Jane: Paul plot was tricky

Neighbours actress Jane Hall reveals her thoughts on the 'Who pushed Paul?' plot, the recasting of Declan and her decision to leave the show.

Jane: Paul plot was tricky

Jane Hall played the beautiful and poised Rebecca Robinson (formerly Napier) for four years, but has now decided to move on to pastures new.

As Rebecca's exit from Erinsborough approaches, we caught up with the actress and mother of one to get her thoughts on her eventful time on the show.

Why did you decide to leave Neighbours?

I was with the show nearly four years. That's the longest I've done any job. I've never worked as anything other than an actor, and it felt time to move on and try a different challenge.

I can't say the production was thrilled about it, but perhaps down the track I'll go back for a little while if they haven't replaced me with someone new and shinier.

Was it a difficult decision?

It's always a difficult decision to leave a regular income and a high-profile job, but for me the good outweighed the bad. I really like doing different things, and I had really got burnt out as far as the hours go and the difficulty of the work.

It's a challenging job on many levels, and I was finding it hard to combine doing a good job of mothering my daughter and being in Neighbours.

What can you tell us about Rebecca's exit?

She doesn't die, which is good. I really didn't want her to die. We've had a few characters recently who have bitten the dust, and that's really hard to act and really sad. And I wanted the possibility that maybe she would come back down the track.

She does a lot of soul-searching. And she leaves Susan with the knowledge of exactly what happened. She passes the baton to Susan and leaves her a huge mess to clean up.

The ramifications of Rebecca pushing Paul over the mezzanine are far-reaching, and I believe the storylines stretch over the next few months about what happens as a result of her actions.

Were you surprised Rebecca was the one who pushed Paul?

I knew Rebecca was the culprit right from the start. I was told by the writers it was what they had planned. I remember at the time saying, 'Wow, that's going to be really tricky.' It really goes against the way she is as a character, to push someone off the roof.

The way Stefan Dennis (who plays Paul) and I interpreted it and acted it was we had to satisfy ourselves that it was one of those random and instantaneous mistakes people make. When we worked on the scene we had to make it look like she had a moment of fury that caused her to do that.

Were fans surprised she was the culprit, do you think?

Yeah, and bizarrely so many women have asked me how she could do such a thing, instead of how Paul could be such a cad and a villain, always cheating on her and lying to her.

So many women have said to me, 'How could she push him off a roof?' I don't believe people should push people off roofs, but couldn't you get so fed up that you make a decision that is not what you thought you would do?

I've been surprised by the fan reaction. But Paul Robinson is such an iconic character in soapland that people feel protective of him and don't want him to come to harm.

What have been the highlights of your time on Neighbours?

There have been so many. I loved doing the comedic stuff. I've always been comfortable with comedy, but that wasn't something they explored a lot of with Rebecca.

They always had me weeping and wailing over something. They made Rebecca a very dramatic, heartfelt, heart-warming, serious character in many ways, and that's not like me, so I always relished the chance to do something a bit more light-hearted.

That said, some of the more heartfelt moments between Rebecca and her children were really gratifying to be part of.

Was it weird acting with a new actor, Erin Mullally, as Declan when James Sorensen left?

It was very weird. I must say Erin did a beautiful job of taking over. He had such grace as a human being to know he had really big shoes to fill and probably wasn't the most popular person in the world.

But they had storylined the Rebecca pushing Paul story, and they needed to continue using the character of Declan after James had said he was going to leave the show. They needed to recast him, but they did so without any consultation with the rest of us.

I was as surprised as anyone to learn we'd be getting a new Declan, and I didn't audition with Erin or any of the other choices, so we really all had to go with it. We weren't part of that decision-making process. Some would ask why we should be, but I feel that in a show where your cast is so important that perhaps we could have been part of that decision.

But never mind. I think it all worked out fine in the end.

What did you make of Rebecca and Michael's relationship?

I loved it. I was getting really fed up with her going back for more from Paul, and it wasn't the way I saw her. I didn't like the message it sent to people, that it was OK to put up with infidelity and bigamy and all this sort of stuff.

Rebecca never acted the way Jane would act, so it was always tricky for me to find the truth in what she was doing and then portray that accurately.

She and Michael were well suited. It was a joy to work with Sandy Winton too.

Are you single in real life?

I am single, yes, and more's the pity, but I tell you what? It's very hard to meet people when you work the kind of hours I work and I'm also a mum. You tell me: how am I going to meet my Prince Charming?

Do you think Rebecca may go back one day?

I think she could. They replace you very quickly on these things, and there are hundreds of fantastic actors my age in Australia who would do a beautiful job, and if they need to employ someone there would be people lining up to get into Neighbours.

However, I do think Rebecca was a pretty popular character now, from what I can gather, and it's certainly become more obvious to me since I left. That's been really gratifying to me, so perhaps they might want to have me back after I've had a good long rest.

What are you planning to do next?

I've got a couple of things up my sleeve and will be back on screens in no time. In the immediate future I'm travelling around for a month or so and then settling daughter into the new school year.

I don't want think about starting a job until mid to late February. I just need some space and time to get over Ramsay Street as it's been a really big part of my life. I didn't think I'd feel as sentimental as I did, but it will take some getting used to not being involved anymore.

What kind of work do you want to do?

Some television in Australia, possibly a hosting role. I've got a few projects of my own I'd like to get off the ground. I've written a treatment for something, and we'll hopefully shoot some of that in the new year.

Who will you keep in touch with from Neighbours?

I'm great mates with Janet Andrewartha, who plays Lyn, Jackie Woodburne, who plays Susan. And Stefan Dennis and I are really close. We always bonded over our children.

I'll miss all of them. There are very few I didn't get on with. The camaraderie of the actors is truly amazing on that show.