Now, I don’t know how many of you will be with me on this – but I was a huge Neighbours fan when I was a kid. I’d rush home after school, eat my supper with Banana Man, Super Ted and Blue Peter on in the background and then I’d settle on the sofa (without my homework, probably) to catch Neighbours at 5.35pm on BBC1. Why? Because it was legendary! All my friends did it, we’d discuss what happened the next day and my mum once even banned me from watching it for a week because she walked in while Pam and Doug Willis were talking about sex (Worst. Week. Ever).
So you can imagine my sheer excitement when the nice PRs at Channel 5 invited me along to interview the legend that is Ian Smith – better known to soap fans as Harold Bishop.
When I got there, he was waiting in reception too – just like I had to. It was a surreal moment – the kind where you want to pull out your phone and update your Facebook status to… “Karen Edwards is sitting in a reception with Harold Bishop from Neighbours”. It was rather special!
Before long though, we’d graduated our relationship and we were in a lift together, heading up to the top of a very large media tower in Monument, ready for the interview. Julie, Ian’s lovely PR got him ready while I admired the views of London (Channel 5 have got it good, btw) and then I went in to discuss all things Neighbours with Ian.
The first bit of gossip is of course that Harold is indeed returning to the soap for six weeks. He will appear on screen in June and he’ll be there to help his good friend Toadie out of a sticky relationship situation. Ian told me about how he was approached to come back to the soap by the CEO of the Australia network. Apparently it was done in a causual conversation – which was then pursued over the phone. “Eventually, I spoke to Gail (my wife) and said, shall I do this? And she said yes it might pay for another holiday. And consequently we’re going to be going through Europe in one of those boats,” he laughed.
Of course, Ian knows Harold has had some incredible moments on that soap. From pursuing Madge, to marrying her. Having to fend off Hilary Robinson and Mrs Mangle in those early days to being a step dad to Charlene (Kylie Minogue). Of his time working with Kylie, Ian said, “I admire Kylie so much. She was always going to be a huge star. When she was a kid and she’d be in the green room, I’d hear her on the phone saying, ‘I wont do that because…’ or ‘No, I need that’. It was amazing watching a seasoned teenager act like a manager. She was super. Oh I think she knew she wanted to sing. She was the first of the soap stars, she started the ball rolling.”
And of course to end the chat, I HAD to ask Ian about that infamous ‘death’ scene where Harold fell into the sea whilst on holiday with Madge. He was presumed dead, for four years. But then he reappeared in a Salvation Army shop in Tasmania under another name. He’d lost his memory and somehow managed to make his way out of a murky death and through the waters to the island off the Aussie coast. It was way beyond belief and has now become an on-running joke. I asked him how he felt about the sheer randomness of the storyline. “My exact words to myself were ‘Oh well, it’s not Shakespeare, maybe no one will notice,’” he laughed. “I did it with a smile on my face.”
And that ended my lovely interview with Ian Smith aka Harold Bishop. And I’ll tell you what – he really is an absolute legend and it was one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing.