|Portrayed by||Simone Buchanan|
|First appearance||21 March 2008|
|Last appearance||24 November 2010|
|Introduced by||Ric Pellizzeri and Susan Bower (2008)
Susan Bower (2010)
Newspaper legal advisor
Samantha "Sam" Fitzgerald (also Grieves) is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Simone Buchanan. She made her first screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 21 March 2008. After departing on 25 June 2008, she made a brief return on 24 November 2008. Sam's main storylines focused on her marriage to Daniel Fitzgerald (Brett Tucker), her bipolar disorder, which was triggered by a miscarriage prior to her introduction, and a pregnancy. In June 2010, executive producer Susan Bower announced that Buchanan had reprised her role and Sam returned on 1 November 2010. She was the lead prosecutor in Stephanie Scully's (Carla Bonner) culpable driving trial. The character departed on 24 November 2010.
Characterisation and introduction
Colin Vickery of the Herald Sun described Samantha as a "smart, successful lawyer". A writer for the official Neighbours website said Sam was "long-suffering" and an "off-the-rails lawyer". They also called the character "fiery". Actress Kym Valentine dubbed Sam "a beautiful, intelligent woman". Johnathon for Daytime Confidential said Sam would "go to incredible lengths to get Dan".
Sam was introduced as the estranged wife of Daniel Fitzgerald (Brett Tucker). Tucker told Jackie Brygel of TV Week that during a meeting to discuss his character's return to the show, it was "loosely" mentioned that he could have a wife. The idea was later used. Dan initially kept his marital status a secret until he developed feelings for Libby Kennedy (Valentine). He decided to be honest with her before their relationship went any further. Their conversation prompted Dan to get in contact with Sam. Tucker said "Dan realises he has got a few things to sort out with his ex. What I can tell you is that his past involved a lot of pain and turmoil. He now knows that he has to dredge all that up again so that he can move on completely and perhaps start a new relationship with Libby." Dan had mixed emotions when Sam then turned up Erinsborough, while Libby could see that there was still something between the two of them. Buchanan thought the Sam/Dan/Libby triangle was an interesting storyline. She explained that Sam was unaware of Libby and "innocently comes back into the picture". Buchanan did not think either of the women were the villain in the situation.
One of Sam's main storylines was her battle with bipolar disorder. The storyline required careful planning as the Neighbours production team wanted to portray the issue sensitively. Buchanan worked closely with mental health charity SANE Australia to carry out the relevant research. With their help the scriptwriters, production team and Buchanan worked to portray the illness as accurate as possible. Buchanan's brother, Miles, suffers from the illness and is a spokesperson for the charity. He spoke of his delight that Neighbours decided to include such a storyline and praised it for being "gripping". Buchanan immediately turned to her brother when she got the role of Samantha and he helped her with her portrayal of the illness.
Buchanan herself felt that she had done the storyline justice. During an interview with the charity she stated: "I think they've done a great job, the writers really did their research beforehand; they spent time with people who have bipolar disorder, and worked closely with SANE Australia. They haven't glossed over it." Neighbours' executive producer Susan Bower said that it was important to represent the character dealing with bipolar disorder accurately. She also said that any health condition had to be "properly researched", as they did not want to give viewers any misinformation. Bower added, "In the end, proper research also helps you tell the story better than making it up".
Sam's bipolar disorder was triggered by a miscarriage she and Dan suffered a few years prior. During their reunion, Sam encouraged Dan to work through the pain of the miscarriage. Buchanan called the plot "an absolute emotional rollercoaster" and explained that Sam had been six months along in her pregnancy when she lost the baby. As they grieved for their child, viewers were shown how close Sam and Dan's bond was and given an insight into their history as a couple. Sam planned to leave Erinsborough and let Dan get on with his life. But once they bonded again, Dan did not want her to go and she decided to stay on. Sam and Dan then shared a kiss and realised they still loved each other.
Sam later came off her bipolar medication to try and get pregnant. After she failed to conceive, she lied to Dan that she was pregnant. Sam thought that if she lied, she would have an opportunity to fall pregnant that month and no one would have to know about her lie. When Sam became aware that Dan was about to find out the truth, she told him she had suffered another miscarriage. Buchanan told Jackie Brygel of TV Week, "With each day that Sam's off her medication, she becomes more and more paranoid about Dan's feelings for Libby. Sam's really not thinking straight and she's going into a manic phase. Everything is falling apart around her, but it's very difficult for her to realise she's going down."
