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Interviews > Anthony Morris

He's been a Neighbours scriptwriter for six years now, and was responsible for some of 2008's key episodes, including Harold's street farewell and the dramatic bushfire scenes, and here, Anthony Morris shares some of his thoughts on the part he's played in the Neighbours saga...

Can you give us a background on your career and involvement in the television industry prior to Neighbours?
I started out doing sitcoms in the early ‘90s, beginning with All Together Now. By the time I came to Neighbours I’d done pretty much the gamut – prime-time drama, kids’ drama, serial, short film, even doco.

How did you first come to work on Neighbours?
Luke Devenish and Lara Radulovich (both Neighbours story producers and fine spotters of talent) knew me from my having worked on the serial Something In The Air for the ABC.

You’ve been a Neighbours writer since 2002. Were you a fan of the series before joining the crew?
I have to confess, I hadn’t followed the show for a while. But then in the late ‘90s my kids got me back into it. They told me about this great show they’d discovered at 6.30 - had I heard of it?

How does a typical writing assignment on Neighbours work for you?
The scene breakdowns come out each week, keeping the writers up to date on the stories. Scene breakdowns give a run-down of the story points that need to be hit in each scene, in order to keep the various stories moving forward. About every three or four weeks I’ll write an episode.

Who are your favourite Neighbours characters to write for?
There’s good material to be mined in all the characters – that’s one of the strengths of the show. But I guess I tend to enjoy most those characters with a bit of a comic bent. Toadie’s a long-time favourite and I’m really enjoying writing Donna. Paul’s good value, and Susan and Karl work beautifully together. Elle’s gradually-emerged social awkwardness gives her a nice edge too.

You’ve written some of the most memorable Neighbours episodes of the last year, including Harold’s farewell and the bushfire scenes. Do you have any scenes or moments you wrote that you were particularly pleased with?
Writing those big moments is great, but it’s sometimes nailing the smaller moments that gives the most satisfaction. There was a storyline from a couple of years ago where Stingray was having a drinking problem. Harold found him drunk in a hotel room, and hit him with a few home truths. It was only a couple of small scenes but I was really happy with them. The eps where Rosie was struggling to convince Fraser that her pregnancy was real, were very satisfying. And a couple of scenes where Stingray tried to convince a group of women he worked for an advertising firm called McMahon and Tate. And the one where Janae acted like a traffic cop. And the one where the girls pulled a Thelma and Louise. Oh and the episode where...

How important is the comedy in Neighbours, in your opinion? Is it something that you’re particularly conscious of when writing for the show?
The comedy is one of the features of Neighbours that sets it apart from most other serials and is, I believe, one of its strengths. Infusing characters with a comic take on situations isn’t just about making them entertaining or “funny”. It’s about making them well-rounded and real. People use humour all the time in real life, sometimes even to deal with the less pleasant aspects of it. So while the comedy is not something I specifically look to inject, it is a great tool to be able to use where appropriate.

But while comedy can be a great tool for character, the best comedy moments often come from the incidental stuff – I remember writing an exchange between Toadie and Dee where they were arguing about which was the best planet in the solar system – Pluto or Mercury. It was just a way into the real business of the scene, but it made me chuckle.

How important do you think the core characters - for example, Harold, Lou, Karl, Susan etc - have been to the series over the years?
A lot of Neighbours’ appeal I believe comes from tapping into the great constants we all want in our lives – family and friends. As our lives and the world around us change, it’s nice to know those things are there to fall back on. The core characters of the show give it that constancy.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Neighbours format?
The half hour, five evening a week is ideal for the style of storytelling. A half an hour when you get home from work or whatever, to catch up with favourite characters.

Occasionally I’d like there to be fewer scenes in an ep. There are times when I’d like to spend more time in a scene, developing some element of it.

Having worked on several Australian series such as H2O Just Add Water, how does writing for a daily soap opera like Neighbours compare?
Probably the biggest difference is in the nature of the stories being told. Serial is open-ended ie “tune in tomorrow to see what happens”. Series tend to have self-contained stories so that any given episode will tend to have a particular story which is resolved in that ep. This blurs a little where series have on-going story threads, but even where they do, episodes still tend to have their own individual stories.

What do you most enjoy about your involvement with Neighbours?
I have to admit, it still get a bit of a blast out of how many people around the world will eventually watch what I write. I live in Brisbane which can be stinking hot in summer. Sometimes, when I sit at my computer in just a pair of board shorts (me not the computer), working on a scene that will be shot in Melbourne on some chilly autumn day, then seen in Britain in the depths of winter, it makes me think... I really should buy an air conditioner.

With Neighbours now in its 24th year, do you have any thoughts on why the show has lasted so long?
All the above – the comedy, the characters, the stories. The writing of course. But most of all I think it’s that it’s always been life-affirming.

What's next for Anthony Morris?
More of the same with Neighbours hopefully. Plus my feature film - a comedy about cricket which will reap investors scandalous profits. So if there are any investors out there?...

I’m serious.

Interview by Steve. Added on 22nd November 2008