Gaby Willis

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Gaby Willis
Gaby Willis.jpg
Neighbours character
Portrayed by Rachel Blakely
Duration 1991–94, 2005
First appearance 12 August 1991
Last appearance 27 July 2005
Introduced by Don Battye (1991)
Ric Pellizerri (2005)
Classification Former; regular
Profile
Occupation Fashion designer (1991–92)
Barmaid (1992)
Secretary (1992–94)
Lassiter's Hotel manager (1994–)
Home Darwin

Gabrielle "Gaby" Willis is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Rachel Blakely. The shows casting director spotted Blakely on the cover of a magazine and asked her to audition for the role of Gaby. Blakely received the part and she was introduced to the show during a period of roller-coaster ratings. She made her debut screen appearance as Gaby on 12 August 1991. Just over two years later, it was announced Blakely would be leaving Neighbours and she departed on 2 September 1994. Blakely later reprised the role of Gaby to appear in the show's 20th anniversary episode, which was broadcast in July 2005.

Gaby is the eldest daughter of Doug (Terence Donovan) and Pam Willis (Sue Jones). She returns to Erinsborough, after taking a business course in Japan. Gaby has been described as being beautiful, intelligent and the apple of her father's eye. Gaby opens her own fashion boutique, with the help and support from her boyfriend, and later fiancé, Glen Donnelly (Richard Huggett). Gaby and Glen's engagement ends when he flees Erinsborough following an accident. Gaby's business burns down and she becomes a punk to cope with her losses. She also befriends and briefly dates a punk musician. Gaby takes a job as a barmaid, before becoming a secretary at the Robinson Corporation.

Gaby becomes attracted to teacher, Wayne Duncan (Jonathon Sammy-Lee), with whom she shares a real chemistry. However, the couple are mismatched and they often fight. Gaby and Wayne realise their relationship is destructive and they end it. Blakely believed the break up was Gaby's fault and called for her character to grow up. Gaby takes flying lessons and she falls for her instructor, Jack Flynn (Mark Pennell). Gaby becomes pregnant and Jack refuses to stand by her. Gaby later gives birth to a son, who is named Zac (Jay Callahan). When Gaby has difficultly balancing her career and motherhood, she takes a less stressful job of running a Lassiter's Hotel in Darwin.

Casting[edit]

Blakely was a successful model when she was spotted by the Neighbours casting director on the front cover of a magazine and invited to audition for the part of Gaby Willis.[1][2] The casting director thought Blakely would be perfect for the role.[1] The actress was introduced to the cast as Gaby in August 1991, alongside Scott Michaelson who played Gaby's brother, Brad.[3] Of their casting, James Cockington of The Sydney Morning Herald said "Despite some roller-coaster ratings of late, Ten still believes there is life in Ramsay Street and is introducing some new, young residents this week. Rachel Blakely, 23, and Scott Michaelson, 20, conform to the teen hunk/spunk category that has made E Street such a fun place to visit. Gaby and Brad, as they will become better known, appear as a boutique owner and her brother."[3]

In October 1993, David Brown of TV Week reported Blakely would be leaving Neighbours, along with Michaelson and Natalie Imbruglia (Beth Brennan).[4] Brown said the actors were expected to film their exit scenes the following month.[4] On 14 April 2005, Kris Green of Digital Spy reported Blakely had reprised her role of Gaby for the show's 20th anniversary episode broadcast in July 2005.[5]

Development[edit]

When the Willis family were introduced to Neighbours, eldest daughter Gaby was said to be studying at a business school in Japan.[6] She later returned to Australia and came to live with her parents, Doug (Terence Donovan) and Pam (Sue Jones), in Ramsay Street. Gaby was also reunited with her brother, Brad (Scott Michaelson).[7] A writer for the BBC described Gaby as being "the apple of her father's eye" and said her beauty was matched by her intelligence.[8] Josephine Monroe, author of Neighbours: The First 10 Years said Gaby's "cascading dark hair" and model looks meant there was never a shortage of men after her.[9] Monroe opined that whatever Gaby set her mind to, happened.[6] She said Gaby had "a knack with a sewing machine", which she put to use by making dresses for her friends and neighbours.[10] Gaby then decided to use her skills to make a profit and she opened her own boutique called Gabrielle's in the Lassiter's complex.[10]