When Libby found out about Sam's lie, she decided that Dan needed to know the truth, as she could not stand to see him grieving for something that never existed. She felt that after she sacrificed their relationship, Sam had "deliberately hurt the man she loves." Valentine also told Brygel that Libby was not fully aware of how unwell Sam was, and was not sure whether Sam was just being manipulative. Libby urged Dan to speak to Sam at length, but when she realised Sam still had not told Dan the truth, she threatened to do it herself.
In 2010, Neighbours executive producer, Susan Bower, revealed that Buchanan would be reprising her role of Samantha. Speaking of the reasons behind her return Bower stated: "I like if we are going to have returning characters that they're part of the story. They don't just walk in and say 'G'day' and walk out again." The Herald Sun reported that Buchanan would be returning for a four week guest role. Bower later said that there is "plenty in store" for the character. She added "Hang onto your hats, Sam is back and I know Simone will love what we have planned". Sam returned to Neighbours on 1 November 2010.
Sam was the prosecutor in Stephanie Scully's (Carla Bonner) culpable driving court case. Sam is determined to see Steph sent to jail and she forms an alliance with Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis). Buchanan said "Sam comes back to Erinsborough with her lawyer's hat well and truly on. She mentions that she's now well again – her bipolar disorder is under control. She also talks about Dan and the fact that she's seen him and the baby." Buchanan also said that Sam has a personal agenda as well as a professional one, she is unhappy that Steph fell pregnant with Dan's child. Sam also wants to get back at Libby Kennedy (Kym Valentine). Sam and Paul join up because Paul wants justice for Donna Freedman (Margot Robbie), whose husband Steph killed. Dennis said Sam is "as devious as Paul is" and he sees that Sam is a way to get his wish for Steph to be punished. Buchanan added that she surprised to be asked back because she thought her character had "burnt her bridges with most people in Ramsay Street the last time around." Bower revealed that viewers can see that Sam has a score to settle with Steph and Libby and her questions open up a lot of wounds for Steph. Bower added that that issue has "divided many fans."
When Dan returns to Erinsborough, he is attracted to Libby Kennedy and gets in contact with Sam to ask for a divorce. Sam arrives in Ramsay Street hoping that Dan wants a reconciliation. Dan explains that he wants a divorce, so that he can start a relationship with Libby. Sam is shocked, but their conversation is interrupted by Rosetta Cammeniti (Natalie Saleeba) who Sam went to university with. After realising that she is losing Dan, Sam decides to stay for a while and is offered work with Rosetta's law firm. Sam refuses to disclose details about her bipolar disorder to anyone else, but she is angry when she realises that Dan had told Libby. When Libby visits Sam for some legal advice she tells her that there is nothing between her and Dan and Sam and Libby begin a friendship. Sam and Dan talk about the baby she miscarried. Sam also helps find Libby's son, Ben Kirk (Blake O'Leary), who had become trapped in a drain. Sam announces that she is planning to leave, but she stays to organise a baby shower for Rosetta. When Rosetta is told that she had had a false pregnancy, she remains convinced that she is pregnant and Sam tells Rosetta that she believes her. Dan later decides to give his marriage with Sam another try.
Sam decides to try for another baby and stops taking her medication, so she can get pregnant. Sam does not tell Dan about her plans, but her symptoms begin to show and she tells Dan that she wants a child with him. When Libby spots Sam with a pregnancy test, Sam lies that she is pregnant and Dan is delighted. Sam's behaviour continues to get worse and she goes to Charlie's and gets drunk. She later decides to go to a hotel with Oliver Barnes (David Hoflin) and announces that her marriage is over. Dan calls the crisis assessment team and Sam admits that she is not pregnant and lies that she had miscarried again. After making Dan promise he would not leave, Sam tells him the truth. Sam is admitted to hospital and is put back on her medication. She then asks Dan to move to New Zealand with her and Dan agrees to go. At the airport, Sam realises that she is always going to be second best to Libby and leaves alone. Dan returns home to find Sam had signed the divorce papers.
