Just some of the questions that were raging on social media last night after TEN’s Offspring killed off a favourite character played by actor Matthew Le Nevez.
TV Tonight spoke to producers John Edwards and Imogen Banks about why he was written out, along with an angry response to network promos.
It was a powerful episode in which a seemingly minor accident involving Patrick raised all sorts of questions about getting checked immediately, organ donation and mortality.
I couldn’t help but wonder if actor Matthew Le Nevez wanted out of the hit show?
“Not as specifically as that,” says Banks. “There was a lot of pressure on him from his US representation, for him to be over there because he’s a hot property.
“So it was more that we knew there would come a point where we would have to let him go. So we were thinking about the future and because we knew we had two series (S4 & S5) we were in a position where we had to think long-term. So we knew we had to consider a future without him. We debated a lot about what that exit would be.”
Earlier this year I had also interviewed Le Nevez, where he spoke about his desire for US opportunities. If only I’d known then…
So given he was on borrowed time, why the need to give him such a dramatic exit? Could he not have been written out, leaving the door open for a return?
According to the producers, Nina and Patrick were now so committed to one another, that him leaving her was neither logical nor original.
“Given the nature of the relationship between Nina and Patrick and the amount of times they’d broken up, we couldn’t do that again,” says Banks.
“One of the things we’d set ourselves when we started Offspring was that we would always keep the stories moving forward and never repeat the same things. That’s the danger in a romantic comedy. Once you start repeating things they lose their life very quickly,” Edwards insists.
“It was conventional wisdom that you could never have somebody be pregnant in a series but we went ahead and did it anyway because we were determined to keep the story going forward.
“One of the things you face when you’re doing a series about family life and love is ‘What happens when somebody falls off the mortal coil?’ It’s just something you’ve got to deal with eventually.”
How did Le Nevez take the news he was being written out?
“He was shocked initially,” says Banks. “We’d spoken to him a lot about the future. When he found out, and this is both with Matt and with Asher, they were quite emotional about it, but very much on board and recognised what a great story it was.”
As promos have shown, next week Nina attends Patrick’s funeral. With up to 90 people involved in those scenes, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how well the secret had been kept under wraps.
“That’s what I’m most proud of. It’s a testament to everyone involved in the show, that we just asked everyone to keep the secret and respect the story and everyone has. From extras, cast and crew –there were so many people involved, and we were really in everybody’s hands. You can’t really enforce that sort of secret,” Banks remarks.
“So we were a little upset when the promos looked like being in danger of giving it away. The cast and crew have been fabulous at keeping it secret. And the press too, I have to say.”
“With so many scripts floating around it really is a testament to everybody’s integrity,” Edwards adds.
Ironically, while those directly involved with the show kept its secrets, it was the network that took the opposite view, with promos teasing the death of either Patrick, Billie or Jimmy, all central characters to Nina’s world. The network has been eager to capitalise on such a key turning point, calling the scenes ‘ground-breaking’ and supposedly leaving us talking “for years to come.” But it denied them the chance to surprise the audience for maximum impact.
“It’s unfortunate,” notes Edwards.
“This kind of subject has been dealt with in series in my case 6 times and 5 times the networks chose to let the natural story tell its own case and didn’t promo it.
“I don’t think you should use it as a promo but that’s my own personal view. It’s a shame that people will watch the show through that prism. But it’s happened.”
Those 5 were Love My Way, Police Rescue, The Secret Life of Us, Rush and Tangle.
“It’s spilled milk (now) but I think it’s an error. I think it’s wrong and sad strategically and dodgy morally, but that’s my view.”
Banks also isn’t a fan of promos revealing too much.
“I don’t like promos showing the final beat of an episode in a promo. It’s like prematurely reading the last page of a book. But that’s a general move in promos across film and television that I don’t like,” she says.
Such is the popularity of the show she had first hand knowledge of hearing theories from viewers, as a direct result of the promo.
“I was sitting in a café on Saturday morning reading the first three scripts of the next season and suddenly tuned into the conversation beside me with three women talking about how it was definitely Billie,” she recalls.
“So I had to quickly cover the scripts and pretend I wasn’t there!
“It’s happened a lot. (Writer) Michael Lucas has been sitting in cafes writing scripts listening to people talk about what’s going to happen next.”
Next week’s season finale, also directed by Emma Freeman, promises more emotion for fans with Nina facing both birth and death.
“Season 5 is being plotted at the moment and there’s definitely an upswing because it was plotted with that in mind,” promises Banks.
I can’t help but ask if there’s any possibility of returning Don Hany as Dr. Chris, Nina’s first love in Season One?
“He’s not in our present thoughts,” Edwards replies.
Never say never I guess.
And what about Patrick? Offspring is a show with fantasy moments. Is Matthew Le Nevez contracted in any way for Season 5?
Banks is coy but reluctantly admits, “Yes. A little bit. He’s back in Season 5.”
Offspring finale airs 8:30pm Wednesday on TEN.