“The show is 37 years old. The reason I think it’s finishing is because Channel 5, who has been an amazing supporter of the show, has decided to spend its money on UK content. As Australians, we can’t complain about that … we’re always pushing for homegrown content,” she reasons.
“They were the lion’s share of the funding and so when they pulled out, the show couldn’t continue. It’s been cut back a lot in recent years – it couldn’t be made with what is left. Nobody would want to see the show die like that, so it’s probably the best thing that could happen,” she says.
While Colette is undeniably different to her character, Sheila, she does admit there has been some overlap.
“When I moved into my house, Colette’s house, in Richmond, I said: ‘You’ll be taking me out in a box,’” she laughs. “I didn’t want to ever move, and I think Sheila was the same.
“They didn’t want to kill me off and I didn’t want to leave Ramsay Street in the taxi … I just sort of disappeared! That was the best way for me to go,” she insists.
The current state of Australian TV irrefutably sees an emphasis on reality shows, and Colette admits it’s interesting to see the switch in viewer habits since she launched her career in the ’70s.
However, Neighbours’ soap ‘rival’, Home and Away, has long managed to maintain a healthy fan base and ratings – something Colette says “makes sense”.
“It’s on the main station, that’s why!” Colette adds, noting Neighbours has long played on Network Ten’s subsidiary channels.
“They’re also on at prime time! Look, the shows are both different and extremely good in their own ways. Home and Away is on later, I guess they could do more, have guns and blood…” she suggests.
“They both had their place. I’m thrilled Home And Away keeps going – it’s now the only place for full-time acting work in TV.”
Always an advocate for younger actors, Colette says she’ll miss mentoring the up-and-coming stars whose careers are often launched on the soap. However, there is one thing she won’t miss from the set.
“This is going to make me sound like a grumpy old woman, but the difference between working then and now – it’s phones! The unbelievable number of selfies taken on set, the scrolling … there’s no room for that,” she says, admitting you can always spot who has come under her mentorship program, as they will never be wielding a phone during filming.
“Mind you, it’s not just the young ones,” she clarifies.
Colette says her next chapter is bright – she is currently looking for dynamic roles and hopes dearly to land a part she has never done before.
One role the actress will never be able to forget is Doreen Anderson on Prisoner. The callow inmate was made famous by Colette’s portrayal opposite Val Lehman and Sheila Florance.
While fans adored Doreen, Colette confesses it was in fact a short three-month return after leaving the show for three years that was her favourite time on set.
“Coming back, I wasn’t part of the politics,” she admits. “Like any show, Prisoner became very political … And there were arguments and, you know, it was a hard three years,” she reveals, maintaining she’s forever grateful for being part of the hit series.
As well as plans to write another book and take up a screenwriting course, Colette says she’s also just excited to be focusing on her wellbeing.
“I’m about 20kg lighter than I was coming into Neighbours 10 years ago. When I came on to the show, I was going through a rough patch … a marriage breakdown – I think I’m an emotional eater,” she quips. “By the time my first episodes went to air, I just thought: ‘I have to do something about this.’”
Colette says that over a “slow and gradual” amount of time, she fell in love with exercises like yoga, Pilates and walking.
“When COVID-19 first hit, I found an app – didn’t we all – and I started to do daily yoga, and I have done so for over 500 days,” she explains.
“I only do 45 minutes, but every day. Even when I was on set I would do it before set or during a break,” she adds, noting that she walks about six to seven kilometres a day.
“I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last six months, but it’s mainly due to the walking and yoga,” she tells, adding that she also gave up drinking alcohol eight years ago, “which definitely helped”.
While many are shy to give away their secrets to looking good, Colette says she’s always looked after her skin, never smoked and values looking after herself. She also adds she has no qualms publicly discussing her weight ups and downs, as “everyone is curious”.