Six months later, a heavily pregnant Sam returns to Erinsborough in the middle of Dan and Libby's joint hen and buck's night. Sam claims not to know about the wedding and tells Dan that he is about to become a father. Elle Robinson (Pippa Black) offers Sam a room at her house and Libby tries to be nice by inviting her to a barbecue. When Libby sees Dan feel the baby kick, she calls off the wedding. It later emerges that Lucas Fitzgerald (Scott Major) had told Sam about the wedding. Sam asks Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) for a job and he employs her as a legal adviser for his newspaper. When Libby turns up at Sam's ultrasound scan, Sam tells Dan that she does not want Libby involved with her baby. Cassandra Freedman (Tottie Goldsmith) moves into Ramsay Street and when she sets her sights on Paul, she sees Sam as a threat. Cassandra gets a job at the hospital and she reads Sam's file and decides to blackmail her about her bipolar disorder. Sam finds out that her baby was conceived three weeks later than she had thought and therefore is not Dan's. Cassandra begins her blackmail plan and Sam blurts out that she had not known that Dan was not the father of the baby. Cassandra gets Sam to convince her daughter, Donna (Margot Robbie), to move out of the Robinson's house. As Sam and Cassandra are discussing her secret, Stephanie Scully (Carla Bonner) overhears and tells Libby and Dan the truth about Sam's baby. Dan confronts Sam and she tells him that the baby is not his. Sam then leaves Erinsborough.
Sam later calls Dan, while suffering a manic episode and asks him to look after her and her newborn daughter, Emma. Dan agrees and he and Libby go to New Zealand. Libby returns alone as Dan agrees to stay for another week. Libby discovers Dan has transferred $12,000 of their money into Sam's bank account, to help with her debts. On Dan's return, Libby makes him promise not to have any further contact with Sam.
A year later, when Charlie Hoyland (Jacob Brito) wanders off during Halloween, Sam finds him and runs into Steph, Lucas and Lyn Scully (Janet Andrewartha). Lucas and Sam talk and she tells him that she is good. Steph thanks Sam for finding Charlie and Sam tells her that she has been to see Dan and Adam. Lyn asks Sam what brings her back to town and Sam tells her that she is there to prosecute Steph's culpable driving case. The next day, Sam goes to see Donna and says that she is sorry that her husband, Ringo Brown (Sam Clark), is dead. Sam asks Donna if they can meet, but Donna turns her down. Sam later sees Donna's university lecturer fail her assignment and asks if she can buy her and Kate Ramsay (Ashleigh Brewer) tea. Sam talks to Kate about her witness statement and when she goes to Ramsay Street to talk to Paul, she sees Libby. Sam tells Karl (Alan Fletcher) and Susan Kennedy (Jackie Woodburne) that she has recently lost her father and that she is sorry for what she did to them. Lucas then asks her to leave everyone alone. Libby warns Sam to stay away from her parents and Sam tells her that Dan is a new man now he is a father. Steph takes her away and tells her to back off. Sam later gives Steph some leaflets about children in prison. Toadie tells Sam that he will report her to the police and bar association for witness intimidation. Paul meets her in Charlie's and tells her that he wants to help Sam out and he will give her anything she wants. Sam later tells Paul that he needs to get Donna to attend the trial to upset Steph. However, Donna later realises what Paul is doing. Sam asks Karl and Susan to write victim impact statements and when she notices something is up between the couple, she talks to Susan and tells her that she will find out if something is wrong. When Libby is on the stand, Sam brings up Steph's relationship with Dan. Sam then launches a personal attack on Libby and Judge Willow (Jane Clifton) tells her to stop. The jury later deliver a guilty verdict. Donna has a go at Sam and says that the case was never about Ringo, but a chance for her to get back at Libby and Steph. The judge later gives Steph a six year prison sentence.
During Sam's first appearance the Daily Record called her a "blonde beauty." A year later they said "We know we're supposed to feel sorry for people who are ill, but can somebody just tell Dan's ex-wife Sam to get knotted?" The paper revealed that they had "high hopes" that Sam was gone for good, but she had turned up again "like the proverbial bad penny." Television critic, Andrew Mercado, praised Buchanan's 2009 appearance in March 2010, saying "Simone Buchanan did a great turn last year on Neighbours as a crazed ex".
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