|Portrayed by||Simone Robertson|
|First appearance||23 September 1991|
|Last appearance||15 September 1993|
|Introduced by||Don Battye|
Phoebe Gottlieb (née Bright) is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Simone Robertson. She made her first screen appearance as Phoebe during the episode broadcast on 23 September 1991.
Robertson was desperate to secure the role of Phoebe when she learned of the casting. She knew that the character was going to be a "bit freaky" and decided play herself up to the persona. She attended the audition wearing thick glasses and her hair in pigtails. Two days later Robertson was informed that she had won the part.
"When Phoebe first appeared in Neighbours it was as a figure of fun. The school swot, she was called 'Creepy Phoebe' because of her passion for keeping pet reptiles, her favourite of which was Oscar the snake. But both Josh and then Todd fell for her and she blossomed."—A description of Phoebe published on Neighbours.com
One of Phoebe's reptiles is a pet snake named Oscar. When Robertson auditioned for the role she was asked if she liked snakes. She pretended to like them to help gain the role. But she was later confronted with snake. She was required to have large snakes around her neck. Although the actual owner was onset in case of emergency. Off-screen the snake had to be replaced a number of times due to constant mishappenings. Robertson told Lisa Anthony from BIG! magazine that "we've had three different Oscars so far, the first one died, the second one got eaten by a snake - and that one died from indigestion!"
Relationship with Todd Landers
Phoebe begins a relationship with Todd Landers (Kristian Schmid) and the pairing developed Phoebe into one of Neighbours' central characters. For Robertson the romance provided her with a challenge. She told an Inside Soap reporter that she was inexperienced and had never been in love. While creating the duo's scenes she had to use her imagination to make Phoebe appear "smitten by Todd". Schmid revealed that he had formed a close working relationship with Robertson through the storyline. He even had to correct inaccurate news stories they were romantically involved. In April 1992, a TV Week reporter announced that the couple would lose their virginity together. Todd then seventeen and Phoebe sixteen, the storyline was issue led and Schmid said that "Neighbours is a family show, but it’s also a realistic show."
Neighbours soon provided the actress with another challenging storyline. The character was sixteen years-old and discovers that she is pregnant with Todd's baby. The storyline was controversial and had much shock value for the residents of Ramsay Street. Robertson stated "when she gets pregnant, there are all sorts of problems she has to face." She felt lucky that producers has given her such an "important role" and noted that "absolutely everything happens to this girl - there's never a dull moment in her life." The pair have to decide whether or not to keep the baby. Schmid believed the couple should keep the baby and told Chris Twomey from What's on TV that Todd would make a good father because he is responsible. But Schmid had quit Neighbours and writers planned for Todd to leave Phoebe to live with his mother. He felt it was unrealistic and requested that his character be killed off.
In the build up to his final scenes; Todd rushes to prevent Phoebe from having an abortion but is hit by a van and dies. Phoebe decides to keep the baby. Robertson told an Inside Soap reporter that "they decide to have an abortion, but they're both having second thoughts. Just as Phoebe is about to go under the knife, Jim calls the hospital to say that Todd has been run down, so Phoebe rushes to his bedside." After seeing Todd lay in his hospital bed, Phoebe decides that she cannot have an abortion. Robertson believed that Todd's death scenes were the hardest to film. The atmosphere was so tense that they kept laughing inbetween takes. Todd returns soon after as a ghost to inform Phoebe that she will give birth to a girl. Todd's death leaves Phoebe to struggling by herself. Robertson stated that She's mostly scared and really doesn't know what to do. She's got no family since her father died." She began to share more screentime with Dorothy Burke (Maggie Dence) who decides to take Phoebe in and help out. Further characterisation was developed as Phoebe chooses to behave responsibly and remains focused on her education. She accepts that she must move on from Todd but still reminisces about their relationship during turmoil. In one of her most memorable moments, Todd's father Bob Landers (Bruce Kilpatrick) holds Phoebe hostage. He wields a gun at a shocked Phoebe, who did not expect to ever share an encounter with Bob.
Relationship with Stephen Gottlieb
The show cast Lochie Daddo as Phoebe's new love interest Stephen Gottlieb. Phoebe meets Stephen while she visits Todd's grave and he visits his dead lover, Libby's grave. He tracks her down to Ramsay Street where she attempts to put him off her by showing him her pet snake. Daddo told Shelli-Anne Couch from The Sydney Morning Herald that "It sort of turns into a little bit of a romance, starting very quickly". Robertson believed that Phoebe was really guilty about meeting Stephen. She explained that "[Phoebe] tells the new guy to keep away, but then she thinks that Todd would be happy for her and the baby." Stephen becomes a "knight in shining armour" figure in Phoebe's life - always there to help her through the strain of her pregnancy. Daddo told Lisa Anthony from BIG! magazine that "his past opens his eyes to everything not being perfect and not lasting forever. He looks at things in a lighter way and that helps Phoebe." Stephen had an unsettled childhood with hippy parents, so Phoebe and a baby really appeals to him. But Daddo thought that the storyline was unbelievable because "they meet, get married and have a baby in the space of about two months."
The abortion issue proved controversial. Robertson told Hilary Kingsley from that "it was a very moral storyline, a difficult one for the scriptwriters to write." Robertson believed that her generation were willing to talk about the issue. Following the scenes she received many letters from teenagers asking about abortion. She stated that she was pro-abortion and politics and law should not prevent it.
Robertson did not enjoy filming pregnancy scenes. She told Kingsley that she dreaded going into the wardrobe department to have special padded clothing fitted. During the initial stages of pregnancy she was given a thick waist to wear. Later came a large bra followed by a "huge padded stomach and bum".