Gaby begins dating Glen Donnelly (Richard Huggett), who becomes a source of support for her during the opening of her store. He encouraged her to capatalise on a client with a famous name and the boutique's takings rose.[10] Following an argument, Gaby runs off with Guy Carpenter (Andrew Williams), but she is not serious about him and she returns to Glen, who proposes to her.[11] Huggett revealed that Glen and Gaby do not end up getting married, saying "I don't want to give the game away, but it's pretty dramatic stuff, and it all ends in tears."[11] While repairing a roof at the Lassiter's Complex, Glen falls and is paralysed from the waist down, Gaby vows to support him. However, she was devastated when he decided to leave Erinsborough.[10] After her engagement to Glen is broken off and her fashion boutique burns down, Gaby turns into "the biggest rebel in Erinsborough."[12] A writer for Inside Soap said turning punk is her way of coping with her losses.[12] Gaby befriends "outrageous punk" musician Zed (Gavan McLaren) as she believes he is the perfect man to party with. Zed also gives Gaby a lot of support when she needs it.[12] Zed tries to turn his friendship with Gaby into something more, but she turns him down in favour of Simon Hunter (Fred Whitlock). When Gaby is almost raped by Simon, while on a date with him, she turns to Zed for his support.[12] Gaby then decides to date Zed as "a blatant act of defiance" against her father. McLaren explained "It never really comes to anything, but Zed doesn't mind, he's happy just to have Gaby as a friend."[12]

"Gaby Willis is Neighbours' independent woman of the Nineties, but when it comes to love she's about as sophisticated as a sheep in a mud bath!"[13]

Inside Soap on Gaby (1994)

Gaby takes a barmaid position at The Waterhole and she competes with Brad for the manager's job.[14] A writer for Inside Soap said both siblings are convinced they are the right person for the job and try to prove this to Philip Martin (Ian Rawlings).[14] However, when Gaby issues an ultimatum to Philip to choose between her and Brad, Philip fires her. Gaby embarks on a "fevered" job hunt and she accepts a bar job over the phone.[14] When she goes to the new bar to start work, she discovers that she is expected to waitress topless. Gaby turns the job down and finds employment as a secretary at the Robinson Corporation. She is later promoted to manager of Lassiter's.[8][14] Gaby later sets about furthering her career.[9] During an interview with Inside Soap, Blakely said she did not think Gaby would ever be happy with a guy as she kept picking losers. She said her character is "too headstong and likes too many arguments."[13]

An attraction forms between Gaby and Wayne Duncan (Jonathon Sammy-Lee) and Monroe said there was a real chemistry between them.[10] The author said that while the couple were mismatched from the start, they could not get each other out of their minds and often came together for "sparring sessions".[9] One night, Gaby believes Wayne has been groping her and she tips her drink over him.[13] Blakely said things get worse from there and explained that when she received a script containing a scene in which Gaby slaps Wayne, Blakely taunted Sammy-Lee. She revealed "When it came to do the scene I slapped him so hard I really hurt him! I think I got a little too worked up for it!"[13] Despite the rough start, Gaby and Wayne do get together, but a writer for Inside Soap said Wayne "turns out to be yet another loser on Gaby's list of unsuitable men."[13] Blakely explained that while Gaby cares for Wayne, she decides the relationship is not right. The couple break up when they realise how destructive their relationship is.[13][9] The actress thought the break up was Gaby's fault and said there were some aspects of her character she did not respect.[13] Blakely cited Gaby's fiery nature and her tendency to take gossip too seriously as the aspects she did not like, while calling for her character to grow up.[13] Blakely added "People her age aren't so irresponsible in real life, so hopefully she'll grow up soon."[13]

