Caroline Gillmer as Cheryl Stark (1995)
|Portrayed by||Caroline Gillmer (1993–96)
Colette Mann (1995–96)
|First appearance||26 July 1993|
|Last appearance||30 September 1996|
|Introduced by||Ian Bradley|
|Occupation||The Robinson Corporation manager (1993–94)
Bar manager and owner (1994–96)
Colette Mann as Cheryl Stark
Cheryl Stark (née Kratz) is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Caroline Gillmer. She debuted on-screen during the episode airing on 26 July 1993. Colette Mann took over the role for eight weeks from late 1995 to early 1996 whilst Gillmer was ill. In September 1996, Gillmer departed the show and Cheryl was killed off.
Creation and casting
The character of Cheryl was created in 1993 as the head of a new family to be introduced, the Starks, and was given an immediate link to already existing character and son Darren Stark (Scott Major). Actress Caroline Gillmer successfully auditioned for the role. Debuting on-screen, Cheryl moved into Ramsay Street with daughter Danni (Eliza Szonert), and son Brett (Brett Blewitt), both new additions to the serial's cast.
In 1995, Gillmer fell ill, during a time Cheryl was written to be a central figure in key storylines. Producers felt they had no alternative, but to temporarily recast her with former Prisoner actress Colette Mann. This made producers nervous that viewing figures might decrease, so they implemented a series of plots to keep viewers interested. Mann took over the role for eight weeks. She revealed that she was hired on a Friday and started filming on the following Monday. She added "I walked in, and Brett Blewitt said , 'Hello, I'm your son!'. And then it was, 'Action!'"
Cheryl was born to Hector and Marlene Kratz (Moya O'Sullivan) in 1950. When Cheryl was eleven years old, Marlene left Hector to raise her and her brother, Patrick (Shane Porteous). Cheryl then grew up hating and resenting Marlene, even believing her to be dead. Cheryl later met railway worker Maurie Stark and married him and they had four children; Janine (Wilhelmina Stracke), Darren, Danni and Brett. After Cheryl won $1.3m on the lottery, she bought The Manhattan bar in Erinsborough and sent Brett and Danni to boarding school.
Cheryl first appears when Lou Carpenter (Tom Oliver) leaves his wallet behind at The Manhattan. Cheryl is immediately attracted to him and begins pursuing him. Lou is resistant at first but then gives in. Around this time, Darren is released from Juvenile Detention and comes to stay with Cheryl, who is renting Number 22 Ramsay Street. Darren convinces her he has turned over a new leaf, but little does Cheryl know he is using his release to drag his cellmate Michael Martin's (Troy Beckwith) sister, Debbie (Marnie Reece-Wilmore) into a life of crime. Darren's scheme is eventually foiled and he is jailed, prompting Cheryl to wash her hands of him. Shortly after ending things with Lou, Cheryl heads off on a world cruise.
When Cheryl returns, she is joined by Brett and Danni who have run away from boarding school. Cheryl, used to her independence, isn't keen to have the kids living with her but eventually relents on the advice of Lou and agrees to enroll Brett and Danni at Erinsborough High. Cheryl and Lou rekindle their relationship in secret but when it is revealed, Brett accepts it while Danni is less than welcoming about it. However, Danni comes to respect Lou in time.
Lou and Cheryl agree to live together but cannot decide on the venue. Cheryl then agrees to for her and her kids to move in with Lou, his daughter Lauren (Sarah Vandenberg) and lodger Rick Alessi (Dan Falzon). Cheryl later discovers she is pregnant and worries about the complications of being an older mother. Lou proposes and Cheryl accepts, however they both agree to continue cohabiting. While arguing with Michael's stepmother, Julie (Julie Mullins) about Michael and Danni's relationship, Cheryl is knocked down when Julie accidentally reverses her car into her, putting the baby in danger. Fortunately, Cheryl and the baby are soon out of danger.
Cheryl is allowed out of hospital for a day visit and comes face to face with Marlene (who had purchased Number 24 from Madge Bishop(Anne Charleston)) after more than a quarter century. The meeting between the two women is frosty to begin with but Annalise Hartman (Kimberley Davies) convinces Cheryl to make up with Marlene, as she never had the chance to make up with her mother, Fiona (Suzanne Dudley) before she died.
Cheryl gives birth to a daughter and decides to call her Shannon but Neighbour Gaby Willis (Rachel Blakely) has the same idea to use the name for her newborn son born on the same day. Both women, however opt to call their children by their middle names, Louise and Zac, respectively. Louise suffers breathing complications after her birth but is later fine.
When Lou begins acting suspiciously by arriving home late from work and making secret phone calls, Cheryl decides to follow him. One day, she spots him kissing a young Asian woman and later confronts him about it. Lou reveals that the woman is his daughter Ling Mai Chan (Khym Lam). Cheryl struggles to adjust to the new woman in his life and almost ends her relationship with Lou. However, she grows to accept Ling Mai in time.
Cheryl's next biggest challenge is her clash with Brett over his plans to go sailing around the world after finishing Year 12. This culminates in Brett having an affair with one of Cheryl's friends Judy Bergman (Merridy Eastman). Bret later leaves Erinsborough without saying goodbye to Cheryl and she is hurt. Cheryl later flies out to Cairns to say goodbye.
Upon hearing news that Brett has been arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling in Ecuador, Cheryl takes a flight there to bail him. En route to meeting Max Geppert, Brett's travel companion, Cheryl is kidnapped by rebels and held hostage. Lou goes to Ecuador after Cheryl is released and brings her home. When Cheryl returns, she is distant and has adopted a change of image; less jewelry and a shorter hairstyle. When Lou talks to her about her experiences, Cheryl reveals she had an affair with one of her fellow captives. The couple then separate and Lou moves up North to be near Lauren.
After putting Number 22 up for sale, Cheryl and Louise then move in with Marlene and they are joined by Darren (now played by Todd MacDonald) upon his release from prison. Darren's struggle to remain on the straight and narrow is testing for Cheryl and she is soon feuding with Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher) when Darren begins dating his daughter Libby (Kym Valentine).
While out walking with Louise, Cheryl spots Karl and stops to talk to him about Darren and Libby's relationship. Louise climbs out of her buggy and wanders into the road. Cheryl pushes Louise out of the way but is hit by an oncoming car. Karl tries desperately to save Cheryl and is urged by Danni, who arrives on the scene, to give Cheryl something to ease her pain. Karl injects Cheryl with morphine but she dies before the ambulance arrives. It is later revealed that the morphine reacted with anti-depressants that Cheryl has been taken but she would have died of her injuries either way.
Five years later, a man named John Allen (Adrian Mulraney) appears after sending Lou a letter claiming that Louise is his daughter from an affair he had with Cheryl. After a DNA test proves that John is Louise's father, The court award custody to him, leaving Lou heartbroken. John, however, grants Lou visitation rights.
A writer for the BBC's Neighbours website said Cheryl's most notable moment was "Confessing that she had an affair with one of the hostages she was kidnapped with." In 1996, Network Ten cut five seconds from the episode in which Cheryl was seen being hit by a truck, while she tried to save her daughter. The following year, the BBC were also forced to censor scenes showing the moment Cheryl was hit by the truck.
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