Following the birth of Hope, Robertson struggled with scenes because she was not used to working with child actors. She also claimed that the storyline put her off having children of her own.
Next Neighbours devised a "cuckoo in the nest" storyline for Phoebe and was created to disrupt her marriage. Following their wedding, Phoebe and Stephen begin to struggle financially. They reluctantly advertise for a lodger and Russell Butler (Stephen Whittaker) moves in. Despite being well mannered they soon witness odd behaviour from Russell. Phoebe is more nervous about his presence and becomes suspicious of him. Daddo told a reporter from Inside Soap that "he just seems to be able to do everything and something about the guy just doesn't add up." This prompts Phoebe to search his room but is caught by Russel and he "completely freaks out" on her. The confrontation sees Stephen attempting to evict Russell, who he is reluctant to leave, forcing the Gottlieb's to "live in terror". They discover that Russell has been released from a mental institution following the death of his wife and daughter. Daddo explained that "he's after Phoebe and Hope as replacements for his own family." The storyline then becomes more dramatic as Russell develops a "crush" on Phoebe. He then gets her alone, kisses her and Phoebe realises that she is in "serious trouble".
Whittaker told Mary Fletcher of Woman's Own that "he wants to get rid of Stephen, endear himself to Phoebe and take over as Hope's dad." So Russel is "quite shocked" when Phoebe does not respond to his advances. The actor believed that Russell had lost all sense of reality and following the shun becomes "threatening and manipulative" and "Phoebe is left not knowing what to do next". Russel's behaviour became a problem for Whittaker because fans began shouting, hitting him with umbrellas and warning him to leave Phoebe alone. An Inside Soap journalist later revealed that Russell would carry out a threat to steal hope. The incident leaves Phoebe with "nerves on red alert" and "struck dumb with fear". She is too scared of Russell to protect Hope and lets him snatch her. Stephen and Lou Carpenter (Tom Oliver) decide to get revenge by paying a bike gang to attack Russell. However their plan fails and Wayne Duncan (Jonathan Sammy-Lee) is left for dead as they mistake his identity.
In August 1993, columnists from Shout and Inside Soap reported that both Robertson and Daddo were leaving their roles. Daddo's departure was influenced by disappointment of storylines. Chrissie Camp of TV Week reported that "industry sources" believed Daddo was "wasted" being paired with Robertson's heavily pregnant character. Daddo told Camp that he was unaware that his character would be entirely written around Phoebe. He added "his whole thing revolved around Phoebe and the baby - even now it's like that. They never gave him the chance to be on his own." Robertson believed that any character she played following her departure was "bound to be a whole lot luckier than Phoebe". In May 1998, a writer from Inside Soap reported that the character had actually been axed from Neighbours.
Phoebe appears at Erinsborough High School but her alternative personality makes her unpopular with fellow students. Josh Anderson (Jeremy Angerson) loses a bet with friends and is forced to ask Phoebe on a date. But she is upset to learn the truth and is forced to work with him on a school play. Josh then becomes attracted to her and they start dating. They are soon confronted with Phoebe's disapproving father, Arthur (Barry Hill). When Phoebe sternly defends their relationship Arthur suffers a heart-attack. She decides to be more open about her relationship and Arthur agrees to let them be together. But while Josh is away from Ramsay Street she develops feelings for Todd who reciprocates. Josh is angry by the betrayal but eventually forgives his friends.
Arthur dies following a stroke and Phoebe's headmistress, Dorothy takes her in. Phoebe and Todd decide to consummate their relationship without using contraception and Phoebe becomes pregnant. She wants to have an abortion and Todd supports her decision, but when Phoebe goes to the abortion clinic, he changes his mind. He rushes to the clinic and is knocked down by a van. He is taken to hospital and Phoebe hears about his accident and does not have an abortion. Todd dies and later Phoebe has visions of him in which he tells her he will always be there for her and his daughter.
When Phoebe visits Todd's grave, she meets Stephen. They form a bond and fall in love. Phoebe is surprised when Stephen proposes to her, but she accepts. Phoebe goes into labour and Stephen delivers the baby girl. Phoebe names her daughter, Hope (Laura Pearson). Stephen and Phoebe marry a few weeks later. Dorothy leaves Phoebe and Stephen to their new home and they decide to run the coffee shop. They take in a problematic lodger Russell. He tries to kiss Phoebe, harasses her and steals hope. Stephen uses a bike gang to scare Russell away from Ramsay Street. Stephen is paralysed in an explosion and the pair have to save their relationship. They then decide to open their own record store in Anson's Corner and leave Erinsborough.
A writer for the BBC described Phoebe's most notable moment as "Being held hostage at number 30 by Bob Landers." A columnist from Inside Soap wrote "Simone plays the freakiest girl in school, an oddball who doesn't worry about looks and fashion, has weird ideas and even keeps a snake as a pet. Romance is last on her list of priorities." While their colleague stated "Neighbours teen lovers Todd and Phoebe thought that nothing could come between them. They knew that their love was strong enough to see them through any crisis - even a completely unplanned pregnancy." Ben Thompson of The Independent opined that the "schoolgirl mother" caused the "most outrageous moment" of 1993 when she fought for the right to give birth on Todd's tombstone. Hilary Kingsley from Woman branded her "funny Phoebe - funny glasses, funny hairstyle, funny undertaker father and funny-peculiar pet." She added that the character evolved into three stages being funny Phoebe, fateful Phoebe and fulfilled Phoebe. Kingsley also noted that "by rights [Robertson] should be punch-drunk from playing more emotion-packed scenes than any other young character since the long-running Aussie soap opera began."
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