Former Neighbours actor Kate Kendall will become a Producer on the 10 Peach soap.
She steps in for Series Producer Natalie Lynch, who begins maternity leave.
Kendall has already been directing for the series, including the much-lauded Sonya / Toadie episode with Eve Morey’s farewell.
She first joined Neighbours in 2013 playing Lauren Turner, enjoying a 5 year run, but developed her TV directing skills on the Fremantle soap.
“They were finishing up with the character of Lauren, so in the last six months while I was acting, I started to direct little scenes here and there,” she tells TV Tonight.
“I’ve always been interested in storytelling, no matter from what perspective, whether it was directing or acting.
“I hadn’t really done it with the cameras. I’d told stories through one-woman shows and stuff like that. But I didn’t know the Technical, so it was really helpful to have a group of people who support you, and teach you everything they know.”
“In serial television you’ve got to be across all the stories”
Now as a producer, alongside fellow producer Andrew Thompson, she is believed to be the show’s first Actor / Director / Producer. Her new role gives her greater oversight of the show which has won global praise for its pathway back to production during COVID-19.
“It’s trying to keep all the stories in your head. In serial television you’ve got to be across all the stories…. stories that are coming up in 10 weeks’ time, stories that we’re shooting now, any kind of big stories and stunts. Making sure that everybody’s happy and that it’s as good environment as it can be for to get the best outcomes from people,” she explains.
“I’m a very kind of collaborative person so the hard thing for me has been not being able to touch with people because of this Coronavirus. The communication over zoom is good to an extent but things get missed and I can articulate myself better talking to someone, than I can in an email.”
“She just put her head down … to see how we could keep people employed in a safe way.”
Filling Lynch’s boots may be a tall order. As Kendall explains, it was Lynch who was responsible for mapping out a plan to keep Neighbours in production -a model that is being replicated in various forms around the world.
“She left the building for two days and just put her head down and started drawing out a document to see how we could keep people employed in a safe way. We’re very blessed because we’ve got so much space. We’re all on site. We don’t have to go off-site to shoot locations and stuff. We’ve got our backlot here so it’s about minimising the risk,” Kendall continues.
“She put in place procedures that would mean if someone did have the virus or something, we’re three steps ahead of the game to shut it down.
“We’re trying to ensure the integrity of the editorial content”
“It was hard for the writers, because they had to change the way they were going to write scripts to a certain extent. Some characters just weren’t going to be seen on the same screen as other characters because we couldn’t have them crossing over. So that was really tough. But we’ve kind of found our feet with it, and we’re trying to ensure the integrity of the editorial content as much as possible.”
Neighbours has shot minimal scenes at its Pin Oak Court location, and there are no extras being incorporated. The pandemic has not been incorporated into storylines themselves, but there are glimpses here and there to reflect the “new normal.”
“There will probably be a hangover from it with things like hygiene. People will be going into Harold’s coffee shop and sanitising their hands. So we’re filling things like that into the fabric of the show.”
“Kate was a natural choice to step up”
Jason Herbison, Executive Producer, welcomed Kendall’s new role and thanked Natalie Lynch for her progressive planning.
“Natalie been integral to keeping Neighbours running during Covid-19 and we all owe her a huge debt of gratitude,” he said. “I’m constantly learning from her and will miss her terribly when she’s away, but of course I’m thrilled that she’s adding to her beautiful family. Kate was a natural choice to step up to producing having extensive experience both sides of the camera, and along with Andrew Thompson, I’m confident the show is in very safe hands going forward.”
Rebekah Elmaloglou (Terese Willis) added, “Kate and I started on Neighbours at the same time, so personally I am just thrilled to see her progression. She has a unique insight to Neighbours from both the performance perspective and the intricacies of production through her directing – it’s a natural next step for her and I know the entire and cast and crew feel the same way.”
As for whether Kendall will return to acting on screen anytime soon, she merely teases, “I’d love to act again. Sometimes the best way for me to get back into acting is going through theatre. Because it gets you fit again.”
Neighbours airs 6:30pm weeknights on 10 Peach.