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Interviews > Terence Donovan

Not content with just being father to Neighbours actor Jason Donovan, who starred as Scott Robinson between 1986 and 1989, Terence Donovan joined the cast himself, a year after his son left. He stayed as builder and family man Doug Willis for four years, returning to reprise the role in 2005, for Neighbours' 20th anniversary celebrations. Here, he looks back on his time in Erinsborough...

Can you tell us a little about what you’d been doing before landing the role of Doug Willis in 1990?
Before my stint on Neighbours as Doug Willis I had a varied career in television and film but was mainly involved with theatre work with the major theatre companies in Australia.

How did the role of Doug come about? How would you describe him?
I was contacted by the producers at Grundy’s with an offer of joining the cast of Neighbours. At that time I was performing the title role in the musical of Barnum at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, Western Australia. I accepted their offer as it was a great opportunity to work in my home town of Melbourne and be with my family. The character of Doug Willis which they offered me was a down to earth Australian with a sense of humour and I felt I could do a lot with this character.

Did you ever regret that you and Jason couldn't have played a father and son on Neighbours, or would that have been a bit too close to home?
I have no regret in not playing Jason’s father in Neighbours as I felt it was important he followed his own journey, in fact I discouraged the idea when it was hinted at on one occasion. We are very supportive of each other but we both have our separate careers.

What was it like to follow Jason into the show that had essentially made him a household name?
I was overjoyed that Jason got such a great start in his career, and it was a great pleasure for me to follow him into the show as there were many in the cast and crew who were old friends.

Who in the cast were you closest to, and why?
I had no favourites in the cast or the Willis family - we worked well as a team.

You had great chemistry with Sue Jones as Pam, and the various actors who played your screen children. Did you enjoy working with them all?
We all worked very hard to creat a interesting family unit with the Willis’s and I think it showed up really well with the support and following we had from the viewers who followed our weekly expoilts.

Do you have any particularly fond memories from Doug’s four years of storylines?
All those years were very pleasurable and humour was the tonic that made it so.

What led to your departure from the show in 1994?
As Neighbours is mainly a youth orientated show the producers felt that the children in the Willis family were a bit long in the tooth and looking less than school age and Pam and Doug were not likely to have any more kids so the producers sadly decided to replace the whole family of the Willises.

In 1996, Sue Jones reprised her role as Pam to be at Cody's bedside following her shooting, and her eventual death. Were you asked to return at the time, and if so, why didn't you?
As I was working interstate in a theatre production it was not possible for me to return to the series at that time.

Over a decade after you last played Doug, you returned to the show for its 20th Anniversary. How did your return to the series come about? Was it easy to get back into character after such a long break?
It worked in with my schedule, so it was possible for a short time. Doug Willis was always easy to play so it wasn’t hard to fall into character.

Are you still in touch with anyone you worked with on Neighbours?
All the Willises have gone their separate ways to follow their own careers and lives and our paths cross only occasionally.

Do you ever find time to watch the show these days? If so, what do you think of it?
I must confess I seldom watch the production so I can’t give you an opinion on it, but fun and humour made it work for the Willis family so I hope those ingredients are still there.

What are you up to these days?
At this time I have a one man show that I produce and perform it is called “Mannix” it is about the life and times of a very distinguished character of Irish ,Australian and British history. The website is www.docmannix.com

Finally, as it continues its 23rd season on Australian television, what do you think accounts for Neighbours’ enduring success?
The main audience has always been the younger people and as we have seen it capture the imagination of the youth of this country and the UK. and that is where its success lies.

To read a character biography of Doug, click here...

Interview by Steve. Added on 21st July 2007