Gaby begins taking flying lessons and she gets her pilots license, but not before she falls for her instructor, Jack Flynn (Mark Pennell).[1][6] After a short romance, Gaby leaves for a job in Europe, but she returns two months later and her family cannot understand why.[15] Gaby then reveals she is pregnant and has decided to keep the baby.[15] An Inside Soap columnist said "When she lets slip that the father is no-good flying instructor Jack Flynn, Doug goes berserk and hunts down the man that did his daughter wrong."[15] Jack refuses to take responsibility and Gaby realises she will be a single mother. Though she has the support of her family.[15] Shortly after Gaby announces her pregnancy, Cheryl Stark (Caroline Gillmer) also announces she is pregnant.[16] Monroe said everyone expects Gaby to give birth first, but "in true Neighbours style" both Gaby and Cheryl go into labour at the same time.[16] Gaby gives birth to a baby boy who is named Zac (Jay Callahan), while Cheryl gives birth to a daughter.[16] Gaby finds it difficult to balance her career and motherhood and she later takes a less stressful job running a branch of Lassiter's in Darwin.[6]

Storylines[edit]

After studying a business course in Japan, Gaby returns to Erinsborough to be with her family. She learns her parents are on the verge of bankruptcy and she poses as a lawyer to get one of her father's debtors to pay an outstanding debt. Gaby begins making dresses for her friends and neighbours and she decides to open her own boutique in the Lassiter's Complex, with Caroline Alessi (Gillian Blakeney) as her silent partner. The business is successful and profits increase after Glen Donnelly discovers one of Gaby's customers is called Elizabeth Taylor and tells the Erinsborough News. Gaby considers dating Guy Carpenter (Ian Williams) until she learns he is seeing Caroline. Gaby then turns to Glen and they fall in love. After a brief split, Glen proposes and Gaby accepts. Glen falls from the roof of Lassiter's Hotel and he is paralysed from the waist down. Gaby stands by him, but Glen later flees Erinsborough, leaving Gaby behind. Gaby's aunt, Faye Hudson (Lorraine Bayly) accidentally causes the boutique to burn down and Gaby finds employment at The Waterhole.

Gaby goes through a rebellious phase to cope with her losses and she befriends punk musician, Zed. Gaby competes with her brother, Brad, for the manager's position at the pub, but after confronting their boss, Philip Martin, she is fired. Gaby becomes a secretary at the Robinson Corporation and she is later promoted to manager. Gaby meets Lassiter's client, Simon Hunter, and they begin dating. However, during a weekend away Simon tries to rape Gaby. Gaby presses charges and her father, Doug, hits Simon. Simon blackmails Gaby into dropping the charges, so her father does not get a conviction for assault. Wayne Duncan moves into Ramsay Street and Gaby immediately clashes with him. Her grandfather, Bert (Bud Tingwell), realises she is attracted to Wayne and he tries to get the couple together. Gaby and Wayne admit their feelings for each other and they begin a relationship. Gaby becomes jealous of Wayne's friendship with Annalise Hartman (Kimberly Davies) and when she fails to stand by him after he is accused of murdering biker Cactus (Les Toth), Wayne ends the relationship.

After The Waterhole explodes due to a gas leak, Gaby and Philip have to work together to rebuild it. Lassiter's owner, Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis), tires of their bickering and sends senior associate Jack Parker (Philip Parslow) to Erinsborough to sort them out and choose which one is most suitable for the manager job. Gaby works hard to impress Jack, but when she steals one of Philip's clients, Jack tells Paul that Philip should be given the managerial position. Philip insists that Gaby stays on as assistant manager and Paul agrees. Gaby begins taking flying lessons and she falls for her instructor, Jack Flynn. They start dating and when Jack admits he is a virgin, Gaby offers to have sex with him. Jack takes Gaby to Tasmania and she falls in love with him. Gaby is devastated when an ex-student of Jack's tells her that he had pretended to be virgin to get her to have sex with him years before. Jack makes advances on Lauren Carpenter (Sarah Vandenbergh) and Gaby's younger sister, Cody (Peta Brady), and Gaby breaks up with him.

