up on the fly.

“Jason and the production team have done a fantastic job of dealing with that and making sure the product kept coming out, with a bunch of problems that are just mind-boggling to think about.

“People had to suddenly go into isolation and stories were written around them. Then they pulled them back in and made sure that the show could keep going.”

Clive was absent for a few months earlier in the year. Was there a reason for that?

“I have been busy. I must confess, I’ve been doing a little play and the producers have been very understanding over my other work commitments. Clive pops in and out, as he can be utilised.

“I am not going to foreshadow the finale, but things don’t always run smoothly in the world and Clive is no exception to that rule. He will have some challenges before the end of the show.”

clive gibbons and mike young fight in neighbours

FremantleChannel 5

How did you feel when you found out that Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan were coming back?

“I just think it’s a lovely circular thing to have them back in the Street where they started all those years ago. A lot of people thought they wouldn’t return, but I was delighted to hear that they were popping back to the Street.

“It’s a tip of the hat to where they began, on this extraordinary show that took off into the stratosphere all those years ago. No-one could have predicted it and it’s just amazing how it exploded at the time.”

How has it been to have so many other familiar faces back?

“I was on set with a particular actor who I have not seen for 30 years. They had to interrupt us to get us to act, as we were catching up with life! It’s just extraordinary to think that we were all young and now we’ve all got families, careers and we’ve moved onto other things.

“To catch up was just wonderful and they had to say: ‘Okay, guys, you have to act now and say the lines’. So that’s been really lovely, actually.”

What are your fondest memories of playing Clive?

“You’re talking to a guy who had this as a first acting job. I didn’t know what I was doing and I was bluffing, as we all do with our first jobs. You bluff a level of confidence that you don’t really have.

“I do remember being in the gorilla suit, which we shot in day one for my character. I was wondering what on earth I was doing in this gorilla suit and: ‘Is this the future of showbusiness? I just wear funny outfits?’

“I found the show to be a wonderful, fast-paced storytelling factory, where you didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on things. You just had to make these bold decisions and go with it.

“I loved being able to say: ‘Okay, let’s just grab this and run the scenes’. I made a lot of good friendships there with the cast and the crew, because we were all caught by surprise with how successful the show had become.

“I loved the ‘gift of the gab’ stuff I did back in the day, a lot of the hi-jinks that Clive got up to and also the flights of fancy.

“There was a Christmas episode where Clive got knocked out and had this dream sequence where he was Father Christmas and all the other people in the Street had become these Christmas characters. It was just a wonderful, imaginative and creative time.”

clive gibbons in neighbours

FremantleChannel 5

Are you glad that you had the opportunity to return nearly 30 years later?

“Completely. The older Clive is a very different character from the young one, in terms of his maturity and outlook. But it’s been lovely to come back, meet the new cast and also catch up with people who’ve been here a long time. It’s been terrific.”

Which love interest was Clive most suited to – Sheila or Jane?

“It depends on the mood Clive’s in! Sheila was this extraordinary, bold, emotional sort of character, while Jane is much more contained and controlled. They brought out different aspects of Clive’s personality.

“Clive has been with Jane most recently and we’ll have to wait and see if that remains the case at the end of the show.”

What did you make of the outpouring of love that Neighbours received when the cancellation was announced?

“It’s just a wonderful, warm feeling of knowing there are people out there who have loved and enjoyed the characters. It’s the warmth of knowing you’re producing something that people feel is part of their life and part of their daily routine.

“We wish it could keep going on forever and ever, but it’s had such an fantastic run over these 37 years. It’s just made television history and it’s unheard of, so we’ve been very lucky.”

How long were you planning on staying for?

“I was just going to see how it went. I’ve got other things in the world that I also focus my energy on, but it’s been so nice to be able to return. Being one of the older guys, it’s extraordinary to think I’ve had this whole life and family and other things happening, but then I’ve come back.

“It’s nice to actually talk with and work with some of the younger cast and realise that was me a long, long time ago.”

melanie pearson, clive gibbons, des clarke, jane harris and paul robinson in neighbours

FremantleChannel 5

Could Neighbours return?

“There is always hope and who knows? As our viewing habits change and the availability of streaming services changes, perhaps there could be another internet life for the show. I’m sure they’re exploring those options.

“They’ve been clever, as some people have asked: ‘Will an asteroid hit the Street?’ That’s not happening, so there is always hope that the show could be resurrected, or versions of the show.

“Are there particular houses in the Street? Are there particular couples in the Street that people want to stay focused on? Who knows?”

The shows may be rivals, but do you hope Home and Away runs on and provides that training ground for the Australian industry?

“Absolutely. I hope that Home and Away goes from strength to strength and maintains that training ground for the production side of things – the writing, the performing, the directing, the crew. All that sort of stuff where people have to learn the ropes in this high pressure, high volume type of show.

“We’re making the equivalent of a feature film every week, so a bunch of stuff has to be done really quickly. It’s a rarefied atmosphere and a great training ground. I absolutely hope Home and Away stays and continues as a part of the TV diet.”

Are you planning to steal anything from the set?

“I have not planned on stealing anything from the set! What would be the symbolic thing? Would it be the gorilla mask? Would it be a drum kit from the old days? So much has changed over the years.

“I have too many fond memories of the place and the people who work there, but thank you for planting the idea in my head!”

Check out Digital Spy’s other Neighbours finale interviews:

Channel 5 breaks silence on Neighbours ending, fan reaction and big finale night plans

Neighbours star Takaya Honda on secret exit plan and show ending

Neighbours star April Rose Pengilly on show axe, Elly return and Chloe memories

Neighbours airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 6pm on Channel 5 and streams on My5. The series finale will air in the UK on July 29 at 9pm on Channel 5.

In Australia, the show airs Mondays to Thursdays at 6.30pm on 10 Peach and streams on 10 Play. The series finale will air in Australia on July 28 at 7.30pm, simulcast on 10 and 10 Peach.

Read more Neighbours spoilers on our dedicated homepage

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