Gaby and Annalise go on a flight up the coast, but Gaby is forced to make a crash landing. Both women survive, but they are stranded in the bush for hours until they are rescued by a helicopter on patrol. Gaby meets Stefano (Dino Marnika), a fashion designer who offers her a job as his personal assistant in Milan. Gaby accepts, but two months later she returns to Erinsborough and reveals she is pregnant. Gaby assures her parents that Stefano is not the father and they work out that Jack is. Doug tells Jack that Gaby is carrying his child and he insists on supporting her financially. Gaby is rushed to hospital when she starts bleeding and she is convinced that she is losing the baby. Gaby is relieved when the doctors tells her the bleeding came from the placenta and she is told to rest. Gaby goes into labour with her mother and sister by her side and she gives birth to a son, who she names Shannon. Cheryl Stark (Caroline Gillmer) gives birth to her daughter at the same time and also names her Shannon.

When Doug registers the birth he decides to name his grandson, Zachary. Gaby is not happy, but realises she likes the shortened version of the name, Zac. Jack turns up, wanting to be part of his son's life and Gaby refuses at first. However, when she sees how much Jack wants to be a father, she relents. Rosemary Daniels (Joy Chambers) offers Gaby a job managing the new Lassiter's branch in Darwin and Gaby accepts. When Jack learns of Gaby's decision, he decides to move up north too. After attending a naming ceremony, Gaby, Jack and Zac leave for Darwin. Gaby later appears in Annalise's documentary about Ramsay Street and reveals she is still in Darwin, managing Lassiter's.

Reception[edit]

The BBC said Gaby's most notable moment was "Surviving a plane crash with Annalise."[17] A writer for Inside Soap said "Gorgeous Gaby has had so many job changes she would make a great careers adviser!"[1] The added that if only her love life had been as successful as her employment record.[1] Another writer stated Gaby and Glen had Ramsay Street's biggest on-off romance since Scott (Jason Donovan) and Charlene (Kylie Minogue).[11] During a feature on Neighbours, Anna Pickard of The Guardian tried to choose the characters she would be most starstruck by if she met them. She said "It would have to be the Willis family. All of them. Pam, Doug, Adam, Gaby, Brad and Cody".[18] In September 2014, Mark James Lowe from All About Soap called for Gaby's return to Neighbours following the reappearances of Brad, Doug and Pam. He commented, "we last saw a glimpse of her almost a decade ago in Annalise's documentary… so we desperately want to know what Gaby's been up to since!"[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Profile - Rachel Blakely". Inside Soap (Attic Futura (UK) Ltd) (29): 36. January 1995. 
  2. ^ "Family comes first!". Inside Soap (Attic Futura (UK) Ltd) (30): 45. February 1995. 
  3. ^ a b Cockington, James (11 August 1991). "Neighbours". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). p. 11. Retrieved 28 May 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Brown, David (23 October 1993). "Scott free". TV Week (ACP Magazines) (17): 15. 
  5. ^ Green, Kris (14 April 2005). "More Neighbours returns confirmed". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d Monroe 1996, p.117.
  7. ^ Monroe 1996, p.55.
  8. ^ a b "Character: Gaby Willis". BBC. Archived from the original on 21 September 2004. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c d Monroe 1996, p.58.
  10. ^ a b c d e Monroe 1996, p.57.
  11. ^ a b c "Heartache for Glen and Gaby". Inside Soap (Attic Futura (UK) Ltd) (5): 15. January 1993. 
  12. ^ a b c d e "Neighbours new boy Zed is whisked off by fans!". Inside Soap (Attic Futura (UK) Ltd) (11): 18–19. July 1993. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Grow up Gaby". Inside Soap (Attic Futura (UK) Ltd) (18): 50. February 1994. 
  14. ^ a b c d "Gaby gets fired". Inside Soap (Attic Futura (UK) Ltd) (16): 55. December 1993. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Gaby's in the family way". Inside Soap (Attic Futura (UK) Ltd) (29): 54. January 1995. 
  16. ^ a b c Monroe 1996, p.90.
  17. ^ "Character: Gaby Willis". BBC. Archived from the original on 20 September 2003. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  18. ^ Pickard, Anna (18 October 2005). "The perfect blend". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  19. ^ Lowe, Mark James (9 September 2014). "We're all talking about…soap faces we want to return!". All About Soap. